An Audience With Willie Nelson

The formidable outlaw countryman on songwriting, ageing, marijuana, martial arts and meeting Muhammad Ali...

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I read in one of your books that you had a golf cart with a stereo. Is there some way you can facilitate those for the real world?
J Mascis
I’ve had a couple of those. I had one, one time, that had a cover, an air conditioner, a radio and a TV and all that. But it didn’t help my golf game any. My longest running game has been at Pedernales Country Club, outside of Austin. The course is a little rocky, but the greens roll true.

How important was Bob Dylan’s speech at Live Aid on inspiring you to set up Farm Aid?
Chris Harper, Dorking
When I heard what Bob said, it got me thinking about maybe he was right, maybe we did have a problem here. So I started checking around with some of my farmer and rancher friends, and sure enough there was a huge problem in the farm belt and something needed to be done about it. So we started playing our first Farm Aid. Our next one will be in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 13. We’ve got a lot of the same guys playing. Neil Young, John Mellencamp, myself, Dave Matthews. There will be eight or ten other guys on there.


Does getting old bother you?
Martin Carpenter, Essex
A while back, I had overbooked myself on my dates. Working harder than I should be. One day, I just couldn’t go any farther. I had some health problems, I had a shoulder that was bothering me and hands and things. So I took some time off and had some health work done and got better. But there was a time there when I had literally hit the wall. All those things concern you, when your hands are bothering you, and your shoulders and you’re having problems with one thing or another. So, yeah, I was having some issues. But they’re pretty much worked out by now.

What motivates you to get up each morning and keep playing and writing music?
Nick Sharp, Luton
When you’re going down the highway with three or four trucks, a few buses and a lot of equipment and a band and a crew, it’s like a circus. That’s what we do. We go round the world playing music. It’s a good reason to stay out here, because everybody is making a pretty good living.

What advice would you give to a young musician that might just be starting out?
Robert Buckley, Isleworth
Well, if he’s really good he wouldn’t take my advice anyway. He’ll go ahead and do what he wants to do. Some of the best advice I heard was from a relative of mine, somebody asked him once about some advice and he said, ‘Take my advice, do what you want to.” And that’s pretty much my advice to anyone to everybody: do what you want to do. What advice was I given when I starting out? When I was in Texas playing clubs and things, I had a nice following there, working all the lounges and clubs and dancehalls. I played pretty much all of them. Then I went to Nashville, and it was a little different there. No one accepts you with open arms there. You have to prove yourself. So I wrote some songs and had some luck, but I moved back to Texas because that’s really where I enjoyed living and playing.


What do you do in your downtime?
Beth Twining, Leeds
I like to go home to Texas or go to Maui for a few days and hang out by the ocean over there, play a little poker or golf. It’s pretty much what I’ve done for time off over the years. What’s my golf handicap? I enjoy playing. I can’t play but I enjoy trying. I have a golf course in Texas.


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