Ten Questions for Willie Nelson (Time.com 7/06)

Time Magazine
July 31, 2006
10 Questions for Willie Nelson
by Clayton Neuman

He has sold more than 50 million albums, just launched his own XM Radio channel and seems to be on a never ending tour.  But there’s more to Willie Nelson than music.  He’s backing Kinky Friedman for Texas Governor, pushing eco-friendly biofuel and recently published The Tao of Willie, a book covering Nelsonian philosophy on everything from politics to golf.  Nelson, 73, took a break touring to talk with TIME’s Clayton Neuman about faith, farmers and pot.

Time:  Your book draws allegorically on your life.  What’s the big lesson in The Tao of WIllie?

Willie:  I’ve always been the kind of guy that looks for the easy way, and it seems to me the easiest way to get through life is just to accept it and live in the moment.

Time:  Talking about your Tao seems a long way from your Methodist roots.

Willie:  I believe that all roads lead to the same place.  We’re taking different ways to get there, but we all end up in the same place.  It’s kind of like Kinky Friedman’s statement, “May the God of your choice bless you.”  That’s the main thoughts I have about life.

Time:  Speaking of Kinky, you’ve endorsed him in his campaign for Governor of Texas.

Willie:  I sure have.  Kinky is a down-to-earth guy, an intelligent guy, an entertainer.  He’s open to new ideas, and he’s really talking a lot about biodiesel and ethanol.  And that’s exactly what we need to keep us from going around the world starting wars over oil.  And as far as being a good Governor, how hard can it be?  But just about everybody I’ve campained for has lost.  I don’t know why they keep calling me.

Time:  How did you get into biofuel?  You even have your own brand (BioWillie) now.

Willie:  My wife came to me three or four years ago and wanted to buy this Volkswagen Jetta and put biodiesel in it.  It sounded like a big scam.  I said, “You been in my Maui-Wowie again.”  But she bought the car, and it gets good gas mileage and the tailpipe smells like French fries.  And I saw this as a way for farmers to dig out from the hole they were in and help the economy.

Time:  You’ve been the driving force behind Farm Aid for almost two decades.  This year’s concert is in Camden, N.J.  Seems like an odd place for a Farm Aid show.

Willie:  We’ve never had a Farm Aid that far east, so we’re going to try one.  There’s a lot of farmers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York.  We’ve had 20 years of Farm Aids hoping that Washington would pass a good deal so that farmers can make a living.  There’s a lot of people out there getting government subsidies, but it ain’t going to the small farmers.  It’s going to the big guy who doesn’t really need it, and it’s putting farmers out of business all over the world.

Time:  The Dixie Chicks got in trouble for their views on the President, but your politics are pretty liberal too.

Willie:  They got a raw deal.  I think the fact that they were overseas and onstage had a little bit to do with it because you’re speaking to other people about our business.  I’m surprised I didn’t get in trouble a year before that when I was at a press conference overseas and they were asking me about our wild Texas cowboy President.  I said, “He’s not from Texas, and he ain’t a cowboy, so let’s stop trashin’ Texans and cowboys.”  It got a little chuckle, but I didn’t get run out of the country.

Time:  You’ve written more than 2,500 songs.  Is there one that stands out as definite Willie?

Willie:  Still is Still Moving, because to me it’s a positive song, up-tempo, gets the crowd up and jumpin’ around, gets me up.  I wrote it, so there must be something in it that speaks to me.  I’m not sharp enough to figure out what it is though.

Time:  You’re open about your marijuana use.  Should pot be legalized?

Willie:  I don’t think people ought to go to jail for using it.  It’s too good a medicine.  I guess if it were harder to find on the illegal market, there would be more people out there voting to make it legal.  But you can grow a little here or have a little there from a friend, and the next thing you know, you don’t care whether it’s legal or not.

Time:  Any plans to release new music soon?

Willie:  I record more than any other living white boy.  I have an album called Songbird that I did with Ryan Adams to put out this year.  I recorded a song with Shawn King, and that’ll be out in a month or so.

Time:  Shawn King?  Larry King’s wife?

Willie:  Yeah, she’s a singer — and a good-lookin’ chick, too.

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