"I like to watch them singing with me."
Gee, Ain't It Funny . . . Chatting With Willie Nelson

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Iconoclastic country star Willie Nelson never wants for work. In between rounds of golf, he stays busy touring, acting, advocating, writing and recording. "Moment of Forever" (out Tuesday) is his third new album in just 15 months. It was co-produced by Kenny Chesney, who also sings with Willie. Nelson called from the road. Again.

-- J. Freedom du Lac

Kinky Friedman once wrote: "When Willie's not playing golf, he's mystical almost to the point of autism, which is not particularly helpful if you're trying to interview him." Is this interview going to be a disaster?

Which disaster are you talking about?

You tell me.

I don't know. There's been a chain of those. (Laughs.)

I can't even imagine what the backstage conversations were like when you and Dylan toured together. What'd you guys talk about?

We didn't really get a chance to hang out a lot. But he came on the bus a couple of times. Once, I was doing an interview with High Times magazine and he exited fairly quickly.

What was your last conversation with Johnny Cash about?

John would always call me when he needed a laugh, because I was always telling him jokes. He called me just after June had died and we talked about how hard that was for him. I miss him and all the guys who have moved on.

When you perform live, your against-the-meter phrasing makes it impossible to sing along. Do you do that so you don't have to hear your fans singing?

I like to watch them singing with me. But I trick 'em with the phrasing. I enjoy watching 'em stumble through a line that was supposed to go one way but went another.

If you had to give up either golf or music, which one would you quit?

Since I don't have to really do anything I don't want to do anymore, I don't have to answer that question. No offense.

Is it true that you bought your own golf course so you could play without minding the rules?

It's a lot easier if you own the golf course to make up your own rules. Like no more than 12 in a foursome. No breaking wind in the tee box. If you have a bad lie, you never have to tell a bad lie. I like that one. And par is whatever you want it to be -- depending on what the bet is.

What's an old outlaw like you doing with Kenny Chesney?

It turns out we have a lot in common and like a lot of the same things. He's a good writer and good singer, and he's good in the studio. He has a real good ear. I can see why he's successful.

You've been pretty prolific lately. Shouldn't you be slowing down as you approach your 75th birthday?

I don't think that's a good idea. What's the old saying? Don't look back; somebody might be catching up. Well, don't even slow down, much less look back.

Kinky was wrong. You're making a lot of sense today.

Well, it's difficult for Kinky to really know when someone is making sense or not. With all due respect -- which isn't much.

Complete this sentence: If elected president of the United States of America, I, Willie Hugh Nelson . . .

Will stop the [expletive] war!

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