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

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.”

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