In “One by Willie,” Texas Monthly’s John Spong hosts intimate conversations with a range of prominent guests about the Willie Nelson songs that mean the most to them. But this series isn’t just about the songs. It’s about what music really means to us—the ways it can change us, take care of us, and connect us all. Songs featured in the episodes can be found on Apple Music. Listen here.
S2 E9: Sheryl Crow on “Crazy” (special Willie’s Bday episode)
This week, we celebrate Willie’s 88th birthday with singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, who discusses what may be the single best-known song that Willie ever wrote, “Crazy.” She’ll walk us through what it means to compose a pop standard, explaining the differences she hears in Patsy Cline’s original, 1961 version and the one that Willie still does nightly, but she’ll also describe what it does to her heart when she hears her 10-year-old son singing “Crazy” in the kitchen. And then she’ll get into her long friendship with Willie…and that time he tried to pass a backstage joint to her dad.
S2 E8: Rodney Crowell on "Bloody Mary Morning"
Even though singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell had already been a diehard Willie fan for 10 years when Phases and Stages came out in 1974, he says he was positively gobsmacked by the album’s lead single, “Bloody Mary Morning.” On this episode he dives deep into all that, then goes on to describe his first recording session with Willie a few years later...including the red Camaro he saw doing donuts outside the studio when he got there. And you will not guess who was driving.
S2 E7: Robert Earl Keen on "Mr. Record Man"
Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen first heard “Mr. Record Man” as a pre-teen Houston kid who’d just raided his older brother’s record collection. It’s another deep cut off Willie’s 1962 debut album, and it makes Keen think of a dance floor mishap at his first Willie show, the time his car caught fire in the parking lot at Willie’s 4th of July Picnic, and that uncanny Everyman quality that is such a big part of Willie’s appeal. Songs from this and other episodes from One By Willie are featured on our Apple Music playlist: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/one-by-willie-a-texas-monthly-podcast/pl.u-b3b8VdgFKWje4Wv
S2 E6: Shakey Graves on "Always On My Mind"
Singer-songwriter Shakey Graves—who answers to Alejandro Rose-Garcia when he’s not onstage—discusses Willie’s biggest pop hit singing solo, “Always on My Mind.” It had been one of Elvis Presley’s signature songs of the '70s before Willie covered it in 1982, and Alejandro explains how Willie managed to pull off the impossible: stealing a song from Elvis. Then he describes the undying appeal of a good power ballad and that surreal time he signed Willie’s guitar.
S2 E5: Rosanne Cash on "Night Life"
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, a four-time Grammy winner and certified roots music royalty, examines “Night Life,” one of Willie’s first compositions to earn its way into the American musical canon. It’s a song that makes her nostalgic for the clean-cut, smooth-crooning Willie of the early ‘60s, but also brings up the effect of a Depression-era upbringing on artists like Willie and her dad, Johnny Cash. Oh, and she also breaks out her cell phone to play one of her favorite covers of “Night Life”—by none other than Aretha Franklin.
S2 E4: T Bone Burnett on "I Just Can't Let You Say Goodbye"
Acclaimed producer T Bone Burnett (Counting Crows’ August And Everything After; the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack; dozens of others) discusses one of the darkest songs Willie ever wrote: the early-60s murder ballad “I Just Can’t Let You Say Goodbye.” The song debuted on Willie’s 1966 album Live at Panther Hall in Fort Worth, Texas, and T Bone talks about being in the audience that night—because of course he was; he’s T Bone Burnett—along with what it was like to produce Willie himself (2010’s Country Music), and why he calls Willie a holy man.