Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Willie Nelson Interview (CBS) (January 2015)

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Willie Nelson in Interview Magazine, by Woody Harrelson (2015)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

www.interviewmagazine.com
by: Woody Harrelson

“The first six decades of my life had been filled with drama,” Willie Nelson writes, with staggering, knee-buckling understatement, toward the end of his new memoir, It’s a Long Story (Little, Brown). Fifty-odd studio albums, more than a dozen film and TV roles, four wives, eight children, more awards and scrapes with the law than anyone can count—yeah, the first 60 years of Nelson’s life are to drama as the Pacific is to water. Deep with it.

But looking back, from his self-sustaining, solar-powered home in Maui, where he has lived for 30-some years, only soothes him for so long. “I just wanted to kick back, enjoy a smoke, and listen to the waves splash against the shore,” he writes. “But beautiful as it was, I couldn’t sit there for long. Something started calling to me. It was that same ‘something’ that had always been calling.”

Cue the guitar licks: “And of course it led where it always led: Back out on the road.”

At 82, Nelson (who wrote the song “On the Road Again,” among a thousand or more others) is the elder statesman of country music, a steadying and powerful voice in the industry and on environmental issues, and he’s still on the road much of the year. The music keeps calling.

In his unceasing, compulsive rambling about the country, the Depression-era baby and inveterate hustler from Abbott, Texas, has run with the best of ’em, smoked, jammed, and thrown bones with the rest of ’em. Over the course of his more than a hundred albums and 30 years of playing the Farm Aid concert, a benefit he created in support of family farmers, Nelson has played with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash to Waylon Jennings. He’s appeared onscreen numerous times, including in the movies The Electric Horseman (1979), Honeysuckle Rose(1980), and Red Headed Stranger (1986), and on TV shows, including Monk and The Simpsons. At the poker or domino table, he has lifted a small fortune off his Maui neighbors and best buds Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson—all the while burning more grass than the plains states in a drought. (And yet he has the kind of snap-trap memory and continual, thrumming, joke-telling patter of a sage.)

In the process, Nelson has become an enduring figurehead—the outlaw rider; the hippie-redneck activist; the legalization advocate; the ruffian, poet beatnik—and an endlessly beguiling, elusive man. Willie Nelson is already a legend, and still he rambles on.

As he tells his pal and fellow fan of the pipe, Woody Harrelson, it’s been quite a ride. –Chris Wallace

WOODY HARRELSON: Willieeee, I miss you, brother! Where are you?

WILLIE NELSON: I’m in Biloxi, Mississippi.

HARRELSON: Biloxi, whoa. I’m in London, so we’re close. [laughs] When are you going back to Maui?

NELSON: Around Easter. Will you be there?

HARRELSON: That depends. When is Easter?

NELSON: First week in April, I think.

HARRELSON: Oh, I’ll be there. I’m going to be there for three months. I’m trying to get some time off.

NELSON: Heck yeah, we’ll play some poker, dominoes.

HARRELSON: I got a lot to win back.

NELSON: You win a few thousand every day, and it won’t take you long. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: People know you as an affable, great guy who started Farm Aid. Most people wish you were president, and they don’t realize that you’re a fucking hustler. [both laugh]

NELSON: Don’t tell them about that.

HARRELSON: I’m proud of building the Woody wing on your house there in Maui.

NELSON: Hey, thank you, man. Owen [Wilson] was just there. He contributed a little bit.

HARRELSON: Before we start, do you have, like, a jay sitting around? Or maybe a Volcano or the pen, some kind of vaporizer or anything going on there? Maybe we can get stoned together.

NELSON: I’ve got at least four of each of those things. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: I don’t even know why I asked that.

NELSON: Yeah, really.

HARRELSON: Okay. So tell me about your grandparents, because they were a huge influence on you.

NELSON: My parents divorced when I was about 6 months old, and my grandparents raised me and my sister, Bobbie. I think they did a good job. They spoiled the hell out of us, but that’s what we needed.

HARRELSON: Why did you go to the grandparents? Neither parent could take you?

NELSON: They went different directions, and neither one of them had a way to take care of us. Really they did us a favor just by leaving us with our grandparents.

HARRELSON: This was around the Depression?

NELSON: Yeah, I was born in 1933.

HARRELSON: Do you have any memories of the Depression?

NELSON: I didn’t think we were any worse off than all of the other folks around us. Everybody I knew had to work in the fields, pick cotton, pull corn, bale hay; that’s the way we paid our way through school and bought our school supplies and things. My granddaddy died when I was about 6 years old, I think. And my grandmother took a job cooking in the school lunchroom. So she did great. She made $18 a week.

HARRELSON: That must’ve seemed like a small fortune.

NELSON: Well, it was. It took care of us.

HARRELSON: You really have a fond kind of vibe for your grandmother.

NELSON: And my granddad, too. He was a blacksmith, and I hung out in the blacksmith shop with him when I was a kid, watching him shoe horses. In fact, he got kicked by a horse one time, and he had to wear one of those rupture belts all the rest of his life. They were hard workers.

HARRELSON: Was he a disciplinarian?

NELSON: Well, he spanked me one time. I had to be 4, 5 years old, and I ran away from home. They brought me back and he whipped my little butt. He had one of those razor strops. You know, one of those wide, leather razor strops that you sharpen your razor on. And he hit me a few times with that. It sounded real terrible, but it didn’t hurt that much.

HARRELSON: But I’m sure you made a lot of crying noises so he’d stop.

NELSON: Oh, yeah. I screamed. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: You had that actor in you back then, didn’t you?

NELSON: Hustle! I had that hustle.

HARRELSON: When did you get your first guitar?

NELSON: I was about 5 or 6 years old, and I bought this guitar out of a Sears, Roebuck catalog. I think it was a Harmony guitar. My sister played the piano. She’s two years older than me, and I always wanted to play something. So my grandmother got the guitar for me, and showed me a couple of chords to start off. And then I got me a book. Next thing you know, I was playing along with sister.

HARRELSON: So when you graduated high school, around 1950, you joined the Air Force. What was that like?

NELSON: I didn’t care for it at all. The day I got in, I started trying to get out. I didn’t like taking orders that much, and I didn’t like getting up at dawn and marching and all that horseshit. I didn’t make a very good soldier, I’m afraid.

HARRELSON: I can’t imagine you taking orders.

NELSON: No.

HARRELSON: I mean, except from Annie [Nelson, Willie’s wife], obviously. [both laugh] So you weren’t a part of the Korean War?

NELSON: I never did go overseas. I spent all my time in Biloxi, Mississippi, right here where I’m at now. I took basic training down in San Antonio, at Lackland Air Force Base, and in Wichita Falls, at Sheppard Air Force Base. Then I spent my last few months in the Air Force here. I come back here to Biloxi quite a bit. I like it here.

HARRELSON: So out of the Air Force, you went to Baylor University?

NELSON: Yeah, I had some G.I. Bill coming. So I took what I had and went to Baylor there for a while, majored in dominoes. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: That’s what I want to know. When did you become a hustler?

NELSON: I’ve been playing dominoes all my life. When I was really young, the old men in Abbott all played dominoes. And when one of them would have to get up and go somewhere, they’d get me to come sit in. If I’d make a mistake, they’d yell at me and throw shit at me. So I learned to play dominoes pretty good. And some friends of mine, like old Zeke Varnon up in Hillsboro, who is the best dominoes player I ever met, showed me a lot of stuff. He was a card hustler, dominoes, pool … You name it, Zeke was good at it.

HARRELSON: I guess those are the people I have to thank for all the—what do you call it?—remuneration I’ve thrown your direction.

NELSON: I think remuneration is the word for it, yeah. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: Oh, man. I’ve experienced more pain in your house than I think anywhere.

NELSON: But you take it well, Woody. That’s what I tell them all.

HARRELSON: You notice how there’s just no shift from when I’m winning or losing—I just don’t care. I’m happy. So were you an encyclopedia salesman?

NELSON: I sold encyclopedias door-to-door. I also sold Singer sewing machines.

HARRELSON: Did you do well with that? Because I’m imagining Willie Nelson coming to my door to sell me something, whatever it is, I’m going to buy it.

NELSON: The big deal was to get in the door. When I would sell encyclopedias, I would drive down the road looking for a house with a swing set in the back, and I’d say, “Oh, those folks got kids. They need some books.” I’d knock on their door and sell them a set of encyclopedias, and those books were from $300 to $600. I’d look around the house, and if there wasn’t that much furniture in the house, I felt a little bad about selling a $600 set of books to people who couldn’t afford a couch. So I didn’t last at that job very long.

HARRELSON: The overly compassionate salesman. You just weren’t meant to do that, I think. How did you end up in Nashville?

NELSON: Well, when I was growing up, Nashville was the place to go if you had songs to sell and thought you had talent and wanted to tour and be on Grand Ole Opry [radio show]. It was the big deal back in those days to play the Grand Ole Opry. And you could travel around the world saying, “Hi, I’m Willie from the Grand Ole Opry.” And back in those days, it really helped you book dates. I had to quit the Opry because they insisted that you play it 26 weeks out of the year. They still do, I guess. But I was playing in Texas a lot, so it was hard on me to get back 26 weeks out of the year. I’ll always regret it.

HARRELSON: You were just driving back and forth?

NELSON: Yeah, and my good days were Friday and Saturday, so it was really cutting into my income to have to go all the way back to Nashville to play the Opry, and I was kind of torn between the two.

HARRELSON: But at the time, most anybody would have been frickin’ thrilled to be playing the Opry.

NELSON: Oh, yeah.

HARRELSON: I’ve got to backtrack. When did you say, “This is what I’m going to do”?

NELSON: I always knew that I wanted to do this. My first job was in a Bohemian polka band, the Rejcek family polka band in Abbott. The old man in the band had another blacksmith shop in Abbott, but he liked me. All he had was horns and drums, and I was set up over there with my little guitar with no amps or nothing. I would play as loud as I wanted to, and nobody could hear me. He paid me $8 or $10. I had been working in the fields all day for $2, baling hay, so that was a lot of money for me. He took good care of me. He had 20 children, I think, and they were all musicians.

HARRELSON: 20 kids, and I’m guessing different wives?

NELSON: Well now, that I can’t tell you for sure.

HARRELSON: I mean, you’ve got, like, 27 children and how many wives? Is it too early for that question?

NELSON: I don’t know how people handle 20 kids. I got a few, who I love dearly, but 20? Maybe if I went around the world, I’d have 20. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: You got at least 20 out there you don’t even know about.

NELSON: Lord willing! [both laugh]

HARRELSON: But officially, you have how many?

NELSON: Officially, we have Lana, who’s standing right here by me, my oldest, and her sister, Susie, and I had a son named Billy. He passed away. And Paula and Amy, from me and Connie. And Lukas and Micah, from me and Annie. I got a bunch of good kids.

HARRELSON: That’s a goodly number though. I lost track of how many that was …

NELSON: The boys are playing in the band with me tonight. Micah’s a great drummer, and Luke plays great guitar and sings, and they’re really helping us out on this tour.

HARRELSON: So tell me about this fellow Hank Cochran. He had a major influence on your life.

NELSON: Hank Cochran was a songwriter in Nashville, and he wrote for Pamper Music. Hank got me a job there at Pamper Music writing songs [in the early 1960s], with a $50 a week salary. So that set me up in Nashville. And then Ray Price, who owned Pamper Music, heard that I was a musician. And he called and asked me if I could play bass. His bass player, Donny Young, had quit on him, I think out in Nebraska somewhere. I said, “Sure, can’t everybody?” But I had never played bass a day in my life. So on my way to the first gig, Jimmy Day taught me how to play bass. Several years later I asked Ray if he knew I couldn’t play bass, and he said, “Yeah.” [both laugh] I didn’t fool him.

HARRELSON: At this time, you wrote a hell of a lot of amazing songs: “Night Life,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” “Wake Me When It’s Over.” Great songs that other people were performing, like Roy Orbison with “Pretty Paper.” I know you had to be glad to get a paycheck and have other people singing your songs, but were you frustrated at the same time?

NELSON: Not in the least. I knew what I could do, and I was getting my songs recorded. I was making money. I had no reason to complain about anything. I was touring with Ray Price, and whenever we would get home, we’d go into the studio and put down all these songs that me and Hank had written. The publishing company would give us three hours, and we’d see how many songs we could put down—we’d put down 20 or 30 songs in three hours.

HARRELSON: That’s outrageous!

NELSON: But I was performing. I was working Texas a lot, playing all of the beer joints down there, making a pretty good living. And, in fact, when I left Nashville, I went back to Texas and said, “Hey, I can make a living in Texas working the Broken Spoke and different places like that.”

HARRELSON: So that was all initiated when your house burned down in 1970? Was that kind of a blessing in disguise?

NELSON: Yeah, it really was. We were all living up there in Ridgetop, Tennessee, and writing songs and raising hogs. [both laugh] I decided I wanted to be a hog farmer, and I bought 17 weaner pigs. I think I paid 27 cents a pound for ’em. Brought ’em home and fed ’em for five months, sold ’em for 17 cents a pound. I lost a small fortune raising fuckin’ hogs. But I learned a lot. I learned I’d much rather be in Texas playing the beer joints. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: So when you got to Texas, you were already a known entity?

NELSON: More or less, yeah.

HARRELSON: So then everything started to really shift for you. You made Shotgun Willie [1973]. You made, like, three albums in succession.

NELSON: Red Headed Stranger [1975]—that was one of the first ones that started doing well. It had “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” My plan was to have the album come out the same time I had the movie come out. But you know how that goes—it took a decade before [the movie Red Headed Stranger] got made.

HARRELSON: Now, hold it. Was Red Headed Stranger the album that you just heard running through your head when you were driving through the night?

NELSON: Yeah. I was coming back through Denver, driving to Austin. The lights were really bright, so, you know, “The bright lights of Denver / Were shining like diamonds / Like 10,000 stars in the sky.” And, “Nobody cared who you were or where you come from / You were judged by the look in your eye.” So I kind of set the theme for the Red Headed Stranger. I had it pretty much written by the time we got home. It didn’t take that long. But then “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was already written. Some of those songs had been hits in the past, and I placed them in there because they fit the story.

HARRELSON: So by the time that album came out, your star had really ascended?

NELSON: Yeah, pretty good. And I got lucky.

HARRELSON: You still tour over 100 days a year, I think. Were you on that kind of pace already?

NELSON: Yeah. I’m trying to cut back. We’re playing a little less than we have been. I think we’ll all be able to stay out here longer if we do it that way.

HARRELSON: And it’s helping all your friends out, too, because then we get to hang with you more. And how could you possibly make more out on the road than you do right at home? [both laugh] So tell me how you met Annie, your wife.

NELSON: I was doing a movie, Stagecoach [1986], a remake of the old John Wayne classic. We were in Tucson, and Annie was doing the makeup on the movie. We were there together for several weeks.

HARRELSON: And how did it go from makeup artist to … home stylist? [both laugh]

NELSON: Well, she still does my hair.

HARRELSON: How’d you get into biodiesel?

NELSON: Well, just as an alternative to using a lot of oil. A lot of the truckers use it. We use it on our buses. I noticed the price of oil has come down a lot, so that makes it more competitive. You know, if a guy can fill up with regular gas rather than pay a little bit more for some biofuels, he might do that. We got a factory there in Hillsboro, where we go around picking up all the vegetable oil from the restaurants and turning it into biofuel. My old buddy Bob King in Maui, at Pacific Biodiesel, he kind of helped start the whole idea. He’s doing fine. You remember him, don’t you?

HARRELSON: Oh, yeah. I go there and fill up every time I need to fuel. The UN calls 2015 the International Year of Soils, and I know you’re really involved in helping farmers. How’s that going?

NELSON: From what I hear, the ones who have gone into organic farming are doing very well. A lot of people are realizing that it’s better for them to buy from a local farmer. Instead of having their breakfast come from 1,500 miles away, they can get the same bacon and eggs from the farmer a mile out in the country. So I see some progress. We’re doing another Farm Aid this year, on September 19. I think this makes almost 30 of them.

HARRELSON: Wow. I didn’t realize it was that many. That is a cool thing and a great event, but I’m sure you look forward to the day when you don’t have to do it.

NELSON: You would think that our real intelligent people there in Washington would see the problem and fix it immediately, but unfortunately, the big corporations have pretty much told them what to do. And big corporations like it the way it is, all the pesticides and chemicals that they put on the land. It doesn’t change, and I think you have to expect that from people. You have to judge other people against yourself. They say you’re not supposed to do that, but that’s the only way I can judge other people. I kind of compare them to myself. And I know there’s a lot of hustlers out there, in every walk of life. Whether they’re preachers or insurance salesmen, it’s about the same thing.

HARRELSON: I’ve stopped hoping for much from the politicians.

NELSON: Yeah, they’re all bought and paid for.

HARRELSON: But this is boring …

NELSON: Let’s talk about sex.

HARRELSON: Yeah. How old were you when you first started masturbating?

NELSON: Um, let me see. [both laugh] I remember the first time I had sex. I’ll never forget what she said. “Moooooo!”

HARRELSON: That is honorable. And very funny.

NELSON: Do you want to hear a good joke?

HARRELSON: Yes, I do.

NELSON: These people were in a courtroom, and they were accusing this guy of having sex with an animal. And so this lady said, “I only know what I saw. I was driving down the road, and I saw this guy out there with this sheep, and they were making love. And you’re not going to believe this, your Honor, but when they got through, the little sheep laid its head over on the guy’s shoulder and went to sleep.” And one of the guys on the jury punched another one in his elbow and said, “Yeah, it’ll do that.” [both laugh]

HARRELSON: I tell your jokes all the time—but when it gets met with a weird response, I always give you credit—the one about two nuns riding their bikes around the Vatican?

NELSON: And one says to the other, “I’ve never come this way before.” And the other one says, “Me neither, must be the cobblestones.” [both laugh]

HARRELSON: You probably have 52,000 jokes in your memory bank.

NELSON: You’re probably close.

HARRELSON: I’ve never seen you run out.

NELSON: I must enjoy telling them. I know I enjoy hearing ’em. And whenever I hear a good one, I kind of try to hang on to it and spread it around.

HARRELSON: Who’s influenced you the most?

NELSON: Well, we have to go all the way back to guys like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Floyd Tillman, Leon Payne, Ted Daffan, Spade Cooley, Hank Williams, Django Reinhardt. Me and Merle [Haggard] have a new album coming out called Django and Jimmie, about Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. There’s a song that says, “There might not have been a Merle or a Willie without a Django and Jimmie.”

HARRELSON: Ah! And did y’all write together?

NELSON: Merle wrote a few in there. Merle wrote one about Johnny Cash, and he wrote one about us called “The Only One Wilder Than Me.” [both laugh]

HARRELSON: And that’s saying something.

NELSON: And we did a song on there, coming out 4/20, called “It’s All Going to Pot.” “Whether we like it or not / As far as I can tell, the world’s gone to hell / And we’re sure gonna miss it a lot / And all of the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee, just couldn’t hit the spot / So here’s a $100 bill, you can keep your pills, friend / It’s all going to pot.” [both laugh]

HARRELSON: That is great, man! Willie, I got to say, it really blows my mind how you tour over 100 days a year, you come up with at least one or two albums a year, and then you’re also writing books—you have a book coming out, right?

NELSON: Right. It’s called It’s a Long Story. [Harrelson laughs] I reviewed my own book, and I cut a song called “It’s a Long Story” [sings] “It’s a long story, you’ll probably never make it to the end / There’s way too many words, way too many pages / Too much time to stop and start again / But if you love a good mystery, you’ll never find a better one, my friend / It’s a real whodunit, who lost it, and who won it / And who’s still around to lose it all again.”

HARRELSON: Nice, man! You know, I never told you what a big influence you’ve been on my life. I was living in Costa Rica with Laura, and our daughters, Deni and Zoe, and I came back to L.A., and my buddy Jim Brooks asked me if I wanted to go to a concert you were doing. I went, it was a great show, and afterwards, this beautiful woman, Annie, comes up and says, “Hey, I’m Willie’s wife. Why don’t you come back and hang on the bus?” I’m like, “Whoa, sure.” So we go back there, the bus doors open, all the smoke billows out like, you know, Cheech and Chong, and I look through the fog, and I see you in there, with a big old fatty, like, “Come on in. Let’s burn one!” [Nelson laughs] The first of, like, 97,000 joints we would smoke together. And we had the most amazing conversation. I really felt like I met a real soul mate—someone I would always know. Of course, that proved to be true, but one of the great things that happened on that occasion, when we first met, which is an example of your generosity, was you said to me, “I live in Maui. If you ever want to come over there and stay—even if I’m not there—you can do that.” So, of course, we took you up on it, and ended up in Maui. And now, almost 20 years later, I’ve been living in Maui, and it’s thanks to you. So thanks for being such a good influence on my life, bro.

NELSON: Well, you’re sure welcome. I was lucky. I got booked over there, and once I got there, I realized, “Hey, this would be a good place to stay.”

HARRELSON: Yeah, you got a great spot there on the water.

NELSON: One thing I want to run by you, you know our spot over there on the ocean, what do you think about us putting in a little floatin’ gambling casino out there, maybe a little houseboat, you know, and calling it Woody and Willie’s?

HARRELSON: I love that idea. Bring ’em up in a boat, get a little gambling done, and send ’em back home.

NELSON: Yeah, they can ski over or whatever.

HARRELSON: You’ll have Owen there every night, trying to win back what he lost the previous night. I love that idea. I’m in.

NELSON: I’ll see you in Maui!

Willie Nelson in Interview Magazine (2005)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

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portrait:  Julian Schnabel

Interview Magazine
by:  Stephen Mooallem
August 2005

WILLIE NELSON:  Outlaw, legend, Countryman, Rastafarian?  It’s been a long and tempestuous road for music’s braided troubadour, and with a big-time movie, an old-time tour, and a good-time reggae record all on the go, he’s still the wildest ace in the deck.

Stephen Mooallem:  So, this reggae record you’ve done, Countryman [Lost Highway], has been nearly a decade in the making.

Willie Nelson:  Yeah.  It started around 10 years ago when don Was and I went to Jamaica to see Chris Blackwell, who was the head of Island Records at the time.  He had wanted us to do a reggae album, and we did one track, so we took it down to play it for him.  He liked it, but I also took a copy of a CD I’d just produced called Spirit, and he liked that, too, so he said, “Let’s put that out now, then we’ll put the reggae record out later.”  Meantime, the company had some shake-ups, so Chris moved into another spot, and the reggae album just lay around for a long time.

SM:  Is reggae music something you’ve been into for a long time?

WN:  No.  When I first heard it, there was way too much rhythm for me.  It took me a while to realize that they were doing something with all that rhythm and not just banging.  So once I was able to figure out what was going on, I discovered how well country songs could adapt themselves to reggae rhythms.

SM:  Why did you think they would adapt well?  Were there similarities in any way?

WN:  I tried doing my song “Undo the Right” in reggae style, and it turned out so well that I felt I could do any country song an put reggae rhythms behind it.  Then these musicians told me that reggae started from people in Jamaica listening to music from United States radio.  The people there had fiddles and guitars but no drums, so they added their own rhythms to what they were hearing.  They swore that’s where reggae came from.

GM:  How did you pick the songs for Countryman?

WN:  A friend of mine told me I couldn’t do a reggae album without “The Harder They Come” and “Sitting in Limbo,” so I did those.  Then I did a Johnny Cash song called “I’m a Worried Man.”  When he found out I was doing a reggae album, he played me his song, and I said, “Yeah, that’d be good.”  Then on the rest of them, I used a lot of my old songs — just country songs that I’d written back in the ’60s and ’70s.

SM:  Was it hard waiting for this record to come out?

WN:  Oh, yeah.  But it’s the record business, so everything is different and strange.  [laughs]

GM:  You’re also in the new Dukes of Hazzard movie.  How was that experience?

WN:  Exceptionally good.  Movies come along so rarely that when they do it’s kind of like a vacation.  You pull the bus in there, and you stay for a week or two, and you get to see a lot of great people every day.

GM:  You play Uncle Jesse in the movie.

WN:  Most of my scenes are with Wonder Woman.

GM:  Oh, Lynda Carter.  Who does she play?

WN:  She plays my girlfriend.

GM:  Very nice.

WN:  Yeah.  She’s a great gal.

SM:  Do you still like being on the road?

WN:  Yes, I do. I enjoy being able to hang out during the day and not having anything to do until the nighttime.  But I do run and try to stay in shape.  With the way I abuse myself in the nighttime, I have to do something the next morning to at least even it out.

SM:  Do you still keep late nights.

WN:  No, I don’t really.  A lot of the old things I used to do, I don’t do anymore.  I don’t drink much anymore, so I have no reason to wake up feeling bad.

SM:  Did you ever think when you were starting out that you would still be touring and playing music at this point in your life?  What keeps you interested?

WN:  Every day is a challenge, for one thing.  And it keeps me off the streets.  It keeps me from getting into trouble, because I don’t know how to do days off that well.  For me, being out on the road, when you’ve got something to do every day,  is good therapy.  And my boys are playing with me, and they are just incredible musicians, so it’s fun to have them around.

SM:  Do yout hinkyour sons are going to become musicians as well?

WN:  No doubt.  It just depends on how quick their mom will let them hit the road.  She’s very interested in keeping them in school long enough to learn how to take care of the business part of it.  I am, too, because i learned mainly by making mistakes.  I started out playing in bands when I was around 8 or 9 years old, living in Abbott, Texas.  I was living with my grandmother, who raised me.  I’d play around town, in school and church and everything, and she said, “That’s all f ine, but I don’t ever want you to go on the road.”  So there was a little old club down in West, Texas, about six miles south of Abbott.  I went down there one night and played with a bohemian polka band.  Nobody heard me, but I made $8.  When I got home, my grandmother was a little upset.  She said, “You promised me you wouldn’t go on the road.”  Six miles away was “on the road” to her.

SM:  What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever learned?

WN:  Be careful what you say, and be careful what you promise, and be sure you’re able to do what you say you’ll do.

SM:  Do you have a philosophy then about, how to go about things?

WN:  Yes:  Fortunately, we’re not in control.

interview
August 2005

Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

brenda

http://sacurrent.com
By Jeremy Martin

New to Willie Nelson?   Don’t cop to that shit around these parts, partner, unless you do it in a Martian accent.  In his 76 years, Abbott, Texas’s native son has done so many phenomenal things a list of them would amount to a religious text, but let’s put it this way: He wrote a hit song for Patsy Cline (“Crazy”) and appeared in a Snoop Dogg video (“My Medicine”). The words “living legend” aren’t really adequate; that should’ve opened up a wormhole in space-time. We’re still waiting for him to bring his Fourth of July Picnic back to San Antonio, but you’ve got a chance to verify his actual existence Sunday at the Majestic Theater, 224 E. Houston Street, on  February 28, 2010, majesticempire.com.

Mickey Raphael has played harmonica with Willie Nelson since 1973. He produced 2009’s Naked Willie, featuring Nelson recordings from 1966-1970 stripped of their Nashville studio flourishes. Raphael is currently working with Salvador Duran and Calexico’s John Convertino and Joey Burns to record a follow-up to his 1987 solo album Hand to Mouth.

How is Willie Nelson’s hand recovering? [He canceled a concert last month due to hand pain.]

It’s good. I mean he plays. He had that carpal-tunnel-syndrome operation — it’s been awhile back [2004]. … We’re out on the road now, but we just had a day off yesterday, and we’ve got a day off Monday, so he’s giving it some rest. … He’s the only guitar player we got, though.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had playing with Willie Nelson?

[Performing in Amsterdam with] Snoop Dogg was pretty unique. We’ve gotten to play with U2.  Willie and I went to see Bono in Ireland, and they were working on a record and they asked us to come down and record a song that they released in Europe [“Slow Dancing”].  I don’t think it was a U.S. release. Willie and I played in Georgia at Ray Charles’s funeral. We just did this thing with Wynton Marsalis [2008’sTwo Men With the Blues].

How did you begin playing with him?

I met Willie through [former University of Texas football coach] Darrell Royal, at a jam session at the coach’s hotel room after a ball game. He had about 30 people in there … a bunch of musicians and just his buddies and stuff. They just sat around passing the guitar around. Willie sang some. I think Charlie Pride sang some; I can’t remember who else was there. And Willie just said, “Hey, if you ever hear we’re playing anywhere, come sit in.” I started checking his schedule and seeing where he was playing in Texas. … It just kind of segued into playing with him more often.

How did the idea for Naked Willie come about?

I just pitched the idea to the record label. I said, “We’ve got all these great songs from the ’60s, and I wonder what they would sound like without all these strings and background vocals. What would it sound like if Willie had been the producer?

So this was your idea?

Yeah, totally my idea.  Willie really heard it when it was finished.

The impression I’d had was it was similar to the way that Let It Be Naked had arisen— something that had been eating away at him for a long time.

No, no. It was something that had been eating away at me for a long time. •

http://sacurrent.com/music/story.asp?id=70955

Five Questions for Willie Nelson @Barnes & Noble

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

bn
www.barnesandnoble.com
by: Lauren Passell

Willie Nelson has been putting his stories to music (with his guitar, Trigger) for more than 60 years—and now he’s put his stories to the page, in his just-released memoir “It’s a Long Story.” We sat down for a few minutes with the country-music legend before he signed copies before an excited audience of fans at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York City.

BN:  You’ve been telling stories for years through song, and now a book. What’s your best advice for telling a good story?

WN: I would be the last one to give advice on anything.

BN: But you’re a gifted storyteller! How do you do it?  WillieN03

WN: Well it’s different selling a big, heavy book like this one, than writing a song.

BN:  How is it different?

WN:  With the book, I had a lot of good help. David (my co-writer) would ask me questions and did a good job taking what I said and making it sound half right.

BN:  You walk into a big, beautiful Barnes & Noble like this one. Which section do you head to first?

WN:  I like adventure and action books.

BN:  If we started a Willie Nelson book club, which book would you choose to make everyone read?

WN:  God’s Little Acre, by Erskine Caldwell.

booky5

www.macleans.ca

Read article here:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/5-questions-for-willie-nelson-at-his-bnauthorevent/

“Interview” with Willie Nelson, by Woody Harrelson

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

interview1138172.jpg
photo by: Shelly Katz

www.interviewmagazine.com
by:  Woody Harrelson

“The first six decades of my life had been filled with drama,” Willie Nelson writes, with staggering, knee-buckling understatement, toward the end of his new memoir, It’s a Long Story (Little, Brown). Fifty-odd studio albums, more than a dozen film and TV roles, four wives, eight children, more awards and scrapes with the law than anyone can count—yeah, the first 60 years of Nelson’s life are to drama as the Pacific is to water. Deep with it.

But looking back, from his self-sustaining, solar-powered home in Maui, where he has lived for 30-some years, only soothes him for so long. “I just wanted to kick back, enjoy a smoke, and listen to the waves splash against the shore,” he writes. “But beautiful as it was, I couldn’t sit there for long. Something started calling to me. It was that same ‘something’ that had always been calling.”

Cue the guitar licks: “And of course it led where it always led: Back out on the road.”

At 82, Nelson (who wrote the song “On the Road Again,” among a thousand or more others) is the elder statesman of country music, a steadying and powerful voice in the industry and on environmental issues, and he’s still on the road much of the year. The music keeps calling.

In his unceasing, compulsive rambling about the country, the Depression-era baby and inveterate hustler from Abbott, Texas, has run with the best of ’em, smoked, jammed, and thrown bones with the rest of ’em. Over the course of his more than a hundred albums and 30 years of playing the Farm Aid concert, a benefit he created in support of family farmers, Nelson has played with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash to Waylon Jennings. He’s appeared onscreen numerous times, including in the movies The Electric Horseman (1979), Honeysuckle Rose(1980), and Red Headed Stranger (1986), and on TV shows, including Monk and The Simpsons. At the poker or domino table, he has lifted a small fortune off his Maui neighbors and best buds Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson—all the while burning more grass than the plains states in a drought. (And yet he has the kind of snap-trap memory and continual, thrumming, joke-telling patter of a sage.)

In the process, Nelson has become an enduring figurehead—the outlaw rider; the hippie-redneck activist; the legalization advocate; the ruffian, poet beatnik—and an endlessly beguiling, elusive man. Willie Nelson is already a legend, and still he rambles on.

As he tells his pal and fellow fan of the pipe, Woody Harrelson, it’s been quite a ride. –Chris Wallace

WOODY HARRELSON: Willieeee, I miss you, brother! Where are you?

WILLIE NELSON: I’m in Biloxi, Mississippi.

HARRELSON: Biloxi, whoa. I’m in London, so we’re close. [laughs] When are you going back to Maui?

NELSON: Around Easter. Will you be there?

HARRELSON: That depends. When is Easter?

NELSON: First week in April, I think.

HARRELSON: Oh, I’ll be there. I’m going to be there for three months. I’m trying to get some time off.

NELSON: Heck yeah, we’ll play some poker, dominoes.

HARRELSON: I got a lot to win back.

NELSON: You win a few thousand every day, and it won’t take you long. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: People know you as an affable, great guy who started Farm Aid. Most people wish you were president, and they don’t realize that you’re a fucking hustler. [both laugh]

NELSON: Don’t tell them about that.

HARRELSON: I’m proud of building the Woody wing on your house there in Maui.

NELSON: Hey, thank you, man. Owen [Wilson] was just there. He contributed a little bit.

HARRELSON: Before we start, do you have, like, a jay sitting around? Or maybe a Volcano or the pen, some kind of vaporizer or anything going on there? Maybe we can get stoned together.

NELSON: I’ve got at least four of each of those things. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: I don’t even know why I asked that.

NELSON: Yeah, really.

HARRELSON: Okay. So tell me about your grandparents, because they were a huge influence on you.

NELSON: My parents divorced when I was about 6 months old, and my grandparents raised me and my sister, Bobbie. I think they did a good job. They spoiled the hell out of us, but that’s what we needed.

HARRELSON: Why did you go to the grandparents? Neither parent could take you?

NELSON: They went different directions, and neither one of them had a way to take care of us. Really they did us a favor just by leaving us with our grandparents.

HARRELSON: This was around the Depression?

NELSON: Yeah, I was born in 1933.

HARRELSON: Do you have any memories of the Depression?

NELSON: I didn’t think we were any worse off than all of the other folks around us. Everybody I knew had to work in the fields, pick cotton, pull corn, bale hay; that’s the way we paid our way through school and bought our school supplies and things. My granddaddy died when I was about 6 years old, I think. And my grandmother took a job cooking in the school lunchroom. So she did great. She made $18 a week.

HARRELSON: That must’ve seemed like a small fortune.

NELSON: Well, it was. It took care of us.

HARRELSON: You really have a fond kind of vibe for your grandmother.

NELSON: And my granddad, too. He was a blacksmith, and I hung out in the blacksmith shop with him when I was a kid, watching him shoe horses. In fact, he got kicked by a horse one time, and he had to wear one of those rupture belts all the rest of his life. They were hard workers.

HARRELSON: Was he a disciplinarian?

NELSON: Well, he spanked me one time. I had to be 4, 5 years old, and I ran away from home. They brought me back and he whipped my little butt. He had one of those razor strops. You know, one of those wide, leather razor strops that you sharpen your razor on. And he hit me a few times with that. It sounded real terrible, but it didn’t hurt that much.

HARRELSON: But I’m sure you made a lot of crying noises so he’d stop.

NELSON: Oh, yeah. I screamed. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: You had that actor in you back then, didn’t you?

NELSON: Hustle! I had that hustle.

HARRELSON: When did you get your first guitar?

NELSON: I was about 5 or 6 years old, and I bought this guitar out of a Sears, Roebuck catalog. I think it was a Harmony guitar. My sister played the piano. She’s two years older than me, and I always wanted to play something. So my grandmother got the guitar for me, and showed me a couple of chords to start off. And then I got me a book. Next thing you know, I was playing along with sister.

HARRELSON: So when you graduated high school, around 1950, you joined the Air Force. What was that like?

NELSON: I didn’t care for it at all. The day I got in, I started trying to get out. I didn’t like taking orders that much, and I didn’t like getting up at dawn and marching and all that horseshit. I didn’t make a very good soldier, I’m afraid.

HARRELSON: I can’t imagine you taking orders.

NELSON: No.

HARRELSON: I mean, except from Annie [Nelson, Willie’s wife], obviously. [both laugh] So you weren’t a part of the Korean War?

NELSON: I never did go overseas. I spent all my time in Biloxi, Mississippi, right here where I’m at now. I took basic training down in San Antonio, at Lackland Air Force Base, and in Wichita Falls, at Sheppard Air Force Base. Then I spent my last few months in the Air Force here. I come back here to Biloxi quite a bit. I like it here.

HARRELSON: So out of the Air Force, you went to Baylor University?

NELSON: Yeah, I had some G.I. Bill coming. So I took what I had and went to Baylor there for a while, majored in dominoes. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: That’s what I want to know. When did you become a hustler?

NELSON: I’ve been playing dominoes all my life. When I was really young, the old men in Abbott all played dominoes. And when one of them would have to get up and go somewhere, they’d get me to come sit in. If I’d make a mistake, they’d yell at me and throw shit at me. So I learned to play dominoes pretty good. And some friends of mine, like old Zeke Varnon up in Hillsboro, who is the best dominoes player I ever met, showed me a lot of stuff. He was a card hustler, dominoes, pool … You name it, Zeke was good at it.

HARRELSON: I guess those are the people I have to thank for all the—what do you call it?—remuneration I’ve thrown your direction.

NELSON: I think remuneration is the word for it, yeah. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: Oh, man. I’ve experienced more pain in your house than I think anywhere.

NELSON: But you take it well, Woody. That’s what I tell them all.

HARRELSON: You notice how there’s just no shift from when I’m winning or losing—I just don’t care. I’m happy. So were you an encyclopedia salesman?

NELSON: I sold encyclopedias door-to-door. I also sold Singer sewing machines.

HARRELSON: Did you do well with that? Because I’m imagining Willie Nelson coming to my door to sell me something, whatever it is, I’m going to buy it.

NELSON: The big deal was to get in the door. When I would sell encyclopedias, I would drive down the road looking for a house with a swing set in the back, and I’d say, “Oh, those folks got kids. They need some books.” I’d knock on their door and sell them a set of encyclopedias, and those books were from $300 to $600. I’d look around the house, and if there wasn’t that much furniture in the house, I felt a little bad about selling a $600 set of books to people who couldn’t afford a couch. So I didn’t last at that job very long.

HARRELSON: The overly compassionate salesman. You just weren’t meant to do that, I think. How did you end up in Nashville?

NELSON: Well, when I was growing up, Nashville was the place to go if you had songs to sell and thought you had talent and wanted to tour and be on Grand Ole Opry [radio show]. It was the big deal back in those days to play the Grand Ole Opry. And you could travel around the world saying, “Hi, I’m Willie from the Grand Ole Opry.” And back in those days, it really helped you book dates. I had to quit the Opry because they insisted that you play it 26 weeks out of the year. They still do, I guess. But I was playing in Texas a lot, so it was hard on me to get back 26 weeks out of the year. I’ll always regret it.

HARRELSON: You were just driving back and forth?

NELSON: Yeah, and my good days were Friday and Saturday, so it was really cutting into my income to have to go all the way back to Nashville to play the Opry, and I was kind of torn between the two.

HARRELSON: But at the time, most anybody would have been frickin’ thrilled to be playing the Opry.

NELSON: Oh, yeah.

HARRELSON: I’ve got to backtrack. When did you say, “This is what I’m going to do”?

NELSON: I always knew that I wanted to do this. My first job was in a Bohemian polka band, the Rejcek family polka band in Abbott. The old man in the band had another blacksmith shop in Abbott, but he liked me. All he had was horns and drums, and I was set up over there with my little guitar with no amps or nothing. I would play as loud as I wanted to, and nobody could hear me. He paid me $8 or $10. I had been working in the fields all day for $2, baling hay, so that was a lot of money for me. He took good care of me. He had 20 children, I think, and they were all musicians.

HARRELSON: 20 kids, and I’m guessing different wives?

NELSON: Well now, that I can’t tell you for sure.

HARRELSON: I mean, you’ve got, like, 27 children and how many wives? Is it too early for that question?

NELSON: I don’t know how people handle 20 kids. I got a few, who I love dearly, but 20? Maybe if I went around the world, I’d have 20. [both laugh]

HARRELSON: You got at least 20 out there you don’t even know about.

NELSON: Lord willing! [both laugh]

HARRELSON: But officially, you have how many?

NELSON: Officially, we have Lana, who’s standing right here by me, my oldest, and her sister, Susie, and I had a son named Billy. He passed away. And Paula and Amy, from me and Connie. And Lukas and Micah, from me and Annie. I got a bunch of good kids.

HARRELSON: That’s a goodly number though. I lost track of how many that was …

NELSON: The boys are playing in the band with me tonight. Micah’s a great drummer, and Luke plays great guitar and sings, and they’re really helping us out on this tour.

HARRELSON: So tell me about this fellow Hank Cochran. He had a major influence on your life.

Read entire article, see more photos:
http://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/willie-nelson#_

Willie Nelson on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Willie Nelson on CBS This Morning

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The singer and songwriter has always been a musical outlaw. He was inspired by blues, jazz, gospel, honky tonk and the ’60s hippy movement, and he created a sound all of his own and revolutionized country music. Willie joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss his new memoir, “It’s a Long Story.”

Willie Nelson on the View (May 6, 2015)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Willie Nelson: Vagabond and Icon (by Michael Corcoran)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Musician’s heart beats strong as ever: Willie Nelson, vagabond and now icon, is still crisscrossing American at 70

http://booknotes.weblogger.com/
by Michael Corcoran
2003

Willie understood. When Frank Sinatra kept touring well into his 70s, reading the words of his classic songs off giant TelePrompTers, critics and fans wondered why he didn’t retire. How much money did he need? But Willie Nelson knew that concert receipts had nothing to do with his friend and idol’s busy schedule. “When you sing for people and they throw back all that love and energy,” he says, “it’s just the best medicine in the world.”

With Nelson’s 70th birthday coming Wednesday, the eternal red-headed rascal has been inundated with tributes, including a celebrity-heavy affair in New York earlier this month that will be shown on the USA Network on May 26, Memorial Day.

The phases and stages of Willie’s career have found him evolving from the honkytonk sideman to the hit Nashville songwriter, from progressive country pioneer to crooner of standards. And now the iconoclast has become the icon, with Willie achieving American folk hero status.

This pot-smoking Zen redneck in pigtails, who sings Gershwin through his nose and plays a guitar that looks like he picked it up at a garage sale, transcends music and has come to personify the individual, the rectangular peg to the round hole of corporatization.

Willie’s the one producers called to sing “America the Beautiful” at the moving finale of the televised “A Tribute To Heroes” show after the Sept. 11 attacks. He’s played for worldwide audiences at former President Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And he can have his bacon and eggs at any greasy spoon in the country and feel right at home.

Meanwhile, the journalists keep leading with the same questions about what keeps him going at the pace of a much younger man. Willie and the band he calls the Family are scheduled to play almost 180 dates this year, and the shows are two-and-a-half-hour affairs.

“I’ve been trying to take it easy for years, but this is what I love to do,” he says. “When I go home to rest, I get a little stir-crazy after a few days.”

Here’s a man whose office in Luck, the Western town he built near his “Willie World” complex of golf courses, condos and recording studios on Lake Travis, carries a plaque that reads, “He who lives by the song, dies by the road.” True to that motto, one of Roger Miller’s favorite sayings, Willie’s been home in the Hill Country a total of only two weeks this year.

It’s no wonder that “On the Road Again” is the easiest song Willie’s ever written. The producers of the 1980 film “Honeysuckle Rose” were looking for a theme song about vagabond musicians, and their star wrote the first words that popped into his mind: “The life I love is making music with my friends/ I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

It’s a simple existence made all the more comfortable because Willie is surrounded by people who’ve been with him for decades. Bassist Bee Spears has lived 35 of his 53 years in Willie’s band, which also features the barrelhouse piano of Willie’s 72-year-old sister, Bobbie, and Willie’s legendary running buddy, 71-year-old Paul English, on drums. Percussionist Billy English, Paul’s brother, is the new guy, having joined just 19 years ago. Harmonica player Mickey Raphael and guitarist Jody Payne are also relative newcomers, both joining the ragtag caravan 30 years ago.

“You can’t get out of this band even if you die,” Willie says with a laugh. “I’ve told the guys that we’ll just have ’em stuffed and put back up on that stage.”

Willie’s circle of fiercely loyal lifers include roadies (78-year-old Ben Dorcy has been with Willie since the early ’60s), sound engineers and managers. Meanwhile, his oldest daughter, Lana, travels with Willie and keeps up the willienelson.com Web site.

“We all act like we can’t wait to get off the road and catch a break from each other,” says stage manager Randall “Poodie” Locke, who joined up in 1975. “But after three or four days, we’re looking for excuses to call each other. Everybody’s wives or girlfriends are going, ‘Uh, Honey, don’t you got any gigs comin’ up?’ ”

Where’s Willie?

On the road again, they just couldn’t wait to get on the road that takes them to the Lone Star Park horse racing track near Dallas on a crisp recent evening. Some of the fans come early, looking for Willie’s bus, the one that has “Honeysuckle Rose” and an American Indian figure painted on the side.

A group of giddy grandmas stand outside the band’s business bus before the one with the “Ladies Love Outlaws” T-shirt gets up the courage to knock on the door. “Where’s Willie?” she asks the driver, who answers that he won’t arrive until showtime. When the women leave, Poodie says, “Willie makes every fan feel like they’re his friend. Because they are.”

With piercing brown eyes that seem to have the ability to make eye contact with thousands simultaneously and a world class smile that’s both frisky and comforting, Nelson turns concerts into lovefests and makes fans feel like they grew up next door to him.

To gaze at the social makeup of the line waiting outside the horse race track is to marvel at the range of Nelson’s appeal. There are older couples dressed in tight, rounded jeans and multicolored western shirts, who look like they used to see a pre-bearded Willie at the old Big G’s dance hall in Round Rock or the Broken Spoke. There are tons of college kids in ballcaps and straw Resistol hats, plus truck-driver types, budding socialites, bikers and hipsters with their neck tattoos.

But there are also many who just came to play the ponies and don’t even know Willie’s booked to sing after the night’s final race. When a young man with gold front teeth and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat worn sideways approaches the turnstile, the ticket taker jokes, “Are you here to see Willie Nelson?” A few Willie fans giggle as the man shakes his head and says, nah, he’s here to bet on horses. Then, as he passes, he leans back and says, “But I do like Willie Nelson.”

As long as he’s healthy and the people keep coming out. That’s how long Willie says he’ll keep this carnival, which commands upwards of $50,000 per show (and $100,000 for private parties), out on the road. Meanwhile, the 70th birthday peg has led to renewed interest in Nelson’s recorded legacy, with Sony reissuing an “Essential Willie Nelson” double disc and the Sugar Hill label getting critical raves for the recently unearthed “Crazy: the Demo Sessions” from the early ’60s. A recently remastered version of the 6 million-selling “Stardust,” Willie’s best-selling album, is turning a whole new audience onto the songs of Hoagie Carmichael and Irving Berlin, just as it did in 1978.

Although last year’s “The Great Divide,” an attempt to duplicate the “Supernatural” success of Carlos Santana by dueting with such hitmakers as Sheryl Crow and Rob Thomas, sold a relatively disappointing 361,000 copies, Willie and the Family are playing to some of their biggest crowds since the mid-’70s glory days of “Good Hearted Woman” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”

Now that Waylon, the Butch Cassidy to Willie’s Sundance Kid, has passed away, it’s up to Nelson to keep the outlaw country bus a-churnin’ down the highway. And with his role as the vortex of Texas singer-songwriting assured, Willie has picked up the younger high school and college crowd that goes batty for the likes of Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen.

Informed that a band member said, “It’s like 1975 all over again,” Willie lets out a laugh. “If he can remember 1975, he wasn’t in my band. But it does seem that the girls are getting younger and prettier. And they know all the words! I hear a thousands kids singing along to ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ and I think, ‘Y’all weren’t even born when that one was written.’ It just makes me feel great to know that these old songs are clicking with a whole new crowd.”

As with the Grateful Dead, Nelson’s spike in popularity so late in his career comes partly because he and the band promote a free-spirited lifestyle. But where the Dead (whose surviving members will join Willie at this year’s Fourth of July Picnic at the new Two River Canyon venue, just down the highway from Willie World) became synonymous with extended jams and mind-expanding drugs, the Willie way is built around short songs and long drives, a cowboy/ Indian fashion mix and tear-in-your-beer roadhouses. Above all, the band’s escapist bent is intensified with instinctive musicianship, a play-it-as-we-feel-it attitude that extends beyond the stage.

“Playing with Willie is tricky business,” bassist Spears says of the frontman who never met a beat he couldn’t tease. “If you try to follow him too close, he’ll lead you down to the river and drown you. You have to keep one eye on him and one eye on your part. Just play your part and trust that he’s going to come back and meet you at some point.”

Willie says the musical kinship between him and sister Bobbie, who ride the bus together, is almost telepathic. “Sometimes, she seems to know what I’m going to play before I do. I’ve played music with my sister almost every night of my life. There’s just this intense connection that really gets the whole ball rolling.”

Raphael says that if someone should die, the members of the Family have decided to carry on in missing man formation, as fighter pilots do after a comrade crashes. “But if anything happens to Trigger,” he says of the acoustic guitar that Willie’s picked a hole through, “that could be the show.”

The Martin classical guitar, which he bought sight-unseen for $750 in 1969, is Nelson’s most precious possession. That he lets friends, about 40 so far, carve their names into the guitar says as much about Willie Nelson, the unmaterialistic scamp, as the way he plays it with gypsy fingers and a jazzman’s curiosity.

At home in the crowd

“God bless ’em,” singer Marty Robbins once said of country music fans. “They’ll do anything for you but leave you alone.”

But no country star has ever handled the demand from fans to touch, to talk to, to have a picture made better than Willie. He spent the first part of his career trying to become successful and the rest proving that success hasn’t changed him a whit.

He’s got a bunch of burly guys, including a former Hell’s Angel named L.G., working for him, but Willie doesn’t allow them to lead him through crowds, even when about 3,000 people stand between him and the stage, as they did at the Lone Star Park show.

When the crowd lets out a roar because they’ve seen Willie in their midst, Mickey Raphael walks up to the window of the band bus, peers out at his boss signing autographs in the sea of hats and says, “Looks like we’ve got about 45 minutes,” then goes back to telling a reporter how he came to run away with this circus.

“My first exposure to the group was the cover of that (1971) ‘Willie Nelson and Family’ record. They were the freakiest looking country band I’d ever seen. Paul looked like the devil and was wearing a cape; Bee had on some furry diapers. I said, ‘Now, what do these guys sound like?’ ” After sitting in with Willie and the Family at a firefighter’s benefit in Waxahachie, Raphael starting playing at all the band’s dates in the Dallas area.

“Willie asked me one night, ‘Hey, Paul, what are we paying that kid?’ ” says English, the infamous raconteur immortalized in Willie’s song “Me and Paul.” The pistol-toting English has handled band biz on the road since 1966, when Willie enticed him to leave his business supplying call girls to Houston businessmen. “I said we weren’t paying Mickey anything, and Willie said, ‘Then double his salary.’ ”

Bee Spears, who joined the Family in 1968 when original bassist David Zettner was drafted into the Army, talks about his first Christmas out on the road with Willie: “We tried to make a snowman out of shaving cream, and we drew pictures of the presents we would give each other when we made it big. Willie had us believing that it wouldn’t be ‘if’ we made it, but ‘when.’ He knew that eventually someone was going to figure him out.”

Austin understood. It was here in the early ’70s that Willie Nelson found a kindred musical attitude. Even though he spends more of his time off the road these days in Maui, where his fourth and current wife, Annie, and their boys Luke, 14, and Micah, 13, live, he remains Austin’s spiritual adviser and greatest musical ambassador.

“Willie loves it in Maui, but he considers Austin his home,” says Lisa Fletcher, who’s married to Bobbie’s son Freddy Fletcher. “He’s got six children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and they almost all live around Austin, so he gets down here every chance he can.”

Austin and Willie go together in the minds of the masses, like Elvis in Memphis, but where Presley lived a fortressed life, Willie doesn’t think anything about jamming for hours at Poodie’s Hilltop Grill near his Lake Travis compound or popping in at Momo’s on Sixth Street to see his favorite local band, Los Lonely Boys. “The town’s grown so much,” Nelson says, “but I still like the vibe there. It’s still a music town.”

Watch the movies he made here in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and you’ll see that so many old landmarks are gone, including the Armadillo World Headquarters, where Willie mapped out the common ground between hippies and the rednecks. Also torn down was the Villa Capri motel, the scene for so many guitar-picking parties hosted by Willie’s buddy Texas Coach Darrell Royal. But Willie’s still Willie, and his set starts out the same way it has since 1971.

There’s the four or five guitar strums and Mickey’s snaky harp lines and then the unmistabkable nasal twang: “Whiskey river, take my mind/ Don’t let her memory torture me.” It’s a holistic hoedown as “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)” follows, and then come patchwork versions of the early ’60s hits “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Night Life.”

Ain’t it funny how much time hasn’t seemed to slip away?

There’s a scene in “Honeysuckle Rose” when Amy Irving asks Willie if he ever gets tired of being everybody’s hero. His silence makes the question rhetorical, but after watching Willie hold court on his bus a few months ago outside Gruene Hall, with person after person telling him how much his music has meant to them and their recently deceased mother, it’s a question worth re-asking. Does Willie ever get tired of being everybody’s hero?

“I think when that line came up in the movie, the reason I didn’t say anything was because I was probably thinking, ‘That’s about the dumbest question I’ve ever been asked,’ ” he says with a huge Willie laugh.

What a stupid question. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by millions simply by being themselves? Who wouldn’t want to be paid handsomely to do the thing they’d do for free? He’s on the road again and again, playing, in the words of Mickey Raphael, “Carnegie Hall one night and some dump in Odessa the next.”

And so when Willie hits the big 7-0, it won’t be a star-studded affair at a huge Texas amphitheater, complete with fireworks. That would make too much sense. Instead, his bus, his home, is rolling towards Wednesday’s gig at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, La.

That’s so Willie.

On the road, he’s Willie Nelson, an American treasure and hero of the common folk. Now, who wouldn’t want to be that as often as possible?

 

Willie Nelson and Jon Stewart on the Daily Show (5/5/15)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

See Willie Nelson on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight! (5/5/15)

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

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www.thedailyshow.cc.com

Willie Nelson is a guest on the Daily Show tonight, and will talk about his new book, “It’s a Long Story:  My Life So Far”, among other things.

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Willie Nelson is a singer-songwriter, actor, activist and the author of “It’s a Long Story: My Life.” He has recorded over 60 studio albums, including “Songbird” (2006), “Across the Borderline” (1993), “Honeysuckle Rose” (1980), “Stardust” (1978), “Red Headed Stranger” (1975) and “Shotgun Willie” (1973). Nelson is a seven-time Grammy Award winner, and he has received American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards and Country Music Association Awards. Nelson appeared in over 30 films and co-authored several books. He is one of the co-founders of Farm Aid, and he is also involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalization of marijuana.

Willie Nelson on NPR

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

It's a Long Story

www.npr.org

The first thing you notice when you get on ‘Willie Nelson’s tour bus is a pungent aroma. Parked outside a gigantic casino and performance venue in Thackerville, Okla., Nelson offers NPR’s David Greene a joint, which Greene declines. Nelson says he understands.

At 82, Nelson is still touring the country, still an advocate for legalized marijuana — he’s even started a new company to sell weed in Colorado — and has a new memoir out called It’s A Long Story. The country legend recently spoke to Greene about the mystery of Willie Nelson, how ex-wives are really “additional wives” and why no one can tell him what to do.

“A friend of mine once said, ‘It’s my mouth, I’ll haul coal in it if I want to,’ ” Nelson says. “I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool. I’ll use that.’ I don’t think anybody should tell me or you or anybody what to do. I think the Bible says it’s not what goes into your mouth that counts; it’s what comes out.”

Producers would tell you your phrasing is off. What does that mean?

It means change producers.

Touché. What does that mean, your phrasing is unique?

If you’ve got to explain that, you’ve got the wrong one. There are so many beats in a measure, you have so much time to get in so many beats, some people lay back to the last minute. … Some do a beat every quarter. However you feel it is the way you should do it.  Sinatra’s best asset was his ability to phrase. He’s my favorite singer. It’s how you say it.

I did a lot of reading before coming to meet you. People who know you very well say you remain a mystery. The true Willie Nelson doesn’t come out easily. We know this whole massive catalog of songs; can we know you through that catalog? Do you remain a mystery?

I don’t know … I loved every song Hank Williams wrote. Doesn’t mean I knew him any better. Music says a lot about you. I’m guessing … maybe so? Maybe my music does tell stories I wouldn’t be able to tell any other way unless it was through a song.

Amazing story you tell in the book: You land in jail in the Bahamas because of your love of pot. Two days later, you’re at the White House having dinner with President Carter. That evening, you said a friend of yours, a White House insider, knocks on your door, takes you on a tour and lights up a joint.

Hrm. Were you there?

No, I just read the book.

[Laughs.] I didn’t know I put that in the book.

No. No. Most of the women in my life knew that they were taking a big chance with a guitar player, anywhere. Not that that’s an excuse. Guitar players do like women. That’s why we got into the business; we like girls. That can lead to trouble if you’re planning family life. Which I did. I have four wives, kids, grandkids, I love them all. There’s no such thing as ex-wives; there’s only additional wives.

I see there are photos behind you, [including] one of your late son, Billy …

Oh, there he is, with his daughter, my granddaughter. There he is on Scout, his pony. Another one back here.

He died a very early death. You outlived a son. You lost people you played on stage with. You talk about Jennings, Cash, … How does that loss around you impact you and your life today?

Me and Merle were talking, ain’t many of us left.

Merle Haggard.

We were chuckling about that. Where’d everybody go? The fact he and I are still here is probably a miracle in itself.

Raelyn Nelson talks about new single, new video, and asking Papa Willie for Advice

Monday, May 4th, 2015

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The Raelyn Nelson Band from Nashville released a new single earlier this month, “Brother”, and the song has been exciting  everyone who hears it.  The band’s self-made accompanying music video has been burning up the internet.  Impossible to watch it just once — you just have to hit re-play.

The song’s got a familiar country theme about a cheating heart,  a somebody done somebody wrong song.  But the lively hip young RNB twists up the plot  when the girl calls her brother and tells him about the cheating boyfriend.  And the band’s creative video takes you along on the chase as the boyfriend is on the run from the brother.  I said it was exciting!

The RNB is made up of Raelyn Nelson, Jonathan Bright [JB], Preachie Rutherford and Paulie Simmons, from Nashville.   Last year they released their self-titled debut album, a collection of original material written by the band.  The album includes the sweetest duet with Raelyn and her grandfather, “The Moon Song”.    The single, “Brother”,  and their debut album is available for purchase at the band’s website store.
http://www.raelynnelson.fourfour.com/store

Raelyn kindly gave me some time on the phone last week from her home in Nashville to talk about the new song, “Brother”, the video, and life in general.

LL:  I’m really enjoying your new song, “Brother”.  It’s so good.  What’s the story behind that song?

RN:  Well, [laughs] the story is kind of boring.  I was watching a show on television where this girl’s boyfriend was cheating on her.  And so she called her older brothers and told them about it.  I watched that, and I thought, “Well, that could be fun.”  I couldn’t think of any song written about someone calling their big brother when their significant other cheats on them.   I had some lyrics and a melody I’d been working on and once I saw that TV show, I started writing it down and putting it all together.   Then I got with JB [Jonathan Bright] to finish it and he always rocks it up for me.

LL:  Your music video for “Brother” is so entertaining. I can’t stop watching it.   Is it true, your band made the whole thing yourself?

RN:  Yes, we did everything ourselves.  It grew from us just sitting around one day and throwing out ideas.  JB had just got a Go-Pro (small, mountable video camera), so we knew we wanted to use that for a project.  But we didn’t know who we wanted the person to be – should we film it from the perspective of the boyfriend or the brother?”  And the scenes of the band performing are from our little studio, our regular band space.  Believe it or not, we did that take over thirty times, to get it right, to get the timing right.  And then JB was running around with the Go-Pro, playing the video on his phone for the FaceTime part.”

LL:  Did you expect the video to be so good?  Or to be so popular?

RN:  It was so cool and fun working on it together.  When we were making it we felt like it was something special.  We were thinking, “If this comes out the way it is in our brains, if this video comes out like that, it will be awesome.  It was so exciting watching it come together.  People say that the music video world is really going down and losing importance, but on the internet, it’s huge.  If you have a really good song, and a good idea, a video can go viral.

And I got to use my young-ins in the video. The boys are twins, so they were the brothers.  One of them runs up and swings the bat, and the other one stands with the bat at the end.  My daughter was riding the scooter in the video.  I home school them, and so one day it was like, “Okay youngins, today we’re having acting class.”  It was great.

LL:  You and Jonathan Bright have a very creative relationship.  How did you meet him and your other band mates?

RN:  I was so lucky to meet JB.  We met originally through a mutual friend in Nashville.  JB is a producer and a long time musician, and I went over to his place to record some of my music.  We decided to try and write some music together and we really liked what we were coming up with.

We wanted to do a project together and we thought, ‘How do we do this?”   He had always done rock, so he was thinking about doing a country project.  I have these country melodies and he has that rock background.

But when we started working on the project, and listening to what we’d done, JB said, ‘Let’s get a combo together and see what happens, so he grabbed his Defense Wins Championships (DWC) bandmates and we’ve been playing together since 2012!”

LL:  I like the term that someone in the Nashville paper coined for your sound, “Country Garage Rock”.  Do you like that?

RN:  Yeah, our music kind of naturally grooved into this rock country thing because of our individual inspirations.  Basically, I am country and they rock.  And I get to sing my country melodies louder over their guitars, and I really like what we do. I’m proud of it.

Everyone might not get it.  Papa Willie’s fans, the traditional country music lovers might not get into it.   Or the punk rock music fans may not be into the country thing.  But somehow it works, and I think there is a little bit of something in there for everyone, to catch their attention.

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You can also purchase the band’s album here:
http://www.raelynnelson.fourfour.com/store

LL:   You released your album last year, and now you are giving us a new single, with a video.

RL:  Yeah, we’ve decided to do something new this year.  Instead of working several months recording an album and then working to promote it for over a year, we’re going to periodically release singles.  “Brother” is the first of our new singles that we are going to release, along with the music video.  This is something I’d like to see my favorite artists do, too. Us fans want new music all the time!!!

LL:      Your music video went viral.   Is social media major part of your marketing plan?

RL:     We think social media works well with our plan to release a new single and music video every month.  “Brother” and the video has proven that it might work.  I am not saying we are not ever going to make an album, or ever going to sign with a music label, but right now, the way things are going works for us.  We want to be ahead of the game and keep doing it.

And we have made good connections, like Rolling Stone, who we met at Farm Aid.  They have been so good to us and receptive.  When we finished making the video, I e-mailed the link, and said, “Hey, check out this video.”  And then I heard back, ‘Yes! We are going to run it.’  We are so lucky to have those connections. The Rolling Stone Country guys are good people.

We have all these ideas, but we don’t always have the money to carry them out.  It’s fun and challenging to be innovative and try to figure how to carry out these ideas on a budget. “How am I going to do this without the money?”  We just have to be creative and figure out how to make new music and promote it, and how to make it happen.   If you make enough noise, people notice you.  With the internet, people want new music now, now now.  With the singles, we can give a lot of attention to each song.   And then we can get it right out to our fans, along with a music video, too.  And a special tee shirt!

If you work at it, you are feeding your music to the people, and each song gets more life.  I take a lot of time writing these songs.  I am not a quick song writer.   We spend a lot of time on each song before we put it out for the world to hear.  We want to highlight each song instead of just combining it in an album.  I think it’s a modern way to do things in the music industry.  It’s the new path.

Artists can show their fans what they have been up to for the past couple months. You can see what the artists are doing, new videos, and new music.  And they wouldn’t have to do a reality show, or be on social media constantly to try to keep in touch.  They can share their craft, their art directly to fans.

We want to be inspiring to other people, too, people who want to do it themselves.  You can do it.  Just get out there and do it.  It takes a lot of work, but it if it’s your thing and its fun – it’s not really not work at all.

LL:  Do you like writing and collaborating with others?

RL:  It’s a special thing to be able to write with someone.  JB and I have a good friendship connection so we can say, ‘I don’t like that.’   Or, ‘I really like that.’.  It’s a special relationship that doesn’t come around so often, especially in a song-writing town like Nashville.

I get stuck sometimes when I write songs.  And it’s nice to be able to call someone up and say, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, what do you think about this?.’  I write with friends, too, because when you’re a song writer and you’re hanging out with your friends that are song writers, somehow there’s always a song started before the visit is over with but I usually write with JB for our RNB project.  We do a lot of it over voice memo. I voice memo it and send it to him, and he will voice memo something and send it back.  Looking back to when we first met and started writing, I see how JB taught me how to pull pieces together to create something more.  He’s taught me a lot and I am learning so much from playing with these guys.

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LL:  Do you ever call your grandpa for advice?

RL:   Yeah, I call him if I get to a place where I am stuck, or have a question or need to talk to him.  I was on his bus with him in New Orleans when our EP came out, and got to talk to him about it.  He told me not to worry about trying to get a label right now, just continue to record on my own.  He encouraged me to put out music the way I liked and to use social media to get the word out to friends and fans.

I remember, the first time I performed  by myself, I wasn’t in a band, and I messed up.  I texted Papa Willie afterwards because I was so bummed and told him I messed up the song, I stopped in the middle and said, ‘Shit’ to everyone over the mic.   And I had to start over.  Papa Willie made me feel better immediately; he texted back, “That’s what I do, I just start the song over.  Just pick it up and start all over.’  And then he told me to continue writing and to keep getting back up there and so I do.

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LL:  What’s it like being onstage with your family at the end of a Willie Nelson concert?  The finale is always a highlight for us fans, but what’s it like for you?

RN:  It is always a surreal moment.   It’s not even a physical thing, it’s a spiritual thing.   You look around and you are surrounded by your family, singing.  And you think, ‘This is what we are supposed to be doing on this earth right now, this is what we were all born to do.

I get the same experience every time I listen to the “Moon Song”, the song with Papa Willie.  When I hear his guitar, I think, ‘This is right where I am supposed to be in the entire universe.”   I love my family.  They are really good people.   They are genuinely good and positive.  Like my Papa Willie, I don’t know how any one person can be on everyone’s side.  How can he be for every single person, and people know that and feel it.  I am so grateful for my family.

LL:  What’s it like living in Nashville?  Is everyone in the music business, or are there doctors and lawyers and such?

RN:  [Laughs], yeah, there are a lot of other industries.  Nashville is a medical city, too, there are several great hospitals here.  But everywhere you turn you meet someone who is in the music business or who used to be in the business or they write music.  There are so many amazing musicians here.  And even if someone does work as a doctor or lawyer, they also play music or they’re married to someone who is.  Nashville is just that way.

LL:  How is your mother?  Is she still in Nashville?

RN:  Yes, my mother is still in Nashville.  She is well.  She helps me out a lot with the kids.  She keeps them for me when I have to go to the studio or if I have a show.  She is heavily involved in her ministry and her church.  I’m very proud of all of the good work she puts into each individual who comes into her ministry. The time she spends praying for each person is admirable. She’s an inspiration, a role model, and a teacher to me and I’m so grateful to have her as my mama.

I was born in Nashville.  My mom and dad met here.  Dad was traveling through town with Papa Willie and they stopped by the radio station where my mom worked as a promotion girl.  They fell in love and got married.  Papa Willie had a cabin in Ridgetop that we all stayed in when I was a baby;   I don’t live too far from there now.

LL:  Did you play a musical instrument in school?

RN:  Yes, I was in the HLHS String Band. I went to Hunters Lane High School and took the music career courses.  I joined the String Band playing rhythm guitar and I remember my song to sing was, ‘Rocky Top’ at our gigs.  I took voice lessons from several vocal coaches and guitar lessons from one of my best friend’s dad, and I was in the HLHS show choir.

But I don’t feel I got good at playing the guitar and ukulele until just the past few years.   My mom says I came into the world singing but I was always shy about performing in front of people.  I’ve gotten more comfortable, but as far as singing my own songs, that’s only been the past few years.  For me, it took getting up there and doing it over and over and I am now addicted to the feeling of being on stage and entertaining.

And having my youngins inspired me to sing and perform.  It wasn’t until after I had them that I got inspired with all these songs and started writing them down. When I look back at my adult life, I think, ‘If I didn’t have the kids, I could just go off and tour whenever I want.”  But I know, if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be doing this at all.  They inspired me so much at that time of my life. And now, they get to come along for the ride!

LL:  What do you do for fun?

RN:  My youngins and making music are my fun.  My whole life is home schooling them and my music life.  When they’re with their dad, I schedule time to write or spend time in the studio.  A friend of mine teaches yoga, and I try to take one of her classes each week.  Then my kids and I do yoga together every day, its music and yoga before bedtime every night. On free nights, I go catch shows in town. There’s always a show going on and sometimes I know the people playing which is always a party. I like to watch other shows and get inspired. Hanging with family, making music, and watching Nashville’s finest musicians do their thing is my fun!!!!!

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LL:  You and your Aunt Amy are frequently in the news, speaking out against abusive treatment to animals.  Is that a cause that’s always concerned you?

RN:  Auntie really opened my eyes to the abuse going on against animals.  I was completely ignorant until she started telling me things.  I was 18 when Amy moved to Tennessee, and we were the Nelson family in Tennessee at the time.  We would hang out a lot and she educated me.  Then, one day she said, “Do you want to go to DC with me?”  And I said, ‘Yes!’  I want to represent our family in such a positive way.  I still can’t believe animals are treated the way they are, and people should know about it. Raising awareness is the most important job of the Animal Activist and it’s the easiest part. Auntie and I started a non-profit called Willie’s Kids with the idea to incorporate humane education into school curriculum. If we teach humane practices to the children while they’re in school, the next generations will be more compassionate and humane in their decisions. I predict a more compassionate America in generations to come.  I predominately follow a vegetarian diet for humane considerations.

LL:  I love the ‘Pun with Raelyn’ videos.  Any chance for more installments?

RN:  Yes, we are going to bring Puns back.  It’s one of the things we just can’t get back to, because we are so busy working on other projects — songs we want to done…and videos.  I think I just need to say to JB, “”Hey, let’s do a Pun this week.”   We have a few ideas that we want to do that are going to be so good.

LL:  What was first concert you ever bought a ticket for?

RL:  Well, my first concert ever was Papa Willie concerts….I can’t even remember the first one, I just remember going to them. Paid my own way?  It would have been a Christian group.  My mom kept me pretty close to Christian music and old country.  Then, when I was a teenager, I rebelled a little and started listening to top 40 pop and hip hop was big at the time.  I remember going to an ‘NSync concert when I was 14…..the boy band era. I wore baby blue so Justin Timberlake would notice me in the sea of baby blue at the Bridgestone Arena (which was Gaylord Entertainment Center at the time)…needless to say, he did not.

raelynnshirts

You can get your shirt at the band’s store:
http://www.raelynnelson.com/store?id=2434

The tee shirts are so cool, too.  Who did the artwork?

My son Aiden drew the design on dry erase marker board we have.  He drew the whole group of us.  Then I took a picture of it, and JB said, ‘That’s an album cover or something!  Keep it!’.  Then I had Brody go write ‘Raelyn Nelson Band’ on top of it.  That was a couple of years ago.

LL:  Oh – I hear kids in the background!  They need mom.  Thanks so much for your time.  See you on the 4th of July!

RL:  Thank you.  See you in Texas!!!! You rock, Linda Banks.

Follow the band on Facebook here.

 

Teatro on Vinyl! And Liner Notes! — A Conversation with Willie Nelson and Daniel Lanois

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Willie_VinylWillie Nelson’s Teatro

Happy Record Store today!  I stood in line today at Bart’s Records in Boulder, and got lucky — I scored a copy of Willie Nelson’s Teatro album released on vinyl for Record Store Day 2015.   This is my favorite Willie Nelson album, even though you know I like them all.  Teatro  was originally released on cd-only in 1998 by Island Records, and that’s why it’s such a big deal that it is being made available on vinyl, gold vinyl!  I hope everyone gets to listen to this album.  Or buy it on cd.

 Here’s a track from the album:

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FROM THE LINER NOTES:  “TEATRO”:

On February 6, 2014, we were lucky enough to share a few minutes with Willie Nelson and Daniel Lanois, reminiscing about the good ol’ days of Teatro. Below is what unfolded. A big thank you to both Willie and Daniel, along with Seth Loeser, Meredith Louie, Henry Owings, Mark Rothbaum and Elaine Schock for making this possible.

— Matt Sullivan and Patrick McCarthy

WILLIE: Hey, Daniel. How you ‘doin?

DANIEL: Oh, Willie, I’m good. Nice to hear your voice. Are you on the road?

W: Yeah, we’re uh… somewhere out here. I think we’re in Oklahoma.

D: Right, right, right. Well, that’s good. Looks like we’re gonna put a little bit of life back into Teatro. That’s great, isn’t it?

W: Well, yeah. Heck yeah.

LIGHT IN THE ATTIC: To start, how’d the record come about?

W: Daniel, what do you remember about how it came about?

D: I’m sure Mr. Rothbaum was at the helm, but all business aside, when we decided to make the record, I wanted to make sure that Willie felt comfortable in the studio and that it did not feel like a usual recording session. I met Willie in Las Vegas, and we rode on his bus to California, where at the time I had the Teatro Recording Studios, an old cinema in Oxnard. We rode from Vegas, and Emmylou Harris joined us on the bus, and we went over some of the material on the bus.

I kept in touch with my crew back in California to make sure that the studio had a nice dance hall feeling because I talked with Willie on the bus, I said, “What was it like when you were getting started man?” He said, “Well, we were kind of a dance band, and people just were providing music for people on the weekends to dance to and have a nice time.”

And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to provide this tone for Willie? Have a kind of dance hall feeling in the place. So I set up three little stages — one for WIllie, one for Emmy, one for me. And then two drummers. It was a very beautiful, almost like a Cuban nightclub setting. And I think that really helped to set the tone of this album. Whatya think, Willie?

W: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And of course Emmylou was fantastic. We did a video, too. What song was the video, do you remember?

D: Well, we filmed the whole things with Wim Wenders.

W: Yeah, that’s right. Wenders.

D: It’s a beautiful film that goes with the whole thing. It never got aired a lot, but maybe we should try and knock on somebody’s door and say this is a good time to play the film. [laughs].

W:  You’re absolutely right.  Yeah, I think it deserves to have a chance out there.

D:  Yeah.  It was really a lovely, harmonious process.  I was happy to be on Willie’s bus.  We were just chillin’ and workin’ out the songs.  When I got to the destination, I made a decision to ask Willie to… the theatre had a nice parking lot, so there was plenty of room outside.  We sorta camped out outside, and Willie had his trailer there.  I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t burn out Willie, so I said to him, “Don’t even be in in the studio.  You stay out on the truck, and I’ll come out and get you, so that when you come in everything’s gonna be fresh.”  So I was rehearsing the band on the inside, and when I felt like the moment would strike, I’d go out and get Willie, and we’d get it in one or two takes.  [laughs]  We did that whole record in four days!

W:  Well, you know, when you’re having fun it don’t take long.

LITA:  Well said!  Willie, what are some of your memories of the album and the recording session?

W:  Well, I remember that we had some great rhythms there — I think two drummers and maybe a couple of bass players.  I’m not sure.  Who all played bass?  Did we have two or just one?

D:  No, no, no, Willie.  I played the bass.  I overdubbed the bass after!  So we had the two drummers, and then we had two keyboard players.  We had Aaron Embry, and then from Toronto a guy named Brian Griffiths on the guitar, the great slide player.  I think bass players must make too many mistakes, so I knew the arrangements, so I overdubbed the bass myself.

W:  Well, it turned out great.  I liked it.  I think it should have had a bigger run back there.  It was kinda quick — it came and went pretty quick, but maybe it’ll get another shot.

D:  Yeah, maybe it’ll get another shot.  And Willie, you’re absolutely right.  There was a very rhythmic foundation that we laid out which was petty sweet.  Those two great drummers, Victor Indrizzo and Tony Mangurian.  There was some kind of genius in inviting these two guys because one is a left-handed drummer and the other ne is a right-handed drummer, so they could sit at one big drum kit together and not get in anybody’s way!

[both laugh]

The one guy’s high hat is on the left, the other guy’s on the right.  it was pretty fucking funny.  But because they were literally sitting together, their rhythms were locked, so we had some very nice grooves going.  It’s hard to describe the full sensation of it.

W:  The theatre where we shot it, too, was perfect.  There was a great feel.  It was like a big nightclub or dance hall.

D:   Exactly.

LITA:  One of our favorite songs on the record is one that you wrote, Danel — the song, “The Maker.”  It’s a song that really captures the cinematic expansiveness of the album.

W:  I love, “The Maker.”

LITA:  It’s so cinematic and big.

D:  The good thing about “The Maker” is… I thought it was a good song for Willie because it gave him an opportunity to play with the phrasing.  The lyric lines are quite brief:  [sings] “Oh, deep water, black and cold like the night,” so it’s not a soaring melody.  It’s more of a standing melody, and I think that really suits Willie’s way of looking at vocal phrasing.  Willie, thanks for doing the song, man.

W:  Well, it was a lot of fun to sing.

LITA:  It’s been sixteen years now — what do you guys think of the record?  Do you feel it stands up?

W:  Definitely.  I’m just glad to see some folks payin’ attention to it again and thinkin’ about puttin’ it out there again.  It certainly deserves another shot.

D:  Is it sixteen years already?

LITA:  Yeah, 1998!

D:  Oh boy.  Well listen man, we have no shortage of passion and power and devotion to the music, s if an opportunity comes upt for us to go another rund sometime, Willie can count on me, how ’bout that?

W:  Well, you can count on me, too.  I’d love to do it.  Sounds like a good plan.

LITA:  That was our next question, so thank you!

D:  Well, we’re very driven by quality and magic.  I mean, we hope t get it… It helps when people are talented  [laughs], so we had a little bit f an advantage.  I think we had Mr. Nelsn in there on the vocals, so we had a pretty good chance.

LITA:  Any thoughts, Willie, on maybe performing the album live one of these days?

W:  Oh, that would be great.  I would be glad to do that sometime.  When it comes out, if we can promote it someway and showcase it, I think that would be a good idea.

LITA:  Maybe back at the theatre!  I think it’s for rent again. I eventually moved outta there.  It’s been a church since we had it, Willie, but I saw a “For Rent” sign on it, so…

LITA:  Well, the sound you guys got there was just magical.  We’re so thankful for your time and for your music.  You’ve brought a lot of happiness to us over the years, so thank you.

W:  Thank you very much.  It was good to hear from you, my friend.

D:  Willie, nice to hear your voice, and I’m looking forward to putting a little bit of juice back into Teatro, so if you get any additional ideas, gimme a call, ok?

W:  All right, same to you.

LITA:  Thanks so much.

D:  Thank you so much for your time, guys.