Willie Nelson’s New Book ‘Energy Follows Thought’ – A Deep Dive

Hey there, music lovers! We’ve got some exciting insights into the world of country legend Willie Nelson and his incredible seven decades of songwriting. If you’ve ever wondered about his creative process, or perhaps how he’s managed to maintain his songwriting mojo at the age of 90, you’re in for a treat.

Nelson in 2012. (Photo by Charles SykesInvisionAP, File)
Nelson in 2012. (Photo by Charles SykesInvisionAP, File)

Willie Nelson, the man whose guitar is practically an extension of his body, surprised us all with a little-known fact: he begins his songwriting journey with words, not strumming chords. Yep, that’s right, he dives into the deep end by tackling the lyrics first. As he puts it, that’s the hard part, and it sets the foundation for his musical magic.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Willie confessed that, for him, melodies are a piece of cake compared to crafting those lyrical gems. It’s a unique approach, but it clearly works for the country legend.

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What’s even more intriguing is that Willie doesn’t jot down those precious lyrics, not even on a napkin. He’s got a theory about it – if you can’t remember the words, then maybe it wasn’t all that great to begin with. Wise words from a true songwriting maestro.

But did you know that Willie’s journey as a songwriter began at the tender age of 6 in Depression-era Texas? It all started with a simple verse he crafted in response to some judgmental looks he received while picking his nose and getting a nosebleed in front of his church congregation. His poetic response was, “What are you looking at me for? I ain’t got nothin to say, if you don’t like the looks of me, look some other way.” That was the spark that ignited his songwriting flame.

In the 1950s and early ’60s, before he became a superstar, Willie was just another struggling songwriter hanging out at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville. Back in 1961, he penned some tunes that became hits for other artists. One of these hits was “Crazy,” sung by the legendary Patsy Cline, which not only put a smile on Willie’s face but also filled his pockets. It was a defining moment that made him realize he’d be “crazy” to stop writing.

While many of Willie’s most iconic songs were written by other talented songsmiths, like “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” he never really retired from songwriting. In the 1980 Nelson-starring film “Honeysuckle Rose,” he was encouraged by director Sydney Pollack to write a new song, “On The Road Again,” and that song turned out to be a reflection of his life’s journey.

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As time passed, Willie’s songwriting became less frequent. After all, songwriting can be a young person’s game, and the ideas don’t flow quite as effortlessly as they used to. But he hasn’t given up on it entirely, as he recently composed the song “Energy Follows Thought,” the title track of his 2022 album, “A Beautiful Time.”

In his new book, “Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs,” co-authored by David Ritz and Mickey Raphael, Willie delves into the backstories of 160 songs he’s written throughout his illustrious career. This book wasn’t necessarily a result of deep reflection; it was suggested by his business associates, making it a testament to the evergreen nature of his musical legacy.

And what’s the cherry on top of Willie’s 90th birthday year? Well, he was celebrated by fellow music stars, including Neil Young and Snoop Dogg, in a two-night extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl. Plus, he’s set to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Unlike some, Willie doesn’t worry about musical genres; he believes that rock ‘n’ roll can find its place in any genre, and he’s proof of that.

So, there you have it, a peek into the incredible journey of Willie Nelson’s songwriting. Words first, melodies second, and a whole lot of musical magic in between. Cheers to the Red-Headed Stranger!

About Shauna "WhiskeyChick" Castorena

Shauna "WhiskeyChick" Castorena is a freelance writer for both Country Music News and Country Music On Tour. Want to collab on some content? Email me. Want my rates for commercial promo work? Get them right here.

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