Interview with Willie Nelson

Roy Skjellaug

It began with a dream. Well almost, it actually started with a message from Willie Nelsons wife Annie D’angelo Nelson late in the evening, concerning an interview with Willie. With her words on my mind I fell asleep and into a dream. I saw Willie standing on a small stage for about 80 people, it was a charming little place in something that looked like a barn. I could clearly see Willie doing grimaces infront of a photographer who desperately was trying to get his camera working and now missed some really good shoots.

I remember how I woke up in the morning with a smile after that dream, telling my girlfriend abut the dream and about my hope for doing an interview with my long time music hero. A few message later with Annie everything was prepared for the interview and a couple of days after Christmas Willie gave me a call.

Am in a small town called Sollefteå up north in Sweden, waiting for a new year to come with the first line just finished. It was a twelve hour drive up here with my seven years old daughter in the seat beside me in the car. Between every laugh, every talk and food stop, I let the words and voice of Willie from the night before settle in my head from the sight of high snow walls beside the road. There is tons of snow around the building here and good whiskies from Scotland in the room, so it’s a good place to write down what was said on the phone that particular winter evening in late December 2012.

From when I was a litte kid listening to Willie, I have always feel calm by hearing his voice. He comfort whenever needed and I trusted that feeling completely when I realize that he was going to ring on the phone. And why shouldn’t I? Years of listening to him had make me sure, If someone could calm a worried mind it’s Willie. Am glad to say after the talk that it was just like that, Willie opened up our conversation and the sound of his voice tell me that this is good, this is a man that have been talking direct to me by his songs for so many years and it was just like we continued on a song together. This must be the essence of Willie, he always speaks direct to you.

«Hi Peter, it’s Willie, how are you?»

We began talking about his new book «Roll me up and smoke me when I die«. The book was released in November 2012 and has a great foreword by Kinky Friedman, who will be touring Scandinavia in April. Willie explained that the book is written like a road journal with different types of subjects like God, songwriting and the environment. Wille tell that he don’t have a formula for writing, he just write when he feel like writing and what he feel like saying. Sounds like a good way of writing to me, and a successful one for Willie. Just sip on the words, the way of tao is in the air.

Peter: In your new book «Roll me up and smoke me when i die», you handle different types of topics like God, gun control and marijuana. You also write about how bad we treat our planet and the environmental questions is topics that I understand has been imortant for you a long time, just wonder what kind of changes do you think is most important for us to handle right now?
Willie: Small family farmers are the only things that can save us because they take care of the land. Future farmers of America are going to be our heroes. Same with biodiesel, either way we need small family saustainable and organic farmers.

Peter: You, Johnny, Waylon and Kris, you have been an important part of my life since I was just a little kid, and so you are for many people. Guess one clue is what you wrote in your book «The Tao of Willie», you have to be honest to yourself and don’t just fit in to suit others demand. The way of Tao is fascinating, and as you wrote, the song «Still is still moving» handle that subject. How has the responce been for that particular book since it’s release in 2006?
Willie: Fantastic, and the song «Still is still moving» is still in the show every night. I still get people coming up to me and telling me that the book made a difference for them.
Willie and I continue talking about whisky and ofcourse the great song «Whiskey river» and Willie mentioned how much he like to sing that song, written by Johnny Bush. My own whisky river is up here in the north of Sweden where a small malt whisky distillery named Box is located on the banks of a now frozen river. Between writing this story, or interview, I let the words reflect in the short period of sunlight on this very white landscape with the ice of the whisky river taking my mind in a not drunk way. A frozen river is not a dry one, it’s just a still river on the surface but is still moving, and so am my winter writing.

We spoke about whisky and an old idea hit me concerning the Tao in different subjects. As I write as an columnist of beers and whisky I just realize that there ofcourse is a Tao of whisky, a way of reaching the angels share of whisky, not just describing and talking about the technical stuff. Would be great to develope that with Willie over some glass of whisky made here in Sweden. Hope to live up to this philosophical talk, well, I’m sure that with Willie it will be a great conversation regardless.

Wille, Kris and Merle

I asked Willie about any chance for us in Europe to see him playing here again and he told that he is talking to his manager about it and he want to have a tour in Europe. Yes! Willie wants to come back! Really hope that he particulary ask for coming up to us in Scandinavia, we can´t wait to hear his voice and see him again.

I probably heard som incorrectly rumour concerning Kris Kristofferson and that he was about to write some new songs for Willie, because Wille didn’t know anything about it when I asked. But, he hope for it to be true, Willie said that he his really impressed over Kris new album «Feeling mortal«. Talking about Kris I also asked Willie about the opportunity of him, Kris and Merle Haggard doing shows together. Willie said it’s a good idea, and that they have all talked about going out together many times. Let us all hope for that to be true, you are all very welcome to Scandinavia with that country super group.

Peter: If we leave music for a while, do you have any particular writers or poets that affects your life or songwriting, and in which way?
Willie: Kahil Gibran, Edgar Cayce, Floyd Tillman, etc. They all do affects me in every way.

Peter: You have tried a variety of different music over the years. If we exclude country music, what kind of music do you feel have a special part in your music life?
Willie: Blues, jazz, gospel and standards. All of them.

I like the way Willies new book handle different topics. It’s like a person to discuss with. I realize that the book is just to be picked up anywhere and there you have a conversation, in a quiet way. It’s also a way of meeting Willies families and friends, never get tired of episodes from his music life. The chapter about The Highwaymen really made me laugh, like Willie write in the book, it’s was a really good time touring with Waylon, Johnny and Kris. It’s an easy book to read, not as philosphical as «The Tao of Willie», but I think you understand more between the lines if you have read the tao-book, it’s not at all however necessary.

«Roll me up and smoke me when I die» is a book I highly recommend. You will meet Willie in the book and that’s a good company. And believe my words, if the phone ring at your home and it’s Willie on the other end, you will have a really nice talk.

Peter Söderlind

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