There're the parts of our lies we live inside ourselves, the places we don't show other people ... maybe don't even want to see ourselves.
And I know you know. That's the thing about music: it goes to places we don't mean to. It finds us when we're not looking ... and those are usually the times and places we need it most.
I will try to scan the article in later, but for now ... here's just the text.
Sometimes you can't know when the tide is turning ... when something's changed. Just suddenly, it has. It wasn’t something you set out to do, but there you are. And it happens in all kinds of different ways.
When I asked Willie Nelson to sing “That Lucky Old Sun” with me, I wasn’t really sure what it was for. I just knew it was how I felt on the back of my boat, watching the sun move across the sky – and times seem to stop in midair. It’s a pretty good feeling to let the day melt into the sunset and watch the stars come out.
Having grown up listening to Stardust, Willie’s voice was one of those voices that meant that to me. Just being. In the moment. Right where you are. Not chasing something, building something. Breathing.
So, it was something that I wanted to do. Just because.
When we did it, I was blown away. Maybe it’s the fan in me, going, “That’s me … and Willie Nelson,” but I think there’s something about being in a studio with Willie that’s like not other experience. It may be y favorite thing I’d recorded to that point.
Songs cut for no particular reason are funny. They float around; they keep popping up. When it’s something like “That Lucky Old Sun”, they really want to find a home, to be heard. You want to share it with people, but you also want to do it right … put it in the context it deserves to be in.
I always thought after Be As You Are, there would be another island record. I didn’t know when or what, but I knew a lot of what makes the islands such a refuge for me hadn’t been explored. I thought “That Lucky Old Sun” would be good for that, but I also wanted people to hear it beyond my bus or my house or my boat.
That’s when my manager [Clint Higham] got the call from Willie’s manager. About producing a record on him. The kind of thing you don’t dream. Clint said Willie’s manager told him he hadn’t enjoyed working in the studio so much in a very long time … and would we like to produce an album on him.
Buddy Cannon, my producer, and I were beyond blown away. Willie’s voice is America … and he wanted us to help him make a record. The answer was obvious: YES! We started looking for songs … started listening to what Willie was writing … started thinking of places that weren’t obvious, all songs as good as Buddy and I think Willie is.
Bob Dylan. Dave Matthews. Randy Newman. His friend Kris Kristofferson. Guy Clark. Willie’s “Over You Again” and “Always Now”. A song I wrote on my boat called “I’m Alive”.
Moment of Forever was the kind of album I’d always loved from Willie: songs from his soul … sung from a quieter place, even when he was rocking. You listen to the vocal on Dave Matthew’s “Gravedigger” , and you’ll see what I mean.
Working with Willie kind of changed the way I saw some of what I do.
Because I will always be the guy who wants to get out there on stage with all my friends – and that especially means the fans, ‘cause you guys make the party – and have a good time. There is something so magical about those songs, the way people come together for a few hours over the course of the day and forget whatever’s bothering them.
I get that. But I also get that like most people, there’s more to them than that moment. There’re the parts of our lives we live inside ourselves, the places we don’t show other people … maybe don’t even want to see ourselves.
And I know you know. That’s the thing about music: it goes to places we don’t mean to. It finds us when we’re not looking … and those are usually the times and places we need it most.
Lucky Old Sun is definitely like that. In some ways, Be As You Are is – and I think I’ve said this – a map to the places I drink beer in the islands. Lucky Old Sun is a map of my soul, and the way the water helped me find my way back from a pretty rough place.
When my marriage [to Renee Zellweger] broke apart [Sept. 15, 2005, after four months], I can’t begin to explain how that felt. Until you’ve been there, you can’t know. I think you sort of have to feel it, accept it before you can even begin to crawl out of it … and that’s where making Willie’s record really helped.
I’d started writing some of these songs – “Nowhere to Go, Nowhere to Be”, “Spirit of a Storm”, “Way Down Here”, even “I’m Alive” –because I needed to. For me. I didn’t know whether they’d ever find a hoe on a record, but I knew they wanted to be written. So with a few friends, that’s what we did.
It wasn’t to be something, just to be. And boy, was it.
I think that’s the way this record came together, too. No idea of what, just that we had these songs, and they came out of my life, and they showed people a side of me you don’t get to see in one of the records we make with singles and all that.
Out on the road over the last couple years, I have to say: the people who come out, who sing along, have made me feel pretty loved, pretty accepted. When I come down front with my acoustic guitar and play something, I can tell, you’re listening.
That’s what made me think, “People want to hear this side fro me. They want to know those places we normally don’t just open up to people with.” It was the fans who made me believe it was better to make a record that’s right now, right in the moment rather than later.
It’s a record, too, about friendship. Not just Willie, but Dave Matthews and Mac McAnally. Making new friends like the Wailers Band. Because music does that. Whether it’s people meeting in the paring lot at one of our stadium shows, or me going to Jamaica and sitting down with Junior Marvin and “Family Man” Barrett.
Dave actually came out to our last shows in Atlanta last year –because he was playing across town the next night –and hung out. He’s very similar in how he see the world. It amazes me how different we are, yet how much we have in common.
And Mac McAnally, what can you say? When I came to town, he was everything you wanted to be as a songwriter and a person. I’ve always loved “Down the Road”; it was so simple and perfect. It was finding a project where it worked.
Cutting it was great. But to have Mac come in and sing with me? I remember listening to the track during my birthday party … literally taking people out of the party to hear it … that’s what a gift it was to me.
This albums’ like that. Gifts you might not see. “Boats” came from an unlikely moment. People were watching me with binoculars –and unless you’ve been watched like that, you can’t know how strange that feels.
Rather than going inside, the more free-spirited part of me jumped in a dinghy and went over. They were surprised, but we had a beer – and the man and his daughter told me the story of his boat. That his wife had cancer and died; he didn’t know what to do, so he sold everything, bought this boat.
He’d sailed it all the way down the coast, into the Caribbean. For him, that boat became not just his life, but like the songs says, it was a “vessel of healing”. Lots of people sail away to sort themselves out, to find another life or something.
What struck me was he’d lost everything … watched the woman he loved die very slowly … and this is where he found himself again. That hit me: people go through stuff, but they don’t just find ways to get through it, they find ways to fall back in love with life.
To hear his story, knowing what he’d been through, was pretty cool. Realizing the water – whether it’s the islands, Florida, or the coast of Mexico, even up in New England or California, the Great Lakes or the Gulf Coast – is so healing, that’s what makes this record special to me.
To me, that’s what this stuff – life, love music – is all about. You’ll get disappointed along the way, but being willing to be there, to find some joy in the pain and know you’re gonna get through it. That’s where Lucky Old Sun came from, and I hope some of these songs can help somebody else get through their stuff, too.
Again, I will try to upload the pictures later on tonight.
But what I want to know is ... what did you think of Lucky Old Sun? Love it, loathe it, in the middle?