"Townes was not only a great singer/songwriter/poet, he was the grandest person I have ever known. He spent his whole life pursuing his music dreams no matter what that entailed, from the brightest of days to the darkest of nights, right until the day he died."
Harold F. Eggers Jr. (Austin, TX) is a music industry executive who worked with Townes Van Zandt as road manager, business partner, and co-record producer. Eggers helped bring the songwriter's unforgettable music to live audiences across Europe and North America over a span of two decades and is the co-author of My Years with Townes Van Zandt: Music, Genius, and Rage. Eggers talked to Lone Star Lit via email...
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Mr. Eggers, what do you think Townes Van Zandt would say about this book?
HAROLD EGGERS, JR.: I think Townes would say, "H, you did the book I wanted you to do, telling the truth and not white washing anything, including all my extreme bipolar intensities of my good, bad, and maddening ways. You experienced all this with me over a span of twenty years, as we toured and traveled the highways of the world together. Also, you told the story of your own life with no reservations." My professional and personal relationship with Townes was filled with constant, brutal honesty—something that only true friends would do for one another.
If your readers could remember one thing about this story, what would it be and why would that be so important?
Townes was not only a great singer/songwriter/poet, he was the grandest person I have ever known. He spent his whole life pursuing his music dreams no matter what that entailed, from the brightest of days to the darkest of nights, right until the day he died. Most importantly, I hope readers realize how important it is to never stop listening to their heart and inner voice and always pursue their dreams, every day of their lives. Townes would often say to me, "H, today is all we really have. Live each day like it is your last," and "Drink a full cup of life each day you are alive, H."
When did you decide to write this book, and what was the major influence in that decision?
For years I tried to persuade Townes to collaborate with me on a book about his life and music career. He always said, "Why do a book on me when my life's story would only take up one page?” I replied, "Yeah, but we could do a hell of a packaging job on the book!" Townes laughed and said, "Okay, let's do it." Years before this, Townes saw me being involved in and securing several book deals: Willie Nelson by Susie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan by Keri Leigh, and The Nashville Family Album by Music Row's renowned photographer Alan Mayor. I could sense that in some form, Townes was wondering when I was going to do a book on him. Each time I would bring it up with him, he declined. My main reason for writing this book was so that for the rest of my life, I would not feel as though there was something I was meant to accomplish but never did. Townes’s life and music were so unique and special compared to anything I had known or done before; how could I not do it?
You co-authored this book with L.E. McCullough; how did that come about and tell me about any challenges or unexpected outcomes of that process.
I had known L.E. since 1987 when he did an article on my music business intentions when I first moved to Austin, Texas. He was the music writer for the Austin Chronicle. We started working on this Townes book many years ago. We both tried for years to get a publishing deal for this book, with no luck at all— didn't seem like it was ever going to happen. Just by chance, L.E. connected with Bernadette Malavarca who was an editor for Hal Leonard's Backbeat Books. She was also an artist herself, a singer/songwriter who was performing with her band near where L.E. lived. He approached her with this book proposal; she was very receptive and knowledgeable about Townes Van Zandt's music. Bernadette presented the manuscript to Hal Leonard for consideration, they approved, and a deal was secured. Under the guidance of Bernadette—from the content, layout, photographs, to the book jacket—our publishing process could not have been any better. The finished product is excellent—beyond L.E.’s and my expectations!
When you analyzed your memories in preparing to write this story, what was that experience like? Did you have to double-check your memories?
I started working on this book with Townes in 1996, a year before he died. Townes told me in detail all the aspects of his life and music career, then and collectively during the twenty-year span I toured and traveled with him. I had all the notes that I wrote down from 1996 right up to actually writing the book with my co-writer L.E. McCullough in 2017 and 2018. I went through all these ongoing notes as the years passed, constantly trying to put them in some order, condensing and updating. I say of doing the book, "I gave L.E. scrambled eggs, and he made an omelet."
I did double-check my memories, from the ones I wrote down and those that were still in my head, but not yet committed to paper. As the manuscript got closer to completion, I kept coming up with more and more stories to include. Finally, L.E. said no more, we have more than enough and probably won't be able to put in the massive number of stories we already have. For me, the experience of doing this book was a kind of psychotherapy, remembering all of Townes’s and my past experiences in our friendship and working together for twenty years, from the funniest, intense, scary, dangerous, bizarre, and all stops in between. The finished book is all I hoped it would be.
You chose a “warts and all” approach in what you shared in the book; did you ever consider sugar-coating the story? Did you?
No; right from the beginning when working on the book with Townes for a year before he died, he said it had to be inclusive, not withholding anything. He wanted me to say it as it was. Townes wanted me to make the reader feel his pain, including all the highs and lows of his life and music career.
You previously wrote the foreword to another author’s story about Townes Van Zandt. How did that influence this story, if at all?
The book is I'll Be Here In The Morning by Brian T. Atkinson. It is a book of interviews with people who knew Townes and others who were very aware of his influential music talents. In doing the foreword for this book it helped me to become even more focused on the writing of this book. The foreword was an overview of my friendship and workings with Townes, giving insight to the Townes I knew.
If this story was selected for a screen adaption, who do you think could play Townes Van Zandt, and why do you think so?
Johnny Depp, who is also a performing music artist, could capture the extreme intensity, maddening ways, creativity, of Townes the singer/songwriter and captivating performer he was.
This being your first published book, what were the highlights of that experience?
I am honored that Townes’s life and music career is finally being told as it actually was and including my life story to show how entwined our lives were. I am humbled by all the attention this book is now getting. I have always intentionally stayed in the shadows of the music and literary worlds. I have enjoyed representing artists and writers over the years, but being in the spotlight is difficult for me. I am really enjoying all the book signings, interviews, and articles being done on the book. I wish Townes was still alive to experience this with me, and I’m glad his life and music is finally getting the recognition he has always deserved.
Bring us up to speed—what’s next for you?
I have been busy doing book signings and interviews for the book. I have over 1,100 photographs of Townes I took over the two decades I worked with him. I am working on a Townes photobook with my son Harold F. Eggers-Soo, III, who is a very talented photographer, musician, and innovator.
And now for the Lightning Round of questions.
What’s on your nightstand? Photographs of my family
Favorite book? The Bible
Favorite musical artist born after 1990? Peterson Brothers
Most under-rated musician? Hector Ward, Richard Dobson, Gurf Morlix, Michael Weston King
CDs or streaming music (or 8-Track or cassette if you’re me)? CDs and records!
Strange habit? Rechecking over and over if my home and car doors are locked.
Funniest flaw? Hearing sounds and voices that aren't there.
Superstition? Walking on a crack in the sidewalk.
Favorite quote? "It's the going not the getting there."— Townes Van Zandt