Lyle Lovett: Willie Nelson sort of single handedly was the Austin music scene in the 70s, Willie Willie's live shows his Fourth of July picnics shine the light on so many other performers and the way Willie so inclusive and what he does and so generous. The folks that he invited to place for the July picnics and showed some of those folks for the first time to the public, and that's all that's all because of Willie Nelson.

M1 What were some of the albums that you got?

F1 Early phases and stages is still one of my favorite Willie Nelson albums and shot and Willie, of course, Red Redheaded Stranger.

F2 Of course, Willie, whenever Willie sings a song, you you become mesmerized and you step you step into the story he's telling you. And with the concept albums like Phases, Stages and Headed Stranger and he takes you into this entire world. Uh, the story that he's telling and those are just brilliant albums, I think I was right at the influence when you were young.

F6 What about it? Well, just just just the the is stranger.

F7 And the stages were particular influences just because of the scope of the of the storytelling, how how each song sort of sort of, you know, came together with the with the others and and took you into two to one. One story. I just thought that was brilliant writing.

F3 That's something you at that time sought to emulate in your you know, in that I and aspiring to to write anything. My my goal has always been just to to have whatever I make up. It makes sense, you know, to be worth playing for somebody or be worth someone else's time.

F6 And and just the scope of of those concept records, phases and stages. And the stranger, they just showed great writing. And I was I was just I was aspiring to write, you know, even the shortest song possible at that point.

F7 But but they were just inspirational and they're just just quality and scope. What about the storytelling aspect of it?

F1 Well, I've always been attracted to a narrative songwriting and really such a great narrative song, and all his songs take you into a story and and and show you his point of view.

F3 Willie Nelson is an inspiration because Willie Willie Nelson is himself. He inspires each of us, I think, to be ourselves. He he he includes every member of his audience in a way that he represents every member of his own. He is Willie Nelson is such an individual. It encourages anyone who listens to him to to be likewise.

M1 You know much about his early days, like in Nashville, but we've seen some incredible clips of them in Nashville. We've got bow tie and shorthaired backup singers seem like he's trying to conform to.

F3 The national always at the time, you know, even in his early days working in Nashville as a songwriter, conforming to the to the conventions, performing conventions of the time, as you say, in his, you know, his Western time dressed up and all that, his his brilliance as a songwriter, his insight as a human being, comes through loud and clear that the setting, you know, Willie Nelson is wearing or what is standing in front of when he plays doesn't doesn't make any difference, doesn't detract from what he's doing. It's it's you know, what what you get from Willie Nelson is what's in his heart.

F1 You know, Willie's famous for for how he dresses and and for the way he wears his hair. But what you get from Willie is his soul and his heart. And I think everything else is is an outward perception that people might have people who haven't really taken the time to listen to Willie, although I can't imagine, you know, everybody listen to Willie, but people that don't know Willie maybe see only only outward aspects of his of what he does. But when you listen to Willie, when you talk to Willie, when you look at Willie in the eye, what you get is just so I think maybe when you when he left Nashville and came back to Texas, he just kind of coming back to his roots and was able to like down his hair, really.

F3 Come really tonight, Willie Nelson is always himself. He's so comfortable in his own skin being himself. I think I think his his I would speculate that it's coming back to Texas was just he came back to a place where he could more easily be himself, where he and Willie Nelson is such a nice guy. He's such a gentleman.

F6 I could well imagine that if he were in a structured conventional environment like Nashville was during during those days, he he would be out of respect and politeness, want to conform to to that convention. And then coming back to Texas, I'm sure he found it more easy to just be himself.

M1 What do you think causes I could talk about this really well last.

M11 I don't think he calls his band and all the people around him. Willie Nelson, a family with.

F3 Willie Nelson and family is the perfect is the perfect name for his his band and and his the entire group that travels with him, because any time you see Willie Nelson, if you're in the audience, you're free to Willie Nelson's family. If you work with Willie Nelson, he makes you part of his family. The entire experience is is is one that speaks to family with with Willie as the head of the table. And and it's I love to be at his shows because his his audience looks to him in that way as the head of the family. And and we all sit there or stand there in the audience waiting for the next pearl of wisdom.

M1 What does he do exactly that makes people feel so connected to Willie Nelson is absolutely sincere.

F3 He he speaks the truth from from his heart, he's he's he's sincere, he he he he's he's just he's himself.

F2 And that kind of honesty, it's a it's a simple enough idea, I think. But it's very difficult, I think, to to go through this world and be yourself and not be affected by the expectation of the rest of the world. But that kind of sincerity, that kind of honesty is something that we all look for.

F3 And when we see it, we recognize it. And and when we see it, we we want to find out everything about it.

M1 We're we're you know, we're mesmerized by what's it like for the song. You guys play together pretty frequently. It's funny how comes up. So when you talk about that and what it's like to be on stage without being on stage, Willie Nelson is incredible at first.

F2 First his musicianship, but his presence as a person. Whenever you talk to Willie Nelson, you feel you feel his presence. There's something there's something about Willie that's. It's it's different from from being around anyone else and standing on stage, you get that same feeling, you get the same feeling from Willie Nelson, whether you're on stage with him in front of an audience or whether you're you're talking with him on the bus or in a dressing. You feel his presence, and that's that's just it's just enjoyable to be in his country to to be on stage with him as he's playing his guitar and to be able to appreciate his musicianship and and his singing and his phrasing from from that close distance is, you know, it's just like having the best seat in the House.

M1 What about funny how comes up.

F3 So funny how types of ways. Of course, a classic Willie Nelson song, Al Green recorded it and had a hit with it. And I was lucky enough to be included in a duet with Al Green on a record made in the early 90s of duets.

F2 And just to get to sing Funny How Time Slips Away is an incredible experience to have gotten to do it with Al Green and then later to get to do it with with Willie on stage. I mean, it's just it's just the classic song. And to be able to, you know, to be able to just be a part of of of a great work like that and to be able to sing it with the guy who wrote it is you know, it was life didn't get any better.

M1 I don't know if you know this, but Jackie King and will use to play a lot of jazz together, I think, as well as Jackie was kind of with. We're hoping Jacqui was going to talk about building back then and all that, but now Jack is kind of on the outs. She left the gig and went to a different gig. You might not be back. So I was wondering if you might be able to come up to you and Mickey to fill in the gaps and we'll back and forth.

F3 But, you know, I'm not really able to talk about really jazz influence from a jazz perspective. But Willie Nelson's knowledge of jazz and his his his individual style and his phrasing is something that that makes Willie's music and so, so unusual, especially in the context of country music. Willie Nelson has brought jazz influences, is really broadened the scope of of country music for many listeners. And he shows he shows us that we don't always have to fit squarely into one particular songwriting convention or another, that that music is music and that it you know, you can cross musical lines and still say something. That's that's part of what Willie Nelson does as a as a as a person with his character.

F4 And and it's absolutely consistent. You know, the fact that he would would bring different influences into his song is absolutely consistent with his character, the way he brings his whole life into every experience.

M1 And people talk about his phrasing and so unique.

F4 And Waylon Jennings, that really starts off and yesterday and nobody phrases like Willie Nelson, Willie always knows where he is. We are we just he he invited me to sing Pancho and Lefty with him on the Letterman show a few weeks ago. And and the the I could see Paul Shaffer sort of looking around, trying to project. What I want to say is he really knows exactly where he is.

F5 Don't worry. At one point I looked over and I saw I saw Paul counting and I thought, you know, just because everything's for what do you think the band is able to keep up with?

F4 Well, gosh, you know, going back going back to Willie Nelson and family Willie's band is is is his family. And I think, gosh, those guys are they're so talented, first of all. But they're so they're they're just all on the same wavelength and they know they know exactly where Willie's going to go, where we might go, where we might not go.

F5 And and, you know, I think they're just they're just really all very much, you know, in tune with what they're doing for.

F4 Well, it's it's incredible that that, uh, you know, the first time I worked with Willie Nelson was, gosh, in the mid 80s and and when you when you show up to one of Willie shows and you see the same faces, when you see when you see that kind of loyalty and support from everyone involved, you see Willie's loyalty and support for his folks and you and you see that they reciprocate, that it's you know, it's it's what what all of us aspire to. As people in the world, but not as musicians on the road necessarily, but to be able to to go through your life with with your family, I mean, that's what you know, what what what what better thing could you do?

M3 So one of the things we have going through the film is kind of the sense of the torch being passed with interesting scene with Dave Matthews, where he talked about using the first words that sound crazy. But then once I saw Crush just crazy. Really, since you stole that from Roger Miller, just kind of get the sense of just being tossed out of generation to generation.

M4 Is there something I thought to you think you aspired to when you were young? You know, Willie Nelson's Willie's influence on all of us?

F3 I think try to write songs, I think, and, you know, comes through in everything.

F8 Everything we do at the way Willie the way Willie uses different musical influences in his songs is especially instructive to me to to to really gives us permission really to to be ourselves and to to play a song in the way that it works. Not that he tells us it's OK to to to to not necessarily stick to your conventional way of writing a song or playing song. And, you know, Willie's influence in that way will make you guys are.

M2 When I was growing up. That's very.

F3 You know, what's what's what's great about really, Nelson, I think what speaks to his generosity and his character and his strength as a human being is that if you talk about passing the torch to other songwriters, you know, he'll he'll hand the torch to anybody that walks in and wish them well.

M5 And and I think.

F3 That kind of support and that kind of strength is rare to find in anybody, let alone a performing songwriter's.

M3 Do you think even country music got that kind of away from its roots for a while there in the 60s of the 60s that brought it back?

F3 Well, the country music business is a business of any kind, you know, tries to hook on to anything that might work and might make money. It's its artists like Willie Nelson who follow their heart and who tell the truth and and try to do something good that that.

F9 Create the trends that the business looks onto and and I think Willie Nelson shows us that it's it's more important to to to to try to do something of quality and, you know, just to be good at what you do. And that's what's important and much more so than than the business. And I think, you know, time and time again, we see the business come back to to that kind of quality, that kind of sincerity. If you if you simply follow the trends of business that the art is in danger of being lost.

M6 I can imagine you growing up started off probably the first music you heard was real. Over water, down country music. Probably right around 1970 or something, right? Really, really for the first time. Probably.

F4 You know, I grew up listening to my my parents, Ray Price records and Lefty Frizzell records and and so hearing Willie Nelson for the first time, I mean, being. Hearing the man that wrote the songs, Ray Price was singing, and it was it was a revelation to me and made me just want to find out more about.

F3 So are you guys. Are you guys close to being through shooting or are you are you still much you guys, how long been working it? You know, like months now? Yeah.

M7 Did you ever get the Paul Simon interview?

M8 I'm sorry we missed you in New York and we haven't told them yet, but he wanted to an overload right now. OK, spaceborne you talked to don't have the interaction with William to play on stage with them just to sit down with Matt Dillon. Have you gotten the chance to go to.

M2 Always in the last four years. Well, you know, I can't wait to see it. I bet you've got some great stuff you're seeing with him is great. You guys talk about the film, huh?

M9 OK, good. And a really nice headline on that point, the other, but I want you to tell Steve what you're telling me. We're talking about the bomb blast going on, but Steve didn't see it like that. Barbara was a package that they showed the.

M7 See them all together. It was, yeah, you know, Willie Nelson is a great actor and it's a it's the same quality. That's the strength of character that you see on stage when he's playing plainsong comes through when he's in a movie as well.

F10 And yeah, last night at the Austin Film Society, where they honored and they strung all of his film clips together, it was it was really incredible to see this evolution of Willie Nelson as an actor.

M2 I don't know if that's a great idea to say.

M7 Well, well, I like watching. You know, that's the thing. I mean, that's what makes a great actor. I think he said, do you want to watch?

M2 Someone said, that's the best person ever to play.

M10 And he actually said, as long as I'm on a horse, I've got to go, they're planning to do it this. He's so modest, really so modest. And, uh.

M7 I don't know, you know, I think maybe one of the hardest things in the world to do is to walk around and be yourself.

F10 To sort of tune out all of the preconceived expectation that people might have of you and be yourself and be as gracious as Willie Nelson is and and be as much of a gentleman, you know, I think I think that's not an easy thing. And Willie does.

Lyle Lovett
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson: Still is Still Moving." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 09 Mar. 2002,
(2002, March 09). Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson: Still is Still Moving. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson: Still is Still Moving." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 09, 2002. Accessed May 29, 2022


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