Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Willie Nelson: The Barbara Walters Interview (1982)

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017


People Magazine
June 21, 1982
by Cheryl McCall
photos:  Evelyn Floret

It is high noon in Austin, and the atmosphere is sultry in the $257 -a-night LBJ Suite of the Driskill Hotel, where Barbara Walters has turned off the air conditioning.  She has come to Texas to interview Willie Nelson for the 20th ABC special bearing her name, and is savoring a moment of decadent leisure.  Denuded of makeup, padding around in her bare feet and a shapeless cotton caftan, Walters bears little resemblance to the empress of televised conversation.   She looks softer, almost homey, as though she just might mosey into the kitchen and whip up a batch of brownies.  The effect is casually, but not entirely unstudied.

Like no other correspondent, perhaps, Walters is both of the press and apart from it.  As anxious about her image as any politician or movie queen, she has been stung by criticism of herself as a creature of outsize go and privilege.  “The biggest misconception about me is that I’m cold and controlled, that I have this great prima donna life where I’m followed around by limousines, hairdressers and press agents,” she says.  “It’s just not true.”

It is possible, of course, that even Mrs. Onassis thinks of herself as Just Plain Jackie.  Moments later Walters is frantically pulling clothes off hangers and issuing a volley of commands to her secretary:  have her clothes pressed, call room service, summon the hairdresser.  With a taping scheduled for 5:30 p.m., a three-hour transformation begins as the Walters hair is cut and styled (“Don’t make me look like Shirley Temple,” she warns), and emmy-winning makeup artist Tommy Cole applies a poreless mask of cosmetics to the famous face.  “I have not had a face lift,” says Barbara, fifty.  “When I’m doing a special, I am beautifully lit and I look terrific.”

Producer JoAnn goldberg and director Don Mischer arrive to go over plans for the taping and to approve a selection of newly ironed dresses.  (“All form my own closet,” Walters points out.)  In preparation for her summit meeting with Nelson, Barbara’s staff has compiled a voluminous binder of research and drawn up some of the 150 questions she might ask on-camera.  Advance people have scouted out the locations, arranged flights for the staff, booked hotel rooms, rental cars and limousines, hired local camera crews and arranged catering services for the two days of taping in Austin.  Routinely, when the time comes to take the show on the road, Walters boards her plane to the interview, pres over the research once more in flight, and reviews the questions she will use.  Her secretary, Monica Caulfield, guides Barbara to airlines, limos and out-of-town destinations.

For this special, which will also include segments on Clint Eastwood and Carol Burnett, Barbara has postponed 20/20 interviews with Alexander Haig and Yoko Ono to focus her attention on Nelson.  Relentless in pursuing the subjects she wants, Walters writes letters, sends flowers or telegrams, and even pleads with celebs on the telephone.  Leonid Brezhnev, the Pope and Greta Garbo have spurned her requests, but few others have shown such powers of resistance.  Willie Nelson had twice turned her down until she cornered him at a Friars roast for Burt Reynolds last year.  Now, with his hot crossover album of the year, Always on My Mind, topping both pop and country charts, Nelson has become the key to an audience share that Walters would not automatically attract.

Barbara readily admits that his celebrity interrogations are “gentler” than her usual interviews.  “These are people, like Nelson, who are doing me a favor,” she explains.  “They’re superstars who don’t need this publicity.  Nobody comes out of these interviews angry or hurt.  If I’m asked not to discuss something that’s very painful, I won’t, because I’m creative enough to discuss a lot of other things.”  Nelson has declared nothing off limits, yet Barbara is expecting some problems.  “Willie’s a tough one, he’s not a talker,” she frets.  “But I’ve got 90 questions, and if I can get eight minutes out of him, I’m okay.”

After spending five hours taking scene-setters at a local restaurant, on Willie’s private golf course and in his recording studio, Walters seems perplexed by her ultra-casual subject.  Willie has turned up for the taping in running shorts, bandanna and T-shirt.  Off-camera, Barbara broaches the subject of Willie’s legendary fondness for marijuana.  He admits he has smoked “enough to fill a silo,” but says he stopped after his lung collapsed last August.  “If you ever want to try it, I’ll smoke a joint with you,” Barbara reports Willie told her.  Nelson remembers the exchange a bit differently.  “Barbara told me she’s never tried grass,” he says, “but she said she would with me.”

The next morning, after six hours’ sleep and a two-hour makeover, Walters arrives at Willie’s range by 10, primed for interviews with the singer and his wife, Connie.  She hopes to open a few gaps in Nelson’s legendary easygoing facade.  “I care less about his music than the man who writes about love that’s invaded or lost,” she says.  “I want to know if he’s really that controlled. What makes him tick? what makes him laugh?  What makes him throw up?”

To find out, Barbara spends 45 minutes with Connie, probing for chinks in the Nelsons’ domestic armor (“Do you ever get jealous?”) and unexpected insights into what makes Willie run.  A poised, soft-spoken woman, Connie fields even improbable queries (“Why does Willie need you?”) until Walters is satisfied she has enough for the minute of air time she is planning to use.

After Barbara changes into a Laura Ashley print, sparingly buttoned to expose ample cleavage, she turns her attention to Willie.  As the taping beings, the 28-member cw falls silent an Walters leans forward with solicitous, breathy intensity like someone consoling the dying.  Willie is mystified, then amused.  “Do you like yourself?” Barbara asks.  Wilie does. “Are you serene?” she wants to know. Willie thinks so.  “The crowds, the adulation the women reaching up to you.  What’s it like?”  Willie says it’s not bad at at all.



During a break in the taping, there is a lapse in the pose of intimacy between interviewer and subject.  As Willie sits by, Barbara tensely confers with producer Goldberg.  “What about question 74?  Should I ask that?  Is there anything you thought I missed?  What about 54?”  When the tape rolls again, Walters weighs in with a few formula questions.  (“If you had three wishes what would you do with them?”), then thanks Willie for being her guest.

Decompression at last.  “Okay, Barbara,” teases Willie, “now let’s burn one down.”  Later, the hypothetical joint gone unsmoked, Nelson seems pleased.  “She wasn’t tough at all,” he marvels.  “I was a little concerned about what she might ask about smoking dope and being afraid of getting arrested, but she was a doll.”

The following afternoon, in Los Angeles to edit the tapes, Goldberg and Walters repair to Barbara’s suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel to trim the written transcript of the interview to a size they can work with.   The next morning another limo ferries Walters to the home of tape editor Jim McElroy, where she and Goldberg whittle their 27-minute version almost in half.  Watching the rough cut, Walters slashes away at the script and orders changes in what appears on the screen.  “I like it beter like this… Go to my face when he says, “I’m not complaining’… The Nashville think I liked.  When he went there and he cleaned himself up.  Now our audience is looking at him and thinking, “Why is he so dirty with that bandanna and all that hair?’… Pick up my question on the next page.  Now this is important, JoAnn.  This is one of the few guys who openly smoked pot and always talked about it and always got away with it.”

Finally Walters asks to see herself on the tape.  The imge appears; Barbara is satisfied.  “I look terrific,” she says lightly, “Pretty and bosomy and everything.”  And her subject?  “Will Nelson looks like the oldest 49 I ‘ve ever seen.  No wonder he believes in reincarnation.”  Goldberg agrees.  “There’s an ancient feeling about Willie Nelson,” JoAnn says.  “He’s an old soul.”  But not otherworldly that Barbara simply couldn’t make a contact.  “Whe had the luxury of two days in Austin instead of the normal two hours,” says JoAnn, the organizationl wizzard who is involved in every aspect of the specials except actually asking the questions.  “I felt Barbara needed that to get the feeling of Willie and his life.  We’are careful about who w put her with.  People like Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen she might not get.  But she always surprises me.  If you give her enough time, she’llf igure them out.”

Willie Nelson interview with Robert Scheer (Part 2)

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

Willie Nelson, Robert Scheer, Micah Nelson
by:  Alexander Reed Kelly

In the second portion of a two-part conversation, the American musician Willie Nelson told Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer why, in spite of prevailing political conditions, he is optimistic about the future of the United States. Nelson also discussed his start in the music industry as a DJ and promoter and his love of Texas and Texans, and explained why he’s not afraid of getting older.

Why do Texans keep voting for “assholes,” Scheer asks Nelson. “Because assholes keep running,” Nelson replies.

When Scheer points out that many liberals do not understand why millions of their fellow citizens voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, Nelson says: “I recorded a song called ‘Living in the Promiseland.’ … It’s about welcoming everyone: ‘Living in the promiseland, our dreams are made of steel. The prayer of every man is to know how freedom feels. Bring us your foreign songs, we will sing along. …’ Come on. Come on, America. We love you. We’ll help you. We’ll find a spot for you.”

Scheer asks, “So you’re still optimistic?” Nelson replies: “I’m still optimistic that all the people are coming in and it will be as great tomorrow as it is today.”

“So you’re not for building walls?” Scheer asks. “Fuck no,” says Nelson.

Listen to the first part of the conversation here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly


Part One

Willie Nelson Interview (Sheer Intelligence) (part 1)

Friday, January 20th, 2017

    Willie Nelson and his son Micah, with Truthdig Editor in Chief Bob Scheer, center, at Nelson’s home in Hawaii. (Annie Nelson)

In part one of a two-part conversation at his home in Hawaii, broadcast on KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence,” American musician Willie Nelson tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer that his upbringing during the Depression was an ideal childhood.

Nelson recently released his autobiography, “It’s a Long Story”, about his “bare bones” childhood with his grandparents in Abbott, Texas, his trouble with the law and his bumpy path to success as an artist. Speaking with Scheer, he describes the influence of the church on his music and experience, a run-in with the IRS in the early 1990s that he considers positive, and his well-known appreciation for marijuana.

— by Alexander Reed Kelly


Willie Nelson talks about new album, “God’s Problem Child”

Saturday, January 14th, 2017
by: Kory Grow

“You can’t watch TV without seeing something about the inauguration,” Willie Nelsonsays with a laugh. Throughout the election cycle, the country singer had voiced support for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Now that the election is over, he has revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that he has written a song titled “Delete and Fast-Forward” for his upcoming album.

When asked about the tune, he speaks some of its lyrics: “Delete and fast-forward, my friend/ The elections are over and nobody wins/ But don’t worry too much, you’ll go crazy again/ Delete and fast forward, my friend.” When Rolling Stone suggests that it may be fast-forwarding only four years, he simply says, “Yeah.”

Much like the song’s lyrics, Nelson is unconcerned about the Trump administration possibly tightening the regulation of marijuana; Nelson owns Willie’s Reserve, a company that legally sells marijuana in Colorado. “Who cares?” he says gruffly about possible changes to the law. “I didn’t have any problem finding [marijuana] when it was illegal, and now that it’s legal, it’s still no problem. Making it illegal again won’t stop people from smoking. They should have learned that back in prohibition days.” (Nelson chuckles when asked about the weed-themed Christmas sweater Snoop Dogg sent him over the holidays. “It’s great; it’s a funny sweater,” he says.)

Nelson’s new LP, God’s Problem Child, will come out in April and will feature many new songs that he wrote with producer Buddy Cannon, who has worked on several Nelson records in recent years. “We have a system that works,” Nelson says of working with Cannon. “I write a verse and he’ll write a verse and next thing you know, we’ve got a song completed. Then we’ll get a melody, and he’ll go in the studio with a band to record it and put his vocal on there. Then when I get a chance, I go in the studio and I’ll record my vocal. Over the years, we put out four or five albums. It’s been really easy to do it that way.”

One of Nelson’s new originals is “Still Not Dead,” which Nelson says he wrote “’cause I’m still not dead.” “I got up two or three times in the last couple of years and read the paper where I’d passed away,” he says. “So I just wanted to let ’em know that’s a lot of horseshit.”

One of Nelson’s new originals is “Still Not Dead,” which Nelson says he wrote “’cause I’m still not dead.”

Nelson doesn’t stress out too much about songwriting, which he’s been doing more of in recent years. Whenever he gets an idea, he writes it down. “It could be anytime, day or night,” he says. And he’s not losing sleep over what he writes and whether or not he’s challenging himself. “I’m just conceited enough to think I can do anything,” he says. “Sometimes I can’t but I thought I could.” But that doesn’t mean he’s not open to other writers’ ideas.

The title track, which Nelson calls “a great song,” was written by Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White. White and Nelson’s old buddy, Leon Russell, who died last year, make appearances on the song. “I guess that’s the last song he recorded,” he says of Russell. “I wasn’t in the studio when he did his part. I was gone. Last time I saw Leon was right after the [4th of July] Pi

“He was a great musician, a great singer and songwriter and a good friend,” he continues. “We liked hanging out together.” Russell, after all, was the first person to sign Nelson’s famous guitar, “Trigger.” “He wanted me to sign his guitar, and then he signed mine,” Nelson says.

Another song on the album, whose title Nelson declined to reveal, was written by Cannon’s mother. “His mom is 85 years old and plays the harmonica and she’s writing songs,” Nelson says. “She sang it and he sang it to me. I didn’t get a chance to meet her yet, but she wrote a great country song talking about the old house on the hill. Like Harlan Howard says, ‘A good country song is three chords and the truth.'”

Nelson will continue to spread those truths this year with several tour dates booked around the U.S. He’s also keeping busy with a movie he’s been writing and prepping for an appearance in Woody Harrelson’s upcoming “live movie” Lost in London, which is about a bad night Harrelson had in 2002 when he got arrested for breaking a taxi ashtray. The movie, which is a comedy, will be broadcast around the world in a single take on Thursday. “Woody asked me if I’d do it, and I said yeah,” Nelson says of the latter film. “In the film, he’s going through some problems and I’ll be giving him a little moral support.”

So is Nelson, who’s keeping such a busy schedule and recently wrote “Still Not Dead,” ready for retirement? “After every tour, I think about it, and after a while of not working, I’m ready to play,” he says. “I think I enjoy playing music more than I enjoy not playing music.”

Willie Nelson talks about life with Southern Living

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Southern music legend Willie Nelson has been around through decades of music, yet he’s still selling out shows all around the world to all ages. There’s a reason that he’s transcended generations of music fans. Other than his distinctive and classic “outlaw country” sound, 83-year-old Willie has an incredibly hopeful attitude towards life that sets him apart. He’s a very positive, eclectic soul with an affinity for martial arts and a love of breakfast foods. We sat down with the Texas-born icon on his tour bus in Mississippi to talk about living without worry, the rules he lives by, and why he loves music so passionately. There’s a lot more to this Highwayman than meets the eye.

Mickey Raphael Podcast (Chris Shiflett “Walking the Floor”)

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

photo:  Ebet Roberts
by:  Robert Crawford

A member of Willie Nelson’s band since 1973, Mickey Raphael has become one of the most celebrated harmonica players in country music, bending notes for everyone from Chris Stapleton to Jason Isbell along the way. Talking with podcast host Chris Shiflett during this week’s episode of Walking the Floor, he shares highlights from more than four decades of countrified close encounters, from the Texas picking party where he first met Shotgun Willie to the California tour stop that found him sitting in the backseat of Neil Young’s Cadillac, chauffeured around San Jose by the Crazy Horse front man himself.

Theatre, hours before a Willie Nelson performance this past October. Stream the entire conversation below. We’ve also rounded up several highlights, from the name of Willie Nelson’s next record – an album that has yet to be officially announced – to unknown guests on the country legend’s tour bus.

Mickey Raphael was introduced to Willie Nelson not by a fellow musician, but by Coach Darrell Royal, who led the Texas Longhorns to nearly a dozen Southwest conference titles between 1957 and 1976.

The year was 1972. At the time, Raphael was gigging with B.W. Stevenson, whose “My Maria” would eventually become a Grammy-winning hit for Brooks & Dunn. Stevenson’s tour schedule often took the band through Austin, where Coach Royal – a genuine music fan, apparently – caught wind of Raphael’s talent. One day, the coach reached out, inviting Raphael to a picking party that he was throwing in his hotel room after a weekend game.

“I was 20 years old,” remembers Raphael, who brought along his harmonicas. When he arrived, Nelson was already at the party. The two played several songs together that afternoon, with Raphael earning a crucial invitation – “Willie said, ‘Hey, if you ever hear we’re playing somewhere, come sit in,'” he remembers – before the picking party was over.

Nelson never officially hired Raphael to play in his band. He just never asked him to stop showing up.

As early as 1973, Raphael was traveling in his own car to Nelson’s gigs, sitting in with the band whenever he could. He was just a guest at first, although he quickly became an indispensable part of the band’s sound. Even so, the harmonica wiz never received any sort of grand introduction into the inner circle of Nelson’s touring lineup.

“One day,” he remembers, “Willie says to Paul [English, the singer’s longtime drummer], ‘What are we paying Mickey?’ And Paul goes, ‘Nothing. He’s just coming to sit in.’ And Willie goes, ‘Double his salary.’ I tell people I wasn’t officially hired; I was just never asked to leave.”

Raphael first joined Nelson in the studio for 1975’s Red Headed Stranger, an album that was so sparse, the executive at Columbia Records thought it was a demo.

“[Nelson] basically had these songs written on a napkin,” says Raphael, who took the band to the same Dallas studio where he’d been doing regular work as a session musician, “and we just set up in a circle in the studio, and he’d be playing them, and that record is so sparse because we’re really just hearing them for the first time. There’s barely anything. . . The label said it was a good demo, and they wanted to put strings on it, and Willie said, ‘No, this is the record.'”

Producer Dave Cobb deserves credit for first introducing Raphael to Chris Stapleton, whose live shows often feature the harmonica wiz.

Raphael had already played harmonica on several of Cobb’s projects when the producer asked him to join a relatively unknown songwriter named Chris Stapleton in the studio. Those sessions spawned Traveller, Stapleton’s blockbuster solo debut. They also landed Raphael one of his most high-profile touring gigs. Now, whenever holes arise in Willie Nelson’s touring schedule, Raphael generally hits the road with Stapleton, although he readily admits the band sounds just fine without him.

That said, don’t expect Willie Nelson’s touring schedule to slow down anytime soon.

“He loves it,” says Raphael, who still plays more than 100 shows a year with Nelson. “He likes the connection with the audience. Somebody asked him one time, ‘When are you gonna retire?’ And he said, ‘All I do is play golf and play music. Which one am I supposed to quit?’

Nelson continues releasing new albums at a rapid rate, too, with a new record – the unannounced, unconfirmed God’s Problem Child – apparently in the can. That said, with all the commotion generated by a consistent touring schedule and, presumably, a healthy cannabis intake, there’s still plenty of room for the unexpected.

“There was a guy that rode our bus years ago that nobody even knew,” Raphael remembers with a laugh. “It was like, ‘I thought he was with you.’ ‘No, I thought he was your friend!'”


Willie Nelson on The Big Interview (AXS)

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Willie Nelson Interview

Friday, December 9th, 2016
by:  Kevin O’Hare

At the age of 77, Willie Nelson is still riding high and riding strong, touring steadily as always and celebrating the release of his exceptional new album “Country Music.” It’s the latest in a rather astounding catalog of more than 200 albums, some dating back to his earliest days as a songwriter in the early 1960s, when he attracted the interest of stars like Patsy Cline, who famously recorded Nelson’s “Crazy,” and Ray Price, who had a major hit with Nelson’s “Night Life.”

Eventually Nelson shifted from Nashville to Austin where he became a key player in the “country outlaw’ movement that tossed aside every known stereotype about traditional country music of the era. Nelson’s hair got longer, he became well known for smoking marijuana and he turned into a superstar in 1978 with his distinct reworking of pop standards titled “Stardust.”

He began recording at a frenzied pace around this period, making sure to release albums of duets with old friends like Price, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell and many others. Whether he over-saturated the market at the time is still worthy of debate but his concert sales remain strong and steady to this day.

He recently spoke from his home in Texas about his amazing career, famous friends like the late great Cline, his reputation for smoking lots of weed, his new album and his thoughts for the future:

You’ve released more than 200 albums. How in the world can you try and deliver something fresh on the new album “Country Music?”

Well it depends a lot on the songs, the producers and the musicians. With this particular album “Country Music” it was a no brainer. T Bone Burnett knows this music as well as anyone. I’m sure it was easy for him to come up with great musicians and come up with some great songs. “Dark as a Dungeon,” “Oceans of Diamonds” and all those great songs that we’ve all heard and sung for many years but they’ve been sort of lost in the shuffle along the way and he was sharp enough to put them all together and say “Hey let’s do these again.”

What was it like working with T Bone Burnett and how did you guys get to first know each other?

Well, we’re old Texas buddies, he’s from Ft. Worth and I’m from somewhere around there. I’ve known about him for years and years. His wife and my wife were buddies. We played golf together not too long ago and talked about doing something. He’d just had the “Crazy Heart” movie and I felt maybe it’d be a good time for us to do a CD together and I just turned it over to him really.

There’s a great song on the album called “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down.” Do you see Satan in the world around us? If so, where?

Well of course. We all see things that are the opposite of peace and love so we put a name on it and it’s Satan. No matter what your thoughts and beliefs are, God is good, Satan is hate. And that’s just the way it is. We who sing gospel songs talk about God and Satan as mortal enemies. In this particular song, it’s an old traditional, it’s a wonderful song.

“I’ve been promising myself to take it easy on myself and not work so hard so we’ll see how it goes.”

– Willie Nelson

“Pistol Packin’ Mama.” Tell me a little about the song.

That song has been in my repertoire for a long, long time. Al Dexter, who originally recorded it, was a friend of mine, we knew each other back in the old days back in Ft. Worth. I’ve sung the song a lot. When T Bone brought it to the session I said “Hey where’s that song been?”

Speaking of “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” who’s the craziest woman you ever had a relationship with?

(extended laughter) How much time you got?

I got the time, if you’ve got the money.

I probably shouldn’t put names on them but there are a few (laughs).

When you had the huge breakthrough in the 1970s with “Red Headed Stranger” and then “Stardust” you started recording albums at an amazing pace. Did you ever worry that you might be over-saturating the market?

Well I was sort of warned that I could, but there really wasn’t a lot that I wanted to do about it because this was my shot and I had a chance to get stuff, record it and get it out there. I felt I could do it, I wasn’t overloading myself. I might have been overloading the record companies and their ability to market all that stuff. I could see where they were coming from.

There was some talk years ago that you might do an album of duets with Bob Dylan. Whatever happened to that?

It was an idea that is still a good idea that may or may not happen. As close as we came, we did write one song together, we were gonna write a whole album and then record it but we ended up doing one song together. He hummed a melody and cut a track and it went like (Nelson sings melody). What it wound up being was (“Heartland”) “There’s a home place under fire tonight in the heartland … My American dream fell apart at the seams.” He wrote it a little bit, I wrote it a little bit, we went into the studio and cut it.

On April 30 you turned 77. You’re still playing about 200 dates every year. How can you keep that up?

I don’t know, it’s crazy and I’ll probably slack off a little bit. I’ve been promising myself to take it easy on myself and not work so hard so we’ll see how it goes.

I interviewed B.B. King a few years ago and he said the same thing but I don’t think he’s slowed down too much either.

No but it’s in the back of our minds. We know that we’re down here rounding third so it’s really whether we want to slide into home or just kind of trot across (laughs).

You take a lot of kidding for your rather legendary marijuana smoking. Larry King seemed startled that you had smoked up before appearing on his show recently. When did you start and do you ever see a day when you’ll stop?

Oh, I have stopped before and gone days and days and days. It’s not as though if I don’t get marijuana I get headaches. There have been cases where if I smoked too much my lungs get congested and I lay off awhile. Things are getting so simple now. In California and about 12, 15 different states you can buy edibles and you can get high eating candy. It’s not necessary to destroy your lungs anymore smoking if you just want to get high.

Is your bus as bad as Toby Keith says?

Toby can’t handle it (laughs) He’s a little wimpy in that department. He’s the first to admit it. God love him.

A few years ago you took up running. Are you still doing that?

I went out for a little run today. I don’t run as far or as fast as I used to but I still try and get in a few steps a day.

You’re still golfing?

I’ve had to stop golfing for awhile because I hurt my arm … golfing naturally. So I’ve not been golfing for about three months now.

That must be killing you.

Well, it’s good enough for me I guess, if I had a better swing I wouldn’t have done it.

Hopefully you’ll be back on the course soon.

One of these days, but I had a ruptured bicep from overdoing something and then I tore the rotator in my left arm. My left side is a little bit out but it will get better.

Can you tell me a little bit about Patsy Cline?

Well, she was the greatest female vocalist maybe all around ever, but for sure, for country, that I ever heard. There’s this joke. After Patsy Cline did “Crazy” and everyone else has tried it, and this joke is really not meant to hurt anybody else’s feelings but when they say “How many girl singers does it take to sing “Crazy” and they answered “All of them.” But as Patsy Cline nailed it, who else since then, it’s like Ray Charles singing “Georgia.” I had enough nerve to cover him but I never thought I did as good a job on it as he did.

Were you and Patsy close?

Yeah, we toured together and … I first met her one night back there in Tootsies Bar, drinking a little beer and her husband Charlie Dick was there and we were talking, listening to some songs that I’d just brought up from Texas. I had Tootsie put a couple of 45s on her jukebox. One of them had “Crazy” and “Night Life.” And Charlie Dick just really loved “Crazy” and wanted to play it for Patsy. We went over to his house and he wanted me to go in and meet Patsy and I wouldn’t do it. I said “No it’s late and we’re drinking, I don’t want to wake her up. He said “Aw she’ll be fine.” I didn’t go in. He went in and then she came out and got me and made me go in. She was a wonderful person, fixed us coffee, was just a great gal. I got to know her real well, we toured some together and she was just great.

\You were in the Highwaymen. What are your favorite memories of playing and touring with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and you all in one band?

Well every night was a great show for me ‘cause I was way over on the right and I got to see three of my heroes perform all night long all over the world. It doesn’t get any better than that.

What was it like after the shows?

Well we had all our families with us. Most of our wild days were behind us by the time we got together in the Highwaymen. Actually the last two or three times we went on tour, we had all our kids and families and went to Singapore and Australia and different places. We had 278 pieces of luggage.

Who had the idea of the four of you working together?

We had gone to Switzerland to do a Christmas show with Johnny Cash and June Carter. They invited me and Waylon and Kris to play on their Christmas show. We were having a photo session one day and the photographer said “What are you all going to Switzerland for?” And we said. “That’s where Jesus was born.” And the photographer said “Oh, ok.” We laughed about that awhile. We did that and decided it was a lot of fun and thought maybe we should do some records together. Someone, I forget who it was, had the song “The Highwayman,” the Jimmy Webb song. We played it and liked it and thought this might be something we want to do.

How long did it take you to record the new album “Country Music?”

A couple of minute s (laughs) It was really quick. Everyone knew the songs. Most of the things we did in one or two takes, it doesn’t take long to record when you do it that way.

You’re not a seven, or eight or nine take guy anyway are you?

No, three’s my limit. Usually I get it in one ‘cause usually we do not press the record button until we know just what we’re doing. Then once that happens I like to do two more just for insurance in case I’m not hearing something. But a lot of times I take the first take.

Of the movies you have made, which one is your favorite and why?

I liked “Barbarosa” and “Red Headed Stranger.” Hell, I enjoyed doing “The Songwriter” and “A Pair of Aces” with Kris. With “The Songwriter,” Kris and I always had a lot of fun. As far as “Red Headed Stranger” and “Barbarosa,” I like horses a lot and I got along with them ok so that was always fun where I could ride a horse or play my guitar.

Speaking of your guitar, your Martin guitar has a huge hole in it. That hole was there back in the 1970s. Has it gotten bigger and how long can you keep playing it?

It’ll last longer than I do probably. It still plays fine. I have to take it in every few years and have them do a reinforcement in the inside to make sure it hasn’t collapsed anymore in there. But right now it’s in fine shape, it’ll last longer that I will.

You have a lot of signatures on there right?

Well the first person I heard of anybody signing their guitar was Leon Russell and he asked me to sign his. I said “Sure” and I started to sign it with a marker and he said “No scratch it in there with a knife.” He had a knife there so I scratched my name with a knife. Then I said “Now that I’ve done yours why don’t’ you do mine?” So I had him scratch his name on Trigger (the name of Nelson’s guitar), he was the first one I had on there.

How is Leon Russell doing, I’d heard he’s been sick.

I think he’s doing fine. I think he and Elton John are doing an album together and he’s supposed to play my 4th of July picnic down in Austin so I think he’s doing better.

You two made a great album, “One For the Road”

We have another one that’s in the can that we’re waiting to put out.

When did you record it?

Last year sometime.

What songs did you do?

We did some country things that I like, some Vern Gosdin things. We did “My Cricket and Me, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash, “Chiseled in Stone,” a lot of different songs that we like.

What do you still want to achieve and what are you working on next?

Honestly, I want to achieve this tour (laughs). It’s been a long one. Then I can figure out what I want to do next. Once it’s over with, I want to rest a while and then I can figure out what I want to do next. So far we’ve had a good year, the album’s doing good, I really don’t have a lot to worry about anything right now.”

Willie Nelson & Dwight Yoakam announce Florida shows in March 2017

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

img850 by you.

Willie Nelson has announced several Florida concerts next March, including three shows with special guest Dwight Yoakam.

March 4
Pompano Beach, FL

March 7
St. Augustine, Florida

March 8
Tallahassee, Florida

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Musician Magazine
May 1998
by Mark Rowland
Photograph by Jay Blakesberg

Not far from the Santa Monica Pier one sunny afternoon, Dwight Yoakam and Willie Nelson were hanging out on Willie’s tour bus, listening to Nelson play … reggae. More precisely, they were listening to a tape of a record he’d just completed with producer Don Was, featuring reggaefied versions of great Willie Nelson songs like, “Three Days,” and “One in a Row,” along with a few classics of the genre like “The Harder They Come”

“Don Was could hear me singing reggae,” Nelson explained. “Cause I wasn’t too familiar with it. I just didn’t know it. But he could hear me doing my songs to a reggae rhythm.”

“That’s ironic,” Yoakum said, “’cause I’m doing a covers album, and I was gonna cover a Peter Tosh song. And listening to his stuff, there was a real emotional affinity to what they were doing in reggae, some of the early stuff, and what country was doing then.” There’s a certain melancholy essence with what you write and with some of those melodies. I think Don must have picked up on that.”

“Well,” Nelson replied, “you can take a really sad lyric and you put this rhythm behind it and it sort of leavens it a little bit, so the lyric doesn’t knock you down so much — you don’t want to get drunk and slash your wrists, you want to dance.” “You want to hear another one?”

Five minutes into their first joint interview ever, and Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam have staked out common ground in the Southern Caribbean. Somehow that shouldn’t surprise. After all, both musicians widened the frame of country music’s possibilities by combining a deep reverence for that music’s past with an idiosyncratic vision of its future.

Both made their mark despite initial indifference if not hostility from the Nashville establishment, fomenting their insurrections on the dance floors of Austin and Southern California, respectively, and putting the “W” back into C&W in the process. Within that milieu, it can easily be argued, both became the most influential singer/songwriters of their generations.

Yoakam, who grew up in the era of the ’60s rock concept album, spends years meticulously putting together records with his producer Pete Anderson. His effort shows; on each he’s found ways to expand his musical vocabulary, culminating with his latest effort, Gone, an album at once wildly inventive and polished to a blinding sheen.

Nelson, by contrast, grew up in the old school of Texas troubadours — write songs, make records when you can, hit the road. Since he cut his first sides nearly forty years ago he’s carved out a career of mythic proportion, and he’s never really showed down. ” I think that’ s just my personality and my character,” he says. “I’m not supposed to be sitting around much. I get bored real quick when I’m not doing something.”

Not to worry — along with the reggae record, Willie’s completed a trio album of original songs with sister Bobbie Nelson on piano and Johnny Gimble on fiddle, also scheduled for release later this year. He’d just returned from a tour of Australia with the Highwaymen before this interview, and as soon as it ended he cruised down the coast to begin a serious of duet shows with Leon Russell. He’s started work on a blues record, too.

“You know, if you listen to the people in each country you go into, it all sounds very much the same,” he was saying. “African country, Jamaincan country, the Swiss — have you been to Switzerland yet?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Yoakam.

“There’s some great country cowboys up there. Jamaicans go more with the heartbeat, their rhythms do. These guys were telling me that reggae came into existence by way of our country radio. That they were picking up the radio stations years ago, but they wouldn’t hear the bottom — so they put their own rhythms over what they heard. Now the biggest music in Jamaica is country and one of the biggest guys is Jim Reeves.”

Yoakam laughed. “Hey man, get a big sailboat and get ready to tour. You could be king there!”

Nelson nodded, “Well,” he said evenly, “it’s worth a shot.

Willie Nelson interviews Sister Bobbie

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Willie Nelson New York Times interview (Feb. 23, 1995)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

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by Alex Witchel
February 23, 1995

Most men will tell you Willie Nelson is a hero. With a copy of his 1982 hit “Always on My Mind” and the phone number of a good florist, they can get away with murder. “Girl, I’m sorry I was blind,” indeed.

They learn from a master. Mr. Nelson, who is married to wife No. 4, may be most recognizable for his Pocahontas braids, but it’s those eyes that start the trouble. Even now, at 62, they are perfectly almond shaped, deep brown and, well, just deep. Look into them for too long and you may regret it.

Mr. Nelson’s misfortune in love may be the reason he can wail his songs about heartbreak so well. Not to mention write them. When he went home drunk and passed out cold for the thousandth time, his first wife sewed him into the bedsheets “buck naked,” as he likes to say, and piled his clothes and the kids into the car and left. It makes you wonder whom he really wrote “Crazy” about.

These days, though, Mr. Nelson insists, he’s a cheating heart no more. His newest album, “Healing Hands of Time” (EMI Liberty), is filled with classic love songs, his and other people’s, accompanied by a 63-piece orchestra. But life can be funny for a crooning cowboy. A new album means going on the road to sell it, so he has to sing his love songs to everyone but his wife, Anne Marie, back in Spicewood, Tex., for whom they are meant.

And being on the road again means living on his bus, Honeysuckle Rose II. The previous night, he played Syracuse; this night, in early February, the United States Military Academy.

At 5 P.M. it’s not quite dark outside, but it certainly is dark in the bus. Up front, there are built-in couches along the sides, and thanks to a satellite dish, CNN is on TV. At the back is the door to Mr. Nelson’s bedroom. In the middle is a small kitchen area with a cut watermelon in the sink. Mr. Nelson sits at the table wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants and thick white socks. Behind him is what he calls the art museum, snapshots of his two youngest sons, Lucas, 6, and Micah, 5, and a drawing with the message “Hi, Dad From Lucas” surrounded by hearts. His hair, reddish-brown and finely sifted with gray, hangs loose down his back. And his face! It is marked with so many creases, hollows and furrows it looks almost geological. He sits quietly, watching, like a cornered animal that can’t decide if he should pounce, flee or purr.

How was Syracuse? “It was cold.”

What did he do today? “Slept till noon.”

Why did he make this new album? “It seemed like the thing to do.”

How’s his back? (He fractured it baling hay as a teen-ager.) “Let me tell you a strange story,” he says, suddenly animated, as if a quarter dropped into his slot. And with the passion of pain he starts his tale of woe and redemption, which culminates in Rolfing.

“My wife recommended it highly,” he says. “I heard it was painful, but I didn’t care. The first of 10 sessions fixed it.” He rests his thick hands on the table. His wedding band looks loose on his finger. That seems right.

It’s hot in here. Navy velvet curtains hang over the windows, and the dark brown paneling and dark carpet seem to soak up light. “It’s kind of like living in a submarine,” Mr. Nelson acknowledges, showing a small smile. “But I’m happy on the bus. Home is where you’re happy. It can be anywhere, out there playing music, wherever I’m at. I refuse to stay where I’m not happy, and if I can’t change it, because of bad vibes or whatever, there’s no reason to stay.”

“A lot of people get tired of the road,” he continues. “But as much as I enjoy being at home with the toys I have there, I still need to leave that and go play music. I have the best of two worlds, though it’s hard to balance them. They’re both fragile. There’s the desire to be where you are plus the desire to go back where you were.”

The phone rings. It’s his eldest daughter, Lana, 41.

“Hey, nothing. What do you know?” Mr. Nelson asks affectionately. “Oh, we’re traveling to the gig. West Point. Yes, the West Point. As opposed to the east point. I don’t know what we’re doing. We’re playing for the folks.”

He speaks so quietly, barely above a whisper, that it’s hard to conjure visions of his legendary temper. Does he still have one? “If I said I didn’t I’d be lying,” he says. “I don’t show it every time. At least I hope I don’t. People say about me, ‘He’s a tough old bird.’ I must be or I wouldn’t be here.”

He says he doesn’t know exactly how many albums he’s made. “Somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 100 legitimate albums, but there’s also bootleg.” From which he doesn’t make money, of course.

Money has been a loaded issue for Mr. Nelson since 1990, when the Internal Revenue Service seized his house and all his assets for nonpayment of $16.7 million in taxes. What happened, he says, was that he owed $2 million in taxes, and on advice of his accountants, Price Waterhouse, was told to borrow $12 million to invest in tax shelters so he wouldn’t have to pay the $2 million. The only problem, he says, was that, after the fact, the shelters were disallowed.

But the story has ended happily. He settled out of court with Price Waterhouse and paid back the Government. When his house was auctioned, a group of farmers bought it for him, grateful for the singer’s Farm Aid concerts, which have raised $12 million, so now he has it back. “There’s a lot of good people out there,” Mr. Nelson says simply.

So, why bother touring, especially if his debts are paid? “Well, I don’t know,” he says. “I seem to be happier when I’m working. I tend to get into trouble with too much time on my hands.”

Like what?

“Like you name it,” he shoots back.

He started working by the age of 5, picking cotton in Abbott, Tex. (When he was a toddler, his mother, a dancer, and his father, a musician, left him and his older sister, Bobbie, who plays keyboards in his band, to be raised by their grandparents.) He played his first professional date at 8, and as an adult sold vacuum cleaners door to door. After working as a disk jockey, he moved in the early 1960’s to Nashville, where he sold his songs and despaired of becoming a singer. The fact that he didn’t sound like anyone else was not an advantage at the time. Now, of course, his idiosyncratic phrasing and nasal twang could be copyrighted.

“I never pretended to have a great voice,” he says. “It works and I can carry a tune. If you have a good song, that’s about all that’s required.”

The new album has lots of good songs. “EMI Liberty, my new record label, said I should do an album of standards. Like ‘Crazy.’ ” He smiles. “I hadn’t been looking at those as standards.”

As a writer, Mr. Nelson has slowed down in recent years, though it’s hard to blame him. He says that between the mid-1950’s and mid-1970’s, he wrote about 2,000 songs.

“I went into the studio last week with my original band and a new songbook of mine,” he says. “We started on the first page, and in two days we did 11 segments. I want to do that with all my songs, the way I hear them and feel them now. People wouldn’t know but one or two of ’em.”

In this, his 54th year of performing, does he worry about the show-biz adage “No one is on top forever”? “That’s not my plan,” he says. “There’s a saying I could never decide was mine or Roger Miller’s. I decided I’d take credit for it: ‘I didn’t come here and I’m not leaving.’ ”

Very wise. Does that wisdom extend to fatherhood? He has had seven children in all, yet he has traveled his entire life, leaving home for vast stretches of time. His eldest son, Billy, who had been treated for alcohol abuse, committed suicide three Christmases ago. Should he have done anything differently?

“Well, you have all those guilts and regrets, but you can run yourself crazy,” he says quietly. “You’re not the same person now you were then, so why take responsibility for something you didn’t do?” When he lifts his eyes, the anguish in his face belies the slickness of the words.

The bus has parked, and he goes inside the Eisenhower Hall Theater for a rehearsal. He starts to sing, and his familiar voice lifts, the cry of an old soul who’s seen more than he’s wanted to. He is completely fallible, which is his charm. A frog prince who’d rather stay a frog.

A few cadets peer at him from the wings, while Larry Gorham, a former Hell’s Angel who is Mr. Nelson’s bodyguard, glares. “Be all that you can be,” he grumbles not-so-under his breath.

“Be nice,” Mr. Nelson calls out.

It’s only 7 P.M. Rehearsal is over, and the show’s not until 8. Mr. Nelson heads toward the bus. What’s he going to do now? He smiles.

“I’m gonna roll me up a big joint and smoke it.” Then he eats a plate of vegetables and settles back with some of the band to watch videos of himself, including one from Howard Stern’s cable-television show, in which he handily wins a joint-rolling contest. Everyone laughs. The feeling is easy, relaxed. You would never know that, a few yards away, 4,400 people are growing restless.

Toward the end of the tape, he goes into his bedroom and comes out with his hair braided (he does it himself). At 8:10 P.M. he walks backstage and picks up his guitar with no noticeable increase in energy. He keeps his world small, parking his living room just outside and walking in here now to play. He could be anywhere. On the other side of the curtain are howls and whoops as the lights go down. One member of the band asks, “Should we open with ‘Anchors Aweigh’?”

When the curtain rises and the flag of Texas unfurls behind them, though, they launch into “Whisky River,” their customary opening number. They’re all so used to each other, they’re like fingers on a hand. They just stand and play, with no videos or special effects.

But when Mr. Nelson launches into “Always on My Mind” the yelling accelerates. “My favorite song!” a man screams from the balcony. As Mr. Nelson sings, his energy is intense. He invests the words with all kinds of feeling, every bit he can muster. When he sings “Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied,”the meaning seems to switch and he’s no longer pleading with a woman but with the audience. He’s not young, he’s not pretty, he doesn’t have a fancy headset or smoke machines. He holds Trigger, his old, beaten guitar with a hole in it, and sings his heart. And it goes, the sound, the feeling, the plea, and hits the cadets and the rest full force, and they scream and holler and clap.

And then he asks, “Everybody doing all right out there?” And they roar, “Yeah,” back at him, and someone tosses a cadet’s hat onto the stage, which he puts on — a real sight with those braids.

And when he says, “Good night, everybody,” and the roar intensifies, they somehow find their way backstage, and they’re lining up outside near the bus, and everywhere he goes there are arms and hands and people shouting, “Willie!”

And he talks to each of them, one at a time, in no particular rush now to climb back on the bus and drive into the night. He’d like to stay awhile.

Willie Nelson Interview (Spinner, January 2008)

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Willie Nelson is 74 years old and has absolutely no plans of slowing down. Lucky for us.‘Moment of Forever, ‘ a collection of songs that mirror his life: There’s a little bit of humor, a lot of love and a sound that stands the test of time.

I hear you’re talking to us in between golf games right now. What’s your handicap?

My driver and my putter! [laughs]

The music icon and all-around national treasure somehow found time between touring, his philanthropic endeavors and his golf game to record

Spinner caught up with the Redheaded Stranger to talk about his new project and his surprisingly simple explanation for his prevalence in modern music. And, of course, we couldn’t help but let the conversation drift back to his notoriously wilder days.

And you actually bought a golf course!

I’m across the street from it right now. It’s a little nine-hole golf course called Pedernales Country Club. We have a lot of fun over there.

So you’re a golf course owner, singer, songwriter, actor, philanthropist and father of ten. Is there anything you’ve yet to accomplish that’s on your to-do list?

I don’t like to think too far ahead. I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot done and have a lot of success. I don’t want to be greedy. And when I’m happiest is when I’m out here playing music and staying out of trouble! [laughs] In the early days, we’d be out on the road and go out and play our concert, and then go back to the hotel and party till daylight. And then when it came time to leave, you couldn’t find anybody! [laughs] So I decided somewhere along the way that it’s better to leave town right after the show. And since we’ve started doing that, I’ve noticed that the marriages are actually staying together. [laughs]

You have certainly changed your ways; people may not realize that you’re actually somewhat of a health nut these days.

Well, I have started running. What I was trying to do was do at least as much good in the daytime as I was destroying in the nighttime. [laughs] But it got to the point where I was losing ground. I had to start trying to stay alive or I was going to die. So I’ve had to give up the smoking and drinking. And when I quit that and started running, I got a lot healthier.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about you?

There probably aren’t any. [laughs] But if you think of all the people who don’t like me, just think of all the millions who’ve never heard of me!

I can’t imagine there are “millions” who haven’t heard of you. You’re Willie Nelson! You probably get recognized several times a day. Does your fame ever overwhelm you?

Honestly, no. I love it. I thrive on it. I enjoy people. And when I first started out watching Gene Autry and Roy Rogers on the movie screen every Saturday, I wanted to be like them. I wanted to ride my horse, shoot my gun, sing my songs and be like Gene and Roy. And that’s what I’m doing, and I couldn’t be happier. And I’m making enough money to pay the bills and support my family, so I have no complaints.

Speaking of your family, your youngest sons Micah and Lukas are featured on your new album in the opening track, ‘Over You Again.’ And they’re actually musicians themselves, right?

They have a band called 40 Points and have toured with me over the last couple of years, but they’re back in school now. They’re just two really talented kids. I’m proud of them.

You also worked with Kenny Chesney on this CD. He acts as both duet partner on ‘Worry B Gone’ and as co-producer of the album. What did he bring to the table that was different from your past producers?

First of all, he’s a good musician and has a good ear in the studio. And his name certainly didn’t hurt at all, either! [laughs] He’s a big star, and after hanging out with him for a while you can see why. He’s got a lot of talent.

In addition to Chesney, are there any other artists these days who you think have a real shot at longevity?

There are a lot of guys who seem to have staying power … Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Travis Tritt. Those guys are going to be out there working for a long time. They’ve got talent.

As someone who’s certainly achieved it, what do you think is the secret to longtime success in the music industry?

I think you’ve just gotta keep living! Just look at Johnny Cash or Waylon [Jennings]. They kept going until they died. Ray Price is still doing great, and he’s 82 years old. We just celebrated his birthday over in Tyler, Texas. He and I and Merle [Haggard] are all touring again this year. So I think staying busy is important.

You’ve collaborated with so many different artists, from Waylon and Merle to Julio Iglesias to Dave Matthews. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet but would like to?

Can you sing? [laughs]

You don’t want to hear me sing, at least not sober.

[laughs] Darn, then I’ll have to find somebody else.

How about all the different artists who’ve covered your songs. Is there one that stands out to you?

You’ve got to go back to ‘Crazy,’ Patsy Cline. How could you top that one? Also, Ray Price with ‘Night Life,’ Roy Orbison, ‘Pretty Paper’; Billy Walker, ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’; Faron Young, ‘Hello Walls.’ Those performances … there’s just no way to beat ’em.I just heard a Hank Williams classic, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’ That’s a piece of literature. I don’t wish I’d written it, but I am glad somebody did!

If you could change anything about the country music business, what would you change?

I would like to see more airplay for all artists, no matter what age. I think there’s a lot of money being spent toward the young guys, but a lot of the older guys are the ones who blazed the trail for those young guys. Plus, the old guys have kept those record companies in business for all these years. So I think there’s a certain amount of respect due. I’m not complaining … we’ve made some good records and have sold a lot. I’m talking mainly for the other artists coming along. They’ll have a better chance if they stay traditional and don’t try to get too far out one way or another. Like Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Ray Price … they’ve stayed traditional, and they’re gonna be around for forever.

You tend to be pretty vocal about your political beliefs. So, what do you think is the most important issue in the ’08 presidential election?

Stop the war. Stop the bleeding. That’s the first thing. Then the economy — we have all kind of problems, but the number-one priority is to stop this war. Once that happens, all the trillions of dollars that we’re spending over there can be spent here on our people, our poor people, for health insurance and all the things that evidently we don’t have the money to work with because it’s all over there fighting wars. And if it’s not that war, it’s another war. It’s just this series of one war after another.

Are you supporting any particular candidate?

I liked Dennis Kucinich, but he dropped out. I like Obama and Hillary, so I’ll wait to see which one of those folks come out on top. But they’ve both changed their positions on the war, I think, in the last several months. Dennis never did have to change his position, because he was always against it. But as for who I’ll support, I don’t really know yet.

Was it your stance on the war that drove you to start the Willie Nelson Peace Research Institute?

I wanted to connect all people who are thinking about peace on Earth. When I was growing up, that was the theme that every Sunday morning, they yelled at us. [laughs] “Peace on Earth!” And then it looks like that somewhere along the way, people forgot that message. Now it’s war on Earth. So I want to connect all the people who think like I do, that there should be and hopefully will be peace on Earth.

If we were to ask you to write Willie’s Theme, a rule you live your daily life by, what would it say?

A couple of funny ones come to mind. My ex-wife Martha used to say, “Don’t worry about a thing, because there ain’t nothin’ that’s gonna be all right.” [laughs] And my father-in-law when I was married to Connie used to say, “Take my advice and do what you want to.” I thought that was funny.

I think the lyrics to your new song ‘Always Now’ are a good rule to live by.

I think you’re right. That’s an absolute truth.

Willie Nelson Interview with Nick Forester, of eTown Radio in Boulder

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016


Willie Nelson & Family performed at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheaer in Denver on July 26th, and before the interview met with Nick Forester, from Boulder’s e-town national radio show.

Follow this link to listen to interview.

eTown hits the road to Denver’s Fiddlers Green Amphitheater this week to welcome back legendary outlaw country artist Willie Nelson to eTown’s airwaves. We’ll hear lots of great music from Willie, plus a candid conversation with eTown host Nick Forster direct from Willie’s tour bus. Also with us is up-and-coming country artist and eTown newcomer Kacey Musgraves, who became a household name after landing a slot as a competitor of the hit TV program Nashville Star early on in her career. It’s a one-of-a-kind hour of great music and conversation this week. Be sure to tune in!

Listen to Willie Nelson’s 1996 visit to eTown:

Willie Nelson x Angélique Kidjo on eTown (8.23.1996)


Willie Nelson and Cannabis

Friday, October 28th, 2016


Willie Nelson plays his guitar at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego, California on October 19,2016. The country music legend discussed his history with marijuana, the time he stole and tried to smoke hemp and his new cannabis line, Willie’s Reserve which is for sale in Colorado with Cannabist editor-in-chief Ricardo Baca on his bus before the show.

SAN DIEGO — Willie Nelson’s relationship with cannabis is the stuff of legend.

Nelson is a legalization activist, a social warrior and now a ganjapreneur via his own Willie’s Reserve pot brand, and he still gets high regularly at age 83. But he’s also not the most discerning of cannabis consumers. Does Nelson prefer energetic sativa marijuana strains to the more calming indicas? “They’re both good,” he tells me. Does he prefer smoking weed to vaporizing cannabis oil? “I enjoy smoking both ways,” he says with an affable smile.

Nelson becomes more passionate when addressing how this plant is often grown, especially in unregulated environments: “I don’t like it when they put chemicals and pesticides in it; That makes it not much better than a regular old cigarette.”

Sitting across the table from an eagle-eyed Nelson in his tour bus, I ask the country music legend if he considers himself to be a connoisseur of cannabis.

“I guess if anybody is, I would be,” he says, letting out a grizzled laugh that virtually self-italicizes the last part of the sentence.

It’s mid-October T-shirt weather here in southern California as a capacity crowd of 1,400 fans assembles inside the seaside Humphreys Concerts by the Bay venue — and also as more than 71 million viewers tune in to the third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Right as the San Diego venue’s doors open and as the candidates begin their sparring match more than 300 miles away in Las Vegas, my producer and I are ushered into Nelson’s tour bus — the fifth to roam roads under the Honeysuckle Rose banner, Nelson’s wife Annie kindly tells us. A few minutes later I’m sitting across a crowded table from the man, the myth, the legendary stoner.

When I mention that evening’s debate and the unprecedentedly bizarre presidential campaign leading up to it, Nelson grins.

“I just wrote a song called ‘Delete and Fast-Forward.’ I’m in the process of writing it. It’s, ‘Delete and fast-forward, my son. The wars are all over, and nobody won. But don’t worry too much about it. You’ll just go crazy again. So just delete and fast-forward, my friend.’ ”

I ask him if he’s applying his metaphor real-time, given that he’s talking to a journalist instead of watching the debate before his concert. He looks around his silent second home and laughs.

“Notice we’re not watching (the debate),” he says. “That’s a good sign. Delete and fast-forward — we’re moving on.”

It’s not every day you get to chat up an original Outlaw. As an ex-music critic of a dozen-plus years, I have so many songwriting questions for Nelson — some of which had been contributed by readers and friends on social media earlier that day. But as a cannabis journalist, I’m now more interested in understanding Nelson’s longstanding, complex relationship with pot, especially given his unofficial role as Weed Ambassador to the World.

Still, I can’t help but start with the music. Do any of the songs he plays still make him misty-eyed?

“I could name a hundred. ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’ is a great song,” Nelson says of the oft-covered Merle Haggard tune. ” ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,’ Hank Williams. A fantastic song. I still love hearing those songs, and I still get emotional for some of those songs.”

Was he speaking literally when he wrote the hit “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”?

“Literally,” Nelson says, pausing for effect, “I don’t give a damn. It was just a funny thing to say.”

Does weed help with his creative process?

“It has a lot to do with calming the nerves,” he says, “which makes the creative juices flow a little easier.”

Eventually I give in to my impulses and ask Nelson about his personal cannabis history, including his first time smoking marijuana.

“I think I was probably 19 or 20 years old playing in bars in Fort Worth, and I ran into a guy who smoked pot and I’d never smoked it before,” he says. “I smoked (weed) for a long time without getting high — for months I would smoke and smoke and I wasn’t getting high, and I couldn’t figure out why. And then one day I did and I said, ‘Oh OK, that’s what it’s all about.’ But I guess I’d smoked so much other stuff, cigarettes and things, that my lungs weren’t in great shape.”

When Nelson gets stoned, it’s not recreational use, he says: “It’s medicine, and it’s already been proven to be medicine. End of story.” Cannabis cures what ails him, Nelson tells me, and it also keeps him from getting into the trouble he used to get into with beer and whiskey and cigarettes.

“I had emphysema, had all kinds of different health problems caused by drinking and smoking,” he says. “So I decided I wasn’t getting high from smoking cigarettes, and I had a pack of Chesterfields, so I took them all out, threw them away, rolled up 20 big, fat numbers, stuck them into the Chesterfield pack and I haven’t smoked a cigarette since. And that’s been 30, 40 years ago.”

While Nelson will occasionally have a sip of wine, he’s mostly given up drinking: “I’m not afraid to take a drink of anything, but I just don’t get a thrill from it. I don’t need it.” And even though he still enjoys the act of combustion, putting fire to flower, he also considers himself “my own voice doctor” and says vaporizing is healthier than smoking.

“I’m sure lighting up a joint is not that easy on your lungs,” Nelson says. “A singer has to think about stuff like that. Smoking a joint in paper is not as good for your lungs as it is doing it in a vaporizer. It’s a no-brainer, really.”

Nelson calls cannabis-infused edibles “different — it’s more of a body stone, I guess. It took me a little while to acclimate to it. I wasn’t sure of it to begin with, but now it depends on what you want to do. If you wanna go to sleep, eat a piece of candy and you’ll doze off.”

An anachronistic view of cannabis

As you’d imagine, the singer-songwriter seems to have an endless supply of compelling stories that revolve around this still-controversial plant. The only time he’s grown pot from seed to harvest was decades ago when he lived in Nashville writing songs between tours. He smiles when he talks about cutting “It’s All Going to Pot” with his pal Haggard. And on one of his many early-career tours he recalls being broke down on the side of a road in Kansas and coming across a towering patch of what he thought was cannabis growing down by the railroad tracks.

“We cut down a tree of it and put it in the back, and we thought we were really gonna have some fun,” Nelson says. “But we got back to the hotel and cut it up and started smoking that damn stuff, and there wasn’t nothin’ to it. It was nothing but hemp, which is a different deal there. You don’t get high smoking hemp, you just get sore lungs. So we had a big laugh on ourselves.”

Nelson, who lives in 420-unfriendly Texas, doesn’t remember the first time he was arrested on weed-related charges: “I’ve been pulled over many times and busted many times, but I don’t really remember the first one, it was so long ago.”

He does remember being lied to about marijuana, a substance that is ays. “I think we knew more than what most people gave us credit for knowing. We knew were supposed to be bad people because we smoked marijuana, but we knew we weren’t bad people. So we knew somewhere in there was a discrepancy that people had to realize that, ‘Wait a minute: It don’t make him a bad guy just ’cause he smokes weed.’ ”

But what surprises him the most about the world’s recent shift toward decriminalization and legalization?

“I’m still surprised it took this long for educated people to get a little sense,” Nelson says. “We’ve had so many negative things thrown at us about what it does to you and the bad things that marijuana can do to you. And ‘Reefer Madness,’ I don’t know if you remember that movie or not, but it was horrible and it made people really scared. And fear is a hard thing to overcome, so all that had to be overcome. Now when people smoke or eat a piece of candy they realize that, ‘Wait a minute. What’s the big deal?’ ”

When talking more about the War on Drugs’ negative consequences, Nelson unknowingly echoes the data in a Gallup poll released earlier that day showing that 60 percent of Americans want cannabis to be legal — an all-time high in nearly 50 years of polling on the question.

“Most of us have (overcome the fear),” he says. “Not everybody. I don’t think we ever will be 100 percent for it. We’re not really 100 percent for anything. There are always a few stragglers over there who can’t really understand it.”

The conversation steers toward the presence of dry counties in the American South that still disallow alcohol sales, and I take the opportunity to get Nelson’s take on the legalization movement in Arkansas, where the Bible Belt state will vote on two potentially historic medical marijuana initiatives on Election Day (although one of the measures was disqualified in a court ruling Oct. 27).

“Well, it’s in the Bible,” Nelson says flatly. “Ezekiel 34:29, where Jesus is talking about seeds and he said, ‘I bring you a seed of renown for the miseries of humanity.’ ”

My time with Nelson is almost up. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and the election talk leads again to national politics when he offers up an anecdote that perfectly encapsulates Nelson’s open-armed philosophy to weed, to music, to life.

“Somebody asked me the other day if I’d smoke a joint with Donald Trump,” Nelson said, almost as if he was setting up a punchline — only he wasn’t. “I said, ‘I’ll smoke a joint with anybody.’

“I would. I don’t care.

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Willie Nelson with Ralph Emery on RFD-TV

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Relaxing in his tour bus before Wednesday’s concert, Willie Nelson said he was happy to be back in Branson.”The people here were very nice and they liked our show,” said Nelson, who performed during the 1992 season. “Branson has changed a little bit since then. They used to have only five or six roads back then, and it was kind of hard to get around.”

Nelson gave an afternoon audience a special treat when he sat on the front of the stage with country music deejay Ralph Emery. The interview was the first of a new weekly series RFD-TV will air on Mondays.

Nelson, with his trademark braids hanging to his waist, talked about his Farm Aid benefits.

“Call your representatives and say we need a good farm bill,” he said. “We need to grow alternative fuels to keep us from having to go around the world looking for oil.”

About 2,000 people in the theater erupted into applause. Nelson also thanked the men and women serving in the Middle East. “They have really been put in a hard spot over there, and the quicker we bring them back, the better,” he said.

Also in the audience were several dozen members of the FFA, who had been invited to the concert.

Katie Fisher of Strafford said she appreciated Nelson’s efforts to help farmers.

“Without agriculture, we wouldn’t have anything at all,” she said.

RFD-TV The Theatre is on the west end of the strip in what was formerly the Ray Stevens Theatre. RFD-TV is a television network dedicated to rural America and agriculture. RFD-TV founder and president Patrick Gottsch purchased the 2,000-seat theater last summer.

The network was launched from its headquarters in Omaha, Neb., in December 2000. Gottsch is a former farmer who wanted to provide coverage that was missing for rural residents, he said. The initials stand for Rural Free Delivery, an old name for mail delivery in farming areas.

The theater will produce concerts with well-known talent including Loretta Lynn and Lorrie Morgan in April. They also offer a twice-daily variety show and will operate from March through December, Gottsch said.