During the course of his career, Steve Earle has performed at benefit concerts on issues ranging from the rain forest to the death penalty.
The benefit he’s staging at Town Hall might be the closest to his heart, as it will raise money for The McCarton School in Chelsea, which educates children with autism, including Earle’s five-year-old son John Henry. He’ll be joined by Jackson Browne, his older son Justin Townes Earle and The Mastersons.
amNewYork spoke with Earle about the show.
How did this benefit come together?
[John Henry] attended school there since he was three. He was diagnosed at two. He was perfectly normal, maybe a little ahead of the game, if anything. Suddenly at 19 months old, he just stopped talking. He still doesn’t speak. … The McCarton School has been really good for him. … John Henry made so many breakthroughs this year, like riding a scooter by himself. He suddenly took off one day. Now he rides his scooter through Washington Square Park like all the other five year olds. He made all these strides. I felt like I needed to do something for the school.
Is this the first time you and Justin Townes have performed together onstage?
Since he started making records, we only performed onstage once, in Albany at The Egg. He was opening for me. We did one song together, “Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold,” which we did on my album “Townes.” The last time before that was a benefit in Nashville when he was 17. We’re going to put together a little set. It’s kind of a big deal. To some people, that’s the biggest deal that’s going to happen at this show [Laughs].
Besides raising money what do you hope people take away from the concert?
I’ve been thinking about awareness…. The fact of the matter is one in  kids born are on the spectrum. That’s mind blowing. …. I’m convinced we can do something about it. In the meantime, we have to take care of all these kids growing up with autism. … There’s no limit to what these kids can achieve if they have the right kind of therapy.
You’re working on a new album with Shawn Colvin. What’s that like?
We’ve known each other long time. We started touring together about two or two and a half years ago. … It’s like Sonny and Cher on acid, the way the show goes down. We can be hard on each other, but we sing great together. It’s a band, not a record of duets. … At this point, there are six songs, we’ve written together, four songs we recorded in the past that we rerecorded together and about four or five covers.
If you go: Steve Earle & The Dukes Present John Henry’s Friends at 8 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., $45-$110.