© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Willie Nelson Returns With 'First Rose Of Spring'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Willie Nelson has some new songs on a new album. Do I really need to say anything more than that? It's called "First Rose Of Spring."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRST ROSE OF SPRING")

WILLIE NELSON: (Singing) The first time that he saw her, he knew everything had changed. Overnight, love started blooming like the first rose of spring.

SIMON: Willie Nelson joins us now from his famous ranch outside of Austin. Mr. Nelson, thanks so much for being with us.

NELSON: Sure. My pleasure.

SIMON: I've read that this is the song that kind of got this album started. Is that right?

NELSON: Yeah. Buddy Cannon played it for me, and...

SIMON: Buddy Cannon's your longtime collaborator.

NELSON: Yeah. But I loved it. As soon as I heard it, I said we've got to cut it. It's a true story. The writer's grandparents - every year, he would bring her the first rose of spring. I think it's a beautiful love story.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRST ROSE OF SPRING")

NELSON: (Singing) She colored his life, opened his eyes to things he'd never dream without the first rose of spring.

SIMON: After hearing you sing this song, I don't think I can hear anyone else sing it. But I also don't think I want to hear anyone under the age of 80 sing it.

NELSON: (Laughter) Well, that makes sense, yeah.

SIMON: Do you write every day?

NELSON: No.

SIMON: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

NELSON: Well, you know, if I get an idea, after a while, I write it. I wrote something about the border. "Love On The Border" is the name of it. I said, we have love south of the border, we have love north of the border, but what happened to God's law and order, and what happened to love on the border?

SIMON: Are you going to record that?

NELSON: Oh, yeah. One of these days.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILLIE NELSON SONG, "I'M THE ONLY HELL MY MAMA EVER RAISED")

SIMON: Do you write songs to figure things out?

NELSON: No, I write songs because that's what I came here to do. You know, there's a - I had a song started one time that said I didn't want to write another song, but you can't tell that to my mind. It just keeps sending me out words, and I have to make them rhyme.

SIMON: (Laughter) Have you ever recorded that?

NELSON: No, I haven't.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M THE ONLY HELL MY MAMA EVER RAISED")

NELSON: (Singing) She told me not to smoke it, but I did and it took me far away. And I turned out to be the only hell my mama ever raised.

SIMON: Of course, we're talking in the middle of this pandemic. And a lot of elderly people feel vulnerable right now and taken for granted. You're still very active in all ways, but can you understand their feelings?

NELSON: Yeah, of course I can understand it. You know, who knows? I wrote a song called "Live Every Day Like It's Your Last, And One Day You'll Be Right."

SIMON: (Laughter) You've got a song for everything, damn it, don't you?

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: I guess if you don't have a song for everything by the time you're in your 80s, you know, why have you been on the Earth?

NELSON: Yeah, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M THE ONLY HELL MY MAMA EVER RAISED")

NELSON: (Singing) I turned out to be the only hell my mama ever raised.

SIMON: So let me ask you about this great Billy Joe Shaver song.

NELSON: "We Are The Cowboys."

SIMON: Yeah. You think you're hearing just another cowboy song. Let's hear a little of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE THE COWBOYS")

NELSON: (Singing) The cowboys are riding tall in the saddle. They shoot from the heart with the songs that they play.

SIMON: So you're hearing tall in the saddle, shoot from the heart. And just as you think you know the territory of this cowboy song, in comes this lyric.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE THE COWBOYS")

NELSON: (Singing) Cowboys are average American people, Texicans, Mexicans, Black men and Jews. They love this old world, and they don't want to lose it. They're counting on me, and they're counting on you.

SIMON: Was it important for you to sing this song with that lyric now?

NELSON: Heck yeah. I think we all are included in there. We're all Americans, we're all here for the - trying to get through this life the best we can. And I thought Billy Joe did a good job when he wrote that one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE THE COWBOYS")

NELSON: (Singing) There are those who are blind, so we'll all have to lead them.

SIMON: What do you want us all to know on this Independence Day weekend?

NELSON: Well, we're in a tough spot in practically every category, from health to wealth, you know, and making a living. And there's a lot of people out there that can't go to work. I can't go to work. You know, this is the first time I can remember in my life that I couldn't go somewhere and find somebody to sing to. And - but I don't want a big crowd because I don't want people coming and see me and then getting sick, going home or me getting sick, going home. It's just a bad - really the worst time that I can ever remember. I know it'll pass. Everything does. But in the meantime, you got to be tough to get through this kind of stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILLIE NELSON SONG, "LOVE JUST LAUGHED")

SIMON: Willie Nelson. His new album - until his next one, of course - "First Rose Of Spring." Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

NELSON: Thank y'all very much. Nice talking to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE JUST LAUGHED")

NELSON: (Singing) She said, please don't let me go. I said, I got to let you go. And love just laughed. That's all that I remember. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.