Willie Nelson featured SWSX keynote speaker (3/17/21)

by: Harley Tamplin

Willie Nelson talks music, COVID-19 and marijuana in long-awaited SXSW keynote

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Willie Nelson reflected on music, marijuana and the COVID-19 pandemic during a SXSW keynote that was nearly 30 years in the making.

The 87-year-old country star and Texas icon headlined the second day of the virtual festival, touching on various subjects during a wide-ranging conversation with Andy Langer of Austin City Limits radio and Texas Monthly.

Remarkably, it was Nelson’s first ever speech at SXSW — in 1992, he was booked to deliver a keynote at 10:30 a.m., but Nelson’s tour bus didn’t arrive in time after a concert the night before.

In hindsight, Langer joked, it may not have been a good idea to book Nelson to speak at 10:30 a.m.

As a prolific musician who has written thousands of songs, Nelson said the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough as he adjusted to not performing in front of fans.

“I miss it a lot,” he said. “All the musicians miss it a lot, but I know I sure as hell do.”

In fact, Nelson misses playing live so much that “every now and then” he sits in his tour bus, which is parked outside his home, “to pretend I’m going somewhere,” he revealed.

But that doesn’t mean Nelson, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, is going to rush back into in-person concerts.

“I don’t know what it will feel like, because I don’t know what kind of comeback it will be,” he said, when asked how returning to the stage will feel.

“I don’t know who will be able to come to the show, and I don’t want to do a show anywhere, any time that has a danger of somebody getting sick. That’s going to have a lot to do with when I get back to work,” he added.

“It will be a challenge, and whenever we do get back it will be a sign of some sort of success.”

After decades in the business, music remains as important to Nelson as ever — and after all those years, he’s learned to trust his judgment about which songs people will like, he said.

“I know what I like, and I have to trust what I like as being good. So far that’s the way it’s been, I trust my opinion,” he said.

“We all react to the same thing. Music will move you. Period. It will make you laugh or cry, jump or clap your hands, and anything that will move you, do it.”

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