Willie Nelson answers questions from Time Magazine Readers



What is one of your most memorable onstage moments? — Gaia Thiele, ARCATA, CALIF.

The first time I got onstage was when I was about 5 years old. It was at a church social, and I had a poem to recite. I had on a little white sailor suit, and my nose started bleeding. I went up to make my speech, and I put one finger there to stop the bleeding and said, “If you don’t like the looks of me, you can look some other way.” I’ve never had stage fright since.

What do you think about legalizing marijuana in America? — Karen Do, NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.

Sooner or later we’ll get around to legalizing it everywhere, because people are beginning to see that it’s not as horrible as they were once taught. It’s also a way to help the economy. I think if we legalize it and tax it and regulate it the way we do tobacco and alcohol, it would be a big source of revenue.

Is there a point where country becomes so pop that it stops being country music? — Ryan Lambrecht, MINOT, N.D.

Sure. In my opinion, it’s a little watered down now. The mainstream country music that I hear–to me, it’s not really country, and it’s not really anything. So it may be pleasing to the ear, and that’s great, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not country music.

You’re the president and co-founder of Farm Aid. Do you think America has embraced the good-food movement? — Francis Bova III, CHICAGO

We’re trying to. People are thinking about where their food comes from because of all the problems we’ve had along the way with bad food and pesticides and chemicals. People know they can grow their own food and make sure that it’s healthy. Or they can find a farmer in their local area to grow for them.

Who are some of your favorite people to duet with? — Mary Ann Rennick, ST. LOUIS, MO.

Waylon Jennings and I had a lot of fun recording together. Frank Sinatra, I enjoyed that. We did a couple of commercials together. I got to know [Sinatra] pretty good. He has always been my favorite singer. As far as I’m concerned, the rest of us–we trot along behind him.

Who has influenced you outside of country music? — Frank Schieber, ATLANTA

Ray Charles. He took country music to another level when he did his country-music album.  He was a good buddy, and the story goes that we played chess one time and he kicked my ass pretty good.

What do you think of the Tea Party movement? — Steve Stringham, BROOKINGS, ORE.

I don’t really know what the Tea Party is. I don’t really know what they’re for or against. Is the country in trouble? I think our economy is in a downward spiral, and hopefully we can pull it out. I’m not sure the Tea Party is who we need to pull us out.

If you had to do it all over again, is there anything in your life you would do differently? — Sue Bromen, BELLE PLAINE, MINN.

I just had to answer that question a few days ago. I would like to think that I’m happy with the way things are now. And I would be hesitant to change anything in the past because it would change where we are now. I like it the way it is.

What helps you get through difficult times in life? — Bram Rodenburg, BLEISWIJK, THE NETHERLANDS

Positive thinking. Believing that it’s going to be O.K. And so far it has been. Why bitch about anything? You’re not hungry. You’re not cold. Neither am I. We’re not sick. So everything is fine. If you continue to live in the now, then things will be O.K.

You’ve always seemed to be the quintessential American. What does it mean to be American? — Trevor Hande, KELOWNA, B.C.

America, to me, is freedom. I’m from Texas, and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control. [Laughs.] You can look at that as less government if you want to, but I like America when [there’s] no one in control.

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