Willie Nelson Interview: Goldmine (1/11/02)

Goldmine Magazine
January 11, 2002

When it comes to American music legends, the name Willie Nelson elicits incredible warmth and respect for one of the most talented and accomplished singer/songwriters of our itme.  Although he has spent his 40-year career as a country musician.  Nelson’s music transcends all genres.  The now-familier term “crossover artist” was no doubt invented for Nelson.

It’s late summer and the singer is winding up his most recent U.S. tour.  Preparing for the evening’s concert in Tacoma, Washington.  Nelson has just returned from the local driving range, ever trying to improve his golf game, although he readily admitted, “I should be a lot better than I am.”  Asked about his handicap, he wrly replied, “It’s my putter and my driver!”

Beyong Golf, Nelson has kindly agreed to talk to Goldmine about his newest DVD release, Willie Nelson:  Live in Amsterdam.  (Image Enterainment) and a few other topics, including his most recent album, Rainbow connection (Island Records) and his forthcoming relase, The Great Divide.

10 Questions for Willie Nelson
by Mark Wallgren

Goldmine:  Is there anything special about touring in Europe?

Willie Nelson:  We don’t get over there as much, so when I play in Europe they’re really glad to see you.  And there’s a certain exuberance over there you know.  For 40 years now they’ve been really good country music fans for me.

GM:  One doesn’t envision Europeans wearing cowboy hats and boots, but your audience certainly does.

WN:  Yeah, it’s hard to tell whether your in Amsterdam or Austin.

GM:  In watching this video, you guitar work is woven into the tapestry of your songs.  Do you enjoy playing as much as it seems?

WN:  I’ve been playing guitar since I was six years old.  The guitar is my friend, you know.  I guess it’s my first wife.  [laughs]  I try to build the whole show around me and the guitar, and everyone else plays behind and complements what I’m trying ot do — fills in places and does their thring — they go into it that way, and then  you get a pretty good ready-mixed show.

GM:  There’s a really funny moment in this new DVD, at the end of the regular set, when you ask the audience to pretend you’d left the stage and that you’ve now returned for the encore.

WN:  [laugs]  Sometimes I tell them that story, you know, “This is the place where we normally go off and come back, and if its all right with everybody, we’re just gonna stay here, because one night we went off and came back and everybody was gone!”  A version of that every now and then.

GM:  Based even on a sliver of truth?

WN:  A sliver, yes.  You’ve got to be careful.  [laughs]

GM:  Amy, your daughter, first suggested an album such as rainbow Connection some 20 years ago, and yet you didn’t begin recording it until just last Christmas.

WN:  The reason being that I work on the road a lot and so recording a children’s album was kind of down the list of what I needed to do, you know. This last Christmas I got a couple months off, so I told her to come on now and we’d do Rainbow Connection; and some more songs.  But then I started learning Rainbow Connection; and I realized there’s a little gem here.  I mean, there’s a lot more here, I thought, than a frog singing.

GM:  “Wouldn’t have it any other way,” the one new original composition, sounds like a song you might have written for Johnny Cash.

WN:  It’s one of the last songs that I’ve written. The other being  ‘The Great Divide”  There’s something about that song that I enjoy, and I really got a kick out of playing it and doing it.  I don’t really know where it came from, but maybe it is a Johnny Cash song.  I’ll have to try to get it to him.  I appreciate yoru saying something about that song because I haven’t started doing it on the show at all because I wanted to kind of get some feedback from the people who listen to the album.

GM:  Your next album, The Great Divide, is produced by Matt Serletic who producd that superb Santana album Supernatural a couple of years ago.

WN:  It’ll be released in January, and it was an important one to make because I got to sing with a  whole lot of great musicians and writers and singer, so its one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals, and to work with Matt Serletic, he’s one of the better producers.  We’ve got a good lineup.  Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Kid Rock, Rob Thomas, Allison Krauss, and we’ve got the Jordainaires.  They’re backing me on “Mendocino County Line”; that we did with Lee Anne Womack in Nashville.  Also a guy named Brian McKnight.  He’s a young guy form the West Coast.  I think he’s really a good singer.

GM:  You’ve raised more than $16 million since you staged the first Farm Aid benefit back in 1985.  Did you ever envision that Farm Aid might still be necessary in the new millennium?

WN:  No, I really didn’t.  I thought we’d just have to do one, honestly.  I thought once everyone was aware of the situation that something would be done immediately and it would be like, fixed overnight.  It takes a long time to get a new farm bill through, one that the farmers are for, but big business, corporations, and unfortunately most of the politicians in Washington are against.  But we’re gonna stay with it and nobody’s going anywhere, and there’s a good chance that we might be able to get a little bit more done in Washington now that there’s sort of a shift in powers up there where it looks like people who are concerned with the small businessman may be in more of a position to do something for the farmer.

GM:  Final Question:  Has the Nelson household received its tax rebate check yet?

WN:  [laughs]  I’ve already spent my $600!

Leave a Reply