I remember conducting an interview in the early months of my recording career. It was with a foreign TV crew (maybe Japan) and our own record company were fussing around and overseeing the whole procedure. At one point the interviewer asked about our ambitions. I suggested that we’d probably make about three albums then split up. The sound of coffee being spluttered out from collective mouths of the surrounding suits had to be erased in the edit. However my ambition was no different from most musical artists, who really don’t have long term plans.
So it’s been interesting for me to reflect a little on the 70 (seventy!) album career of Willie Nelson who, if anything, has speeded up his rate of creativity since he turned 80. I read Willie’s own autobiography recently which, if no ‘Chronicles’, is a useful guide to how Willie himself sees his own career. Inevitably and gladly, for me, there is more space given to the early lean years than the Grammy laden ones. What I enjoyed most about filling in the gaps in Willie’s career was how much he loved being a radio DJ in the early days. From location to location starting in Texas and moving north and south again Willie made a living on the radio. It confirmed something I’ve always half-known: singer-songwriters enjoy sharing songs we love by others as much as we enjoy playing our own music.
On this week’s Another Country we will celebrate some of the highlights from those seventy albums which have brought so much pleasure. You may have a favourite Willie Nelson album of your own. I have so many, but I still love the album that coincided with his freedom from the constraints of Music Row – The Troublemaker. You can let me know which albums still work for you, but it would be remiss of me not to point out that, like Bob Dylan, Willie’s late life catalogue brings particular joy. Country Music, Heroes and Django and Jimmie have all brought pleasure. The new album, there’s always a new Willie album, is spinning and bringing joy as I write. I don’t expect to see Willie play live again, but I’m grateful for the nights when I saw and heard him.
We will spend a little time on the water in the second hour of the show. Most of us are doing our holidays nearer home this year so we thought it might be good to let our imaginations do it a bit of sailing so we can dream a little. It all started a couple of weeks back when we were reflecting on Lyle Lovett’s, ‘If I Had A Boat’ and I promised a little voyage one of these nights. Well, this week’s the week. So get ready to embark. The boat sets sail at five past eight this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland and we need all the passengers on board on time. Join us if you can.