John Townes van Zandt II
The Rockzillaworld Interview
By Marianne Ebertowski
Its legs to walk
and thoughts to fly
Eyes to laugh and lips to cry
A restless tongue to classify
All born to grow and grown to die
Tell my baby I said so long
Tell my mother I did no wrong
Tell my brother to watch his own
Tell my friends to mourn me none
(Townes van Zandt: "Rex's Blues")
(Left. JT Van Zandt at The Old Quarter)Watching the self-effacing young man on
stage singing and playing Townes' song is an unsettling experience.
The likeness is uncanny: the young man has Townes' tall, slender
figure, his handsome features, the same mass of black hair, his
smile, his charm, his voice. Even his guitar picking is close
to the still so badly missed Texan troubadour who died on New
Year's Day 1997. "Tell my friends to mourn me none,"
just how do you do that, and what do you do, if you are Townes'
son? Well, what J.T. or John, as he prefers to be called, has
been doing the last years is playing his father's songs to the
bereaved fans and friends all over the world who still miss him
Tonight, in the small cultural center "toogenblik"
in Haren, Brussels, John is struggling with his voice. He picked
up a bad cold immediately at the beginning of his European tour,
but his charm and kindness help him win over the crowd just as
effortlessly as his dad used to. He plays "Pancho &
Lefty," he plays "Marie," he plays "Old Shep,"
a stage favorite of his dad, he plays his own dog song "Fishing
Dog's Lament" and Elvis Presley's hilariously cruel "Song
of the Shrimp." He does a couple of Blaze Foley songs, John
Hurt's beautiful and tragic "Louis Collins" and a version
of Lightnin' Hopkin's pleading "Needed Time" that brings
the house down. He sings his own "Take Me While I'm Strong"
and as an encore he picks a few traditional instrumentals with
an impressive ease.
Maybe most of the crowd had turned up in the first place because
he was Townes' son, but after two hours of singing and picking
and another hour of talking to people, posing with them for photo's
and signing his live CD made at the Cactus Café in Austin,
everybody has taken John to their hearts as his own self: John
Townes Van Zandt II, the great late Townes' son, indeed, but
a man in his own right, a man who tries to do justice to his
father and to himself.
When John and I sit down for the interview, its way past midnight,
but he looks fresh and alert. I am struck by his openness and
his courage to be vulnerable. He worships his father to whom
he refers as "Townes" and even more often as "he,"
but without denying Townes' dark sides. After all, he if anyone,
had to witness them often enough and maybe, just maybe, he is
a little bit scared that these dark sides are hiding somewhere
in himself. But, if they do, he has been able to handle them
very well so far.
Today John is almost touching home ground: after all, the
Van Zandts originally came from the Netherlands. They landed
in the North East of the USA, finally ended up in Forth Worth
where they became real Texan aristocracy. John's great great
great grandfather, Isaac Van Zandt, was the first ambassador
of Texas to the United States and it was he who wrote the constitution
of Texas when it was still an independent country.
"After that his grandsons lost the Bank of Fort Worth
in a poker game and it went downhill from there," John laughs,
"Then of course, Townes, he was very different. He was raised
to become, perhaps, a lawyer and found his way in music through
influences like Lightnin' Hopkins and Bob Dylan."
RZW: "What was it like to grow up as Townes van Zandt's
VZ: "It was mysterious at first, because I didn't
see him at all till I was in 5th grade. Then we started to hang
out more. First, he scared me to death. I imagined him as Elvis
Presley or something because I had his albums. I lived with my
mother and a stepfather by that time. I would keep his albums
in my room - I didn't listen to him, but I kept them propped
up at my dresser and when I finally went to meet him the first
time I flew to Nashville. He lived on a big ranch and there was
no electricity or running water. He lived in this cabin and he
was quite mad, you know. When I got off the plane, I had this
picture in mind of a very young Townes who is clean cut and athletic
and by this time when I saw him, he had long greasy hair, gold
teeth and he was very skinny. I knew it was him and I was walking
towards him off the plane and at the same time I was thinking
'O my god, what is this? What have I got myself into?' (laughs).
It was quite scary.
He had this dog Geraldine who was half wolf and she is still
the smartest dog I have ever come across in my life. She really
saved the trip for me. I was so nervous to be around my dad,
but this dog had a natural affection for me and I truly believe
she understood the situation and was trying to ease my nervousness
a bit. Geraldine kicked off my absolute passion for dogs. Townes
was getting drunk a lot, doing drugs in front of me, telling
me that he had nothing to hide from me. He was doing hard drugs
and I had just never seen a life like that. So I was going out
of the cabin to play in the snow with Geraldine and that pretty
much took up the whole day. I came home when Townes would be
passed out and I felt safe as long as he was asleep. When he
was awake, I was back outside again. (laughs) But then, as I
grew a little bit older and got into my teens, I felt some of
my natural tendencies similar to his take over. I was no longer
scared. I started sort of learning the life style, but I was
able to pick and choose. I never tried hard drugs, because I
saw what they did to him and so in a way he led as an example
of what not to do. At the same time, he was on his own path to
what he became. I didn't understand just how fantastic his songs
were then. He hadn't had any real hit songs yet and they didn't
play him on the radio. So, basically, I equated that to him not
being successful, but then I grew to learn that he had made a
choice and that him being not commercial was actually the path
that he wanted. I though at the time that no one liked his music.
But, obviously, now I know that that wasn't right."
RZW: "At what time did you actually realize how good
VZ: "I started really becoming attached to music
when Don Williams and Emmylou Harris covered "If I Needed
You" as a duet in the eighties. That was sensational for
the whole family. And when Willie Nelson did "Pancho and
Lefty" in '85 or so, it was clear to me what was going on.
And money started to roll in which was a new thing. Then I really
knew how respected he was. More so by his peers though than an
RZW: "Did he teach you how to play guitar?"
VZ: "Not at all! Not that he wouldn't have, I
don't think, but I was so afraid of music. I always thought that's
the last thing I'm gonna do. He was always in rough shape and
there were five or ten people at his gigs. I got a postcard from
him one time: at the front there were Indians on horse back,
a black and white photograph, on the back it had the drawings
of how to make several chords: C-G-F-D and at the bottom it said
'love, dad.' I learned those chords, but then quickly disposed
the idea. I was always into sports and I was just wasting a lot
of time, really. I was just like any teenager. At the same time,
there was a big difference: Townes had a natural drive for what
to do from early teenage years and it just wasn't there for me.
I didn't go to college after high school. I kind of went around
and did my own thing. Then eventually I went to college and graduated
from the University of Texas. I was after a more stable life
and then once he died I realized how important his songs were
to me and I should learn them out of respect for him and there
would be a connection that would draw me closer to him spiritually.
That's basically why I started right after he died. I got his
guitar, that's the first thing I did. Then I started to learn
his songs on his guitar.
First of all I learned "The Highway Kind" which
was my favorite song and then I played that at the tribute very
nervously with Willie Nelson, Steve Earle and Guy Clarke and
Emmylou and all those folks. After that was over, I put it down
for a while, because it was such a stressful few months to learn
it all before appearing on Austin City Limits. Once I got to
do that, I went back to do my daily job. You gotta make money
after all. Townes's love affair was with his music, the financial
aspects of his music he never cared about. We all know there
are sharks in the music industry. Some of the people closest
to him robbed him blind. So, there wasn't any inheritance at
all. Basically, his guitar was all he got.
The thing is: once you appear in front of a crowd and you
receive a warm welcome, it's pretty hard to let it go. So, after
about a year I got back to practicing again and just slowly on
the side always have pursued my own love for music. Townes really
paid his dues musically practicing his guitar as a young man.
A lot of melodic differences in his songs come from being so
fluent. I didn't dare writing anything until I put in a pretty
long apprenticeship in playing guitar a lot and then I started
to try to sound like Townes."
you say that Townes' death was a burden off your shoulder
in the sense that before you didn't dare to become a singer-songwriter
and now you can? Did he encourage you at all?"
VZ: "Well, looking back as an adult I think he
had a real desire that I follow in his footsteps. But there would
be times, when I woke up in the morning for school about 6. a.m.
and he would be sitting on my bed crying and he'd just be apologizing
for some cruel things he said the night before while drunk, and
he would be shaking his head and he'd say: 'Don't do it to yourself.
Don't do it. It's a bitch!' He would say that over and over.
It's difficult to interpret. As I have become a man, our physical
similarity is dramatic, and our vocal. There are some differences
now, but when I was younger, I sounded just like his younger
voice. It was really spooky. Now that I am a man, I understand
that he used some sort of reversed psychology on me a little
bit. If he really hadn't wanted me not to do it, he wouldn't
have talked about it all the time. But at times when he was the
most down, he would tell me: 'do not do it,' but then when I
would follow that advice and would just piss off my younger years
running around with other teenagers, I could see that disappointment
in him that I wasn't locked away playing the guitar some place.
Townes lived a pretty wild life style. If he wasn't out and
around, he was lying in bed all day long and reading. Though
Townes wasn't very religious, I think he took his own ideas from
the bible. He read it cover to cover a dozen of times. There
is something a lot of people don't know about Townes: that his
scholastic upbringing was very intense. He was from a very well-to-do
family. He went to a private school, called Shattuck, in Minnesota.
Their literature standards were great, unlike public school in
America. There was tons of Shakespeare and he loved it. He realized
that his education was a huge part of how literary he was. He
studied poetry of all types and immense amounts of literature."
RZW: "When you play, you know that the situation is
that 98% of the people sitting there are Townes' admirers. How
weird is that?"
VZ: "It's fantastic! I really feel like I have
a unique situation! I can't think of anyone else who was as obscure
in their lifetime as Townes. As I see it, during his prime he
played in coffee houses, to very few people. When people started
come into his shows, he was in a rather bad state because of
this alcoholic disease, his shows really suffered. So, when they
finally heard they should see his guy, they were disappointed
by his performances, because he was usually loaded. It was very
tragic. He died before much of his fan base could see him perform
his songs. While, Dylan, of course, he's still around playing
shows, so it would be pretty silly for Jakob Dylan to show up
and play a set of Dylan songs. For me it was not only some sort
of cathartic release as well as practice on stage in these tributes
to him, I also was told how healing it was to see me as a young
man playing his songs for people, so they got to get an idea
what he might have been like."
RZW: "So, you don't see it as a burden at all?"
VZ: "No, I never found myself frustrated or irritated
with the attention. I can live without it, you know, it doesn't
totally drive me, but I think some of the careers I chose for
myself I chose because Townes, after he dedicated so much time
to music, looked back and there were tons of things he regretted
not being able to do. He loved the mountains. For him, being
able to spend a few weeks in the mountains was a dream that never
got realized after his early twenties, because it was full blast
for him, always on the road. So, when during his lifetime I became
a fly-fishing guide, he was so proud he kept telling everyone
his son was fly-fishing in the mountains. That just gave him
the hugest thrill. That was a passion of mine that I just followed
naturally. I felt really good that finally I was doing something
that would make him proud instead of just wasting time. And then,
as a carpenter as well, he was very proud to know that I was
creating with my hands. I feel like I chose a few different paths
that gave him release. Watching him play music took care of that
desire for me, and for him to know that I was fly-fishing on
boats took care of that desire to do something else besides music
for him. It was some kind of a trade-off we had with each other.
We both shared in pride with each other on that. I haven't really
thought about what my subconscious had been telling me those
years. When he was alive, I didn't dare playing guitar. Just
to even start around him seemed ridiculous because he was so
good, and at the same time there was no poetry spilling out of
me. So I just left it alone and thought that rather than waste
time to be second best to him in this category, because every
son wants to do better than his father at something, I chose
RZW: "Now that you're 35, do you regret that you didn't
start a musical career earlier on?"
VZ: "No. I built a really good business in Austin
from the ground up, a cabinet shop with several employees who
are professional cabinet makers and we do extravagant homes.
I'm very proud of what I do and the skill that I own and just
after a week and a half on the road I become sick. I'm smoking
more than I ever do, I'm drinking more than I do at home and
so I don't regret it. At the same time: it's very powerful getting
a good response from a crowd. And not just that, to stick around
and meet people and talk to them and let them know that you're
just a common person, too. You know, Townes was never recognizable,
even not in Austin. When we went out, I never got an indication
that he was a superstar. I never experienced what it might be
like means to be totally successful in music or being the son
of a successful musician. We were without a whole lot of money.
When "Pancho and Lefty" came out and a whole lot of
money started to roll in, he spent it as fast as he could on
whatever, he would give money away. It purified the music for
him not to care about the business. I don't think that it's a
coincidence that - and this comes from his peers as well- there
is no second place for Townes. He was in a league of his own.
I was always so proud of him and it never occurred to me that
that was my calling."
RZW: "But now, if it came to a point where you could
choose, would you consider being a singer-songwriter and giving
up your business?"
VZ: "That's a very difficult question that I have
been thinking about this whole trip. And I'll I have to say no,
because I've got people's families now depending on me because
of their job. I took that obligation on. I would feel some abandonment
in that. I would feel tremendous guilt. I won people's hearts
with my performances of his songs on tributes, but that, of course,
is no career, playing Townes' songs. I am writing my own songs
that people also seem to enjoy and that gives me some confidence
to try harder to write more. But I throw more songs away than
I keep, because I compare myself to him so often. Jimmie Dale
Gilmore helped me the most about three or four years after Townes
died. After I told him: 'I just constantly compare my songwriting
to his, some of my songs sound like I'm trying do to a take-off
of certain songs,' he said : 'JT, we all deal with that, not
only you . We all compare ourselves with Townes he's the
benchmark, we all share that burden.' That lifted a tremendous
amount of weight off my shoulders."
RZW: "What do you think made him so good, what was
the source he was drawing from?"
VZ: "There's too many factors to guess at that.
He had a natural talent. There was the insulin shock treatment.
He had a true ability to accept all risks to blow every bit of
caution to the wind, there are not very many songwriters even
folks I would think are tremendous these days who would really
give everything they have away and get out on the highway and
walk with just a guitar. Townes felt that if you took that first
step, it was kind of materialistic suicide, if you will. He was
so influenced by Lightnin'Hopkins who was a poor black man with
incredible courage and spite for the white man. Townes looked
at where he came from: privileged background, private school
and wealthy parents and he walked away from all that and hit
the road without any second thoughts. And if someone said: I
like your shirt, Townes, he would take it off and give it to
you, every time. He was just willing to take more risks and like
I said, I don't think it was a coincidence that he landed in
another place than the rest of us. You know, songwriting is now
a popular thing, the singer-songwriter genre is a commercial
arena now. You have people that basically get out of college
and write about hitchhiking and life on the road and it's all
imaginary. That's not a criticism; I'm not looking down on them.
I don't think that anyone with half a mind would do what Townes
did. All these experiences he wrote off in Delta Mama
Blues and Flyin' Shoes, all these incredible creations.
If you just gonna sit around in your house with rent paid and
money in the bank, just imagining like Townes wrote songs, you
never get there, but if you hop on a box car, then you're gonna
have some immediate knowledge and experience that will probably
help you write a better song than you've ever written. Townes
was right when he said: 'if you want to do this, you gotta forget
your mom, you gotta forget about me, you gotta forget any relationship
you're in, and go out and do it.' That's the standard that he
operated under. It's just not an acceptable risk for my life
to take right now."
RZW: "You've been on the road with Townes for quite
a while. That can't have been easy."
VZ: "It was a miserable time! I did a particular
stint with him doing North America and Alaska, during the huge
blizzard in '94 which struck right when the Denver airport opened.
So much happened on that tour! Townes actually had to be put
on the plane. He became so uncontrollable because of his alcoholism
that I had to ration his intake to keep him from convulsing,
and, at the same time not too drunk to play. I had to be a chemist
of sorts. He knew I watered down his vodka. It was a very tight
rope I walked. After about three weeks he became completely uncontrollable,
he was having visions, he couldn't do any of the driving, he
had to pull over at every rest stop to get out and walk about,
he described seeing goblins and angels all the time. He blew
every third gig and maybe three in a row and we're talking great
American music halls where people just got up and walked out,
where he never played a note, he just spoke in tongues for four,
five, ten minutes and we were just wondering how much worse it
could get. The answer was: plenty worse, really. We knew he couldn't
stop playing on the road, that was his life. At the same time,
we couldn't really continue with him. A couple of years before
he died, he went into treatment he went into treatment
14, 15 times, to serious hospitals with the full detox, you know,
not just group meetings we're talking medical, mandatory
treatment to keep him from dying through withdrawals. With that
in mind there is a scary feeling I get sometimes. I do have some
darkness. I've managed to fight it off pretty well, but only
because I think his parents were nothing really like him and
he had these natural tendencies I inherited from him. But I had
him as a model of how bad it could get, so I always keep myself
this side of the line, you know."
must have been some magic moments wile being on the road with
him as well."
VZ: "O yeah! For instance, I have always written
off his descriptions of seeing goblins and stuff. I've been raised
under Christianity, but have pretty much written it off as nonsense.
I don't know that there is not a God. I'm truly spiritual. I
think that there is a force that drives nature that I'm a part
of. I don't feel much different than a stone or running water
or a tree. I think we all turn back into that and always were
and always will be, but he talked about all these visions and
things. And then the last gig we played in this big church in
Juna and he was just a mess, but he played a brilliant show and
the difference is that this was a township of people who all
put money together to pay for the plane ticket and to pay him
to play and he just played an astounding show. He just nailed
these folks to the wall. They were in tears and his response
was just magical. At the end of the night, they brought a Native
American shaman lady in her eighties who the whole town obviously
endeared. They brought her to him and she spoke in her native
tongue. When it was translated she was standing in front of him
and they were looking at each other and everybody thought like,
wow, this is like a meeting of the minds. She was translated
in saying he was like nailed in his stool all night without falling
off and it was like a huge white angel with his wings spread
holding him up. That was the same thing he was describing for
years and I literally wept. I wept on the spot and that night
I just completely lost it. I was shown things that challenged
every bit of ignorance I had in me. She told him that and his
answer was, 'I'm hip.' That's all he said. (laughs) 'I'm hip.'
It was like, 'tell these people, don't tell me.' 'They don't
believe me.' I still don't know whether I believe it, but that
was heaven. And, of course, he affected so many people in so
many great ways. His family made the sacrifices just as much
as he did, because he was absent as a father and as a husband.
At the same time, he saved relationships all over the world.
"If I Needed You" is still played at a majority of
weddings in Texas. So, in that sense his music was more of a
guidance and a support than any father could have been. And I
keep it with me. It's such a gift to have. I can put in one of
his CDs and drive off to West Texas and it's more healing than
any advice he could ever have given me was. Chances are I wouldn't
have listened to it anyway (laughs). I truly understand now he's
gone what his purpose was. I wouldn't change a bit of it, not
There were times in my youth where he could be so filthy and
so drunk I would be embarrassed to be with him. We would go into
a café and people actually scoffed at us, but I always
felt that I was with the coolest man on the planet and perhaps
who ever lived. He gave that feeling to me, he was such a down
to earth person and at the same time such an amazing spirit,
I never felt that way again. Even at his worst, I always felt
that I was where I was supposed to be."
RZW: "Does the experience Townes' life style stop
you as well from becoming a full-time musician?"
VZ: "Well, I'm a full-time musician; it's just
not my profession. I may be kidding myself, really, but the performance
on stage has nothing to do with the creation of songs. I'm always
thinking of lyrics. I'm always thinking of new chords and structures
and how I can become better as a player and a singer. I've done
some work for a certain organization called "For the Sake
of the Song," named after probably his saddest song, one
of his last songs. He was humorously entertained by the fact
that he had written what might have been the saddest song ever;
you know (laughs), that was kind of funny to him. It's an organization
of musicians to play in nursing homes. After that, I started
a few unique open mike platforms in Austin that drew in a lot
of professional musicians that played off the clock for no money
and was told by all of them that it produced some atmosphere
that they always dreamed of but they'd never seen. They always
heard that Guy and Townes and Rodney Crowell, Steve Young, Steve
Earle and all these guys went on and play as a community and
it's no doubt that they learned from each other. Nowadays everybody's
just trying to do it for themselves and the music suffers. You
got individuals who got no links to other creativity, all just
pounding their brains how to write non-commercial music. It's
all been said or done and that doesn't mean, that there's no
more music or things you need to do. I just don't think that
there's a melting pot happening right now, at least not in Austin.
Townes would literally lock himself in a closet for hours,
if not over night, 24 hours one time. My mom said for two days
in this two foot by two-foot closet they have in this apartment
and he told everyone he wouldn't come out before he had written
this song and he stayed in for 48 hours. He brought in the equipment
to stay there. He didn't come out to use the restroom and have
a cigarette he stayed in there. When he wrote "Pancho
and Lefty," he locked himself in a hotel room to stay there
till he wrote this song, and that, once again, means: my ass
is not moving from this chair until it's done. He had such a
strict code for himself. So I started thinking, maybe I'll do
this, and then I think: are my motivations pure enough to approach
it that way? I would be lying to myself, if I wasn't worried
about the comparison a little bit, but at the same time it's
one of my proudest associations in this world and it doesn't
make it easy for me to be as good as him. I believe Townes was
right: without some extraordinary natural talent, you gotta really
work at it hard. It's gotta be your entire life, it really has
to be. There's a lot of folks that write songs and it's a purification
for me writing a song about an experience or sadness alleviates
the sadness. That is an exercise that is very healthy for people,
that doesn't mean you have to be a poet.
Townes wrote beautiful songs about family and love, but he
never lived those things out, he was off in a corner creating
them while his family was wishing that they had a father or a
husband. He sacrificed his personal life to describe to the rest
of us what true beauty and love is. He didn't experience it,
so he became the poet off in the corner beating his brains out
what the essence of human emotion is. You can choose that or
you can be a simple man who follows his heart and behaves honestly
and treats his family well. And in that case, which would you
choose? It offers up the same non-compromise, just Townes wouldn't
have let anything interrupt his songs. On the other flipside,
I wouldn't allow anything interrupt what my personal goals are
in my life. I have the same non-compromise within the calling
of my furniture vs. the profitability of it. Or the desire to
fish every major river in the west of America with my dog
at the same time there's no money in that. So, I think regardless
of which choice you make, that you can experience the same pride
in your actions by not allowing anything else to sway you. I
just wanna maintain true pride in growing as a person and if
music's a part of that, then I'm delighted, if it's not, then
it's not the end of the world either."
RZW: "Don't you think the pressure on you will become
very hard to still become a professional musician?"
VZ: "It's still a very small outer fringe of people
who listen to this sort of music, and, honestly, I'm not looking
towards a career in it. It feels like I'm still a young man,
but I'm reaching middle age. That doesn't mean it's too late,
but I would be very happy if I were able to write a couple of
songs on the side of what I do and pursue it just as hard as
I can. I have moments that keep me up late to the night and perhaps
a couple of my songs will stand the test of time. It would be
a dream, if after I'm gone, a few of my songs would be discovered
and became standards. That's just as good an idea to me as playing
them every night on the road. I got a house in Austin now that
I just bought, some little two bedrooms, on the Mexican side
of town that's away from all the progress; it's still the way
Austin used to be. It's right across from my woodshop and I'm
living a good life, I'm happy. I may do tours like this every
year and hopefully, I'll never stop playing Townes' songs, because
this is why I didn't have to pay any dues in this industry. I
was able to come and play in the same places as Eric Taylor and
David Olney, Slaid Cleaves, Rod Picott, but I know that Townes
paved the road for me and I'm walking on it."
RZW: "I saw
Townes for the first and last time in 1996 on his last European
tour, shortly before his fatal fall on the stage at the Borderline
in London. What was life for him after that?"
VZ: "I guess a waiting game. He predicted his
own death years before to the point where it became crying wolf.
He would say: ' T, I don't have much longer, you know that.'
I heard it so many times, basically since The Late Great Townes
Van Zandt came out in the seventies. So I had come to accept
it long before it happened. I was in Austin on New Years Day
when he died. I was living in Corpus Christi as a fly-fisherman.
I spoke to him on the phone from the Denver Airport. On Christmas
Day I was gonna see my mom in Colorado and he told me his hip
was hurting. He had called his ex-wife Jeanine - she wasn't his
widow, she was his ex-wife - and she wouldn't allow him to come
over because he was drunk and he could possibly ruin a dinner
that she had planned for guests. That he had broken his
hip was a huge thing for me, because I thought, he's always got
some kind of pain or sickness for the last ten or fifteen years,
so I offered to go up and meet him. But he said, 'no, say hello
to the family, I don't wanna fuck up Christmas for them.' So
I made my calls and did my thing with my mother, went to Austin,
partied for New Year's.
I had a fly-fishing trip, a booked trip at 10 a.m. on the
second of January. So, I am going down the I35, just left Austin
and there's this intense fog firing up and I'm surfing around
the radio. The only reason I keep pushing the button is, because
I was so fatigued I wanted to listen to something to keep me
awake. Suddenly there's a Townes song and then they play another
one. I was in disbelief, but I justified it even further, because
it was a Tuesday and on Tuesday in America they have something
called a 2 for Tuesday where they play two songs in a row from
an artist. Then the guy came on and said: 'That was a song by
the late great Townes van Zandt.' When he said that I just completely
lost my mind. I heard it on the radio that he died, you know!
I first messed the panel, I was trying to pull the fucking steering
wheel off, you know, I was a wreck and then I turned back to
my girlfriend's house. I still hadn't cried. I hit the backdoor
and she came to the door and said: 'What are you doing here?'
Then, when she saw my face, she just figured it out. There was
something written on my face. As soon as she started crying,
of course, I crawled into bed and wept for the entire day and
then in the night I pulled myself together and said: 'I'd better
get a suit,' and went to Nashville to join the rest of my family,
saw his body.
The funeral was, of course, an all-star cast. It's funny,
I sensed at that moment that I had time to grieve throughout
that day on the second, but since the moment I had put that suit
on I told myself I wasn't gonna cry in front of my brother and
sister, there was no time to feel sorry for myself. I was the
eldest son and I had the responsibility to pull it all together.
From my performance at the funeral throughout today, the catharsis
I feel when I give people in a live performance his songs is
still the same thing. Through me being able not to grieve, I
help other people to get over it there are still people
who cannot accept it. In that regard, you're helping me come
up with a few answers myself, because it's been a rollercoaster
ride since then.
His predictions of his own fame have come through after his
death and for me it's just been a natural progression from the
day he died till now: I don't think anything I've done could
be done any differently. One thing I did do is turn down numerous
offers to do some recording in the midst of his demises and,
of course, the industry popped its ugly head up and was looking
for me to put out an album immediately. I just had to make sure
the time is right and if that happens when I'm seventy, as long
as I know I didn't take advantage, it's not about riding his
coattails, that's fine. It's about not distracting the attention
he worked so hard for and he deserves and that he's getting.
I'm happy to be a representative of his and I'm proud to be his
son. Enough time has passed now where the inspiration to write
songs and be a singer hasn't been confused or polluted by the
fact and the timeliness of his death. I'm very cautious that
people understand that I'm in true reverence of his talent and
I don't need to share the attention. I just want to do it the
right way. It's a feeling based on the standard that he created
Contact Marianne Ebertowski at ebertowski-at-rockzilla.net