Willie Nelson is on the road again – and this time he’s getting inspiration from ol’ blue eyes.
The 85-year-old country singer/songwriter, who is on the cover of AARP The Magazine’s June/July 2018 issue, revealed he’s currently at work creating a collection of Frank Sinatra covers.
While the entire playlist wasn’t mentioned, Nelson did share one of those songs happens to be 1969’s “My Way.”
And while some fans may be surprised by the latest musical move, Nelson insisted the decision to channel Sinatra at this point in his career was an easy one.
“I learned a lot about phrasing listening to Frank,” he explained. “He didn’t worry about behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever – he could sing it either way, and that’s the feel you have to have.”
And Nelson is more than just a fan of the beloved crooner, who passed away in 1998 at age 82 from a heart attack. AARP noted that in the ‘80s, Sinatra once opened for Nelson at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. The pair also appeared together in a PSA for NASA.
While their musical styles were completely different, Nelson Sinatra was actually a close friend.
However, Sinatra isn’t the only icon Nelson has gotten inspiration from. Country music legend Hank Williams was noted as one of Nelson’s influences from over the years.
“He was an incredible writer, sang with so much feeling,” he explained. “He was a sick man from the time he was born till he died, a sick man. He had a bad back and was always on some kind of pain medication or alcohol or whatever it took to get him up to the show.
"And he had a hard life. Died at 29. But nobody wrote better songs than Hank. It was the simplicity, melody and a line anybody could understand.”
But Nelson himself has influenced legends, including The King.
“Yeah, I met him a couple of times,” said Nelson about encountering Elvis Presley. “He did ‘Always on My Mind’ and ‘Night Life.’”
Still, it was undeniable Presley struggled as an artist who was addicted to prescription pills and attempting to find his place in an ever-changing industry during his later years. Presley died in 1977 at age 42 from a heart attack that could have possibly been stemmed from an overdose.
“Well, it ain’t easy,” said Nelson on why Presley had such a hard time with fame. “Once you think it’s easy, you’re in trouble. [To achieve fame] you’ve got to want it. And then, when you get it, you’ve got to still want it. A lot of people, when they get it, say: ‘Wait a minute, this is too much.’”
Even Sinatra faced obstacles in the ‘70s when he released several pop songs that didn’t quite make the same mark as his earlier hits.
“You’ve got these guys over here saying you out to do this and those guys over here saying you ought to do that,” said Nelson. “Next thing, you don’t know what to do.”
Nelson admitted that in his past, singing the same sad songs night after night caused him to drink.
“Whenever me or George Jones or whoever is singing those sad songs, there’s people out there that can relate to it, and that’s good,” he said. “The problem can be that getting in that emotional state to sing that sad song to make all those people happy, you’re really putting yourself in a negative situation where you want to drink more.”
But these days, Nelson is savoring the lasting success of his career by staying creative.
As for the secret of life? He insisted it’s simple. – Do things your way.
“Do what you want to do,” he said. “If I don’t want to do it, forget it. But if I do want to do it, get out of my goddamn way.”