Candid conversation with music icon Willie Nelson

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by JASON WHITELY

WFAA

Posted on February 23, 2013 at 12:25 AM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 6:59 PM

WINNIE, Texas — With a population of 3,400, almost everyone in this Chambers County town 60 miles east of Houston turned out recently when Willie Nelson paid a visit.

For at least 90 minutes a night, several times a week, Willie Nelson is in front of an audience somewhere. KVUE's sister station WFAA went on the road with him as well for a candid conversation with the music icon who turns 80 years old in April.

WFAA: "Are you smoking any more or less marijuana these days?"

WILLIE: "I think so (laughs). I think you nailed it right there."

He's approaching a big birthday but not counting the calendar.

WILLIE: "I've gotten to do a lot of things I've wanted to do."

WFAA: "Anything you haven't done?"

WILLIE: "If there is, I don't remember! (laughs)!"

Nelson has recorded with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Barbra Streisand, has seven Grammys, 200 albums, and a new one called "Let's Face The Music And Dance" due out within weeks.

If his legacy isn't already established, he said he hasn't given it much thought.

WILLIE: "Oh, I don't know. I'm 80 years old practically now. So fifteen years from now,  probably nobody will give a damn. 'Willie who?'"

Willie Nelson is modest and humble.

He performs in New Balance tennis shoes and stays in shape by cycling and with Tae Kwon Do.

WFAA: "You always seem so optimistic and so positive. What upsets Willie Nelson?"

WILLIE: "I like the way things are going. I have a positive attitude about the future. I have always — I haven't always, I take that back — somewhere along the way, I decided that it's better to think positive than negative. That was a huge turnaround for me."

Coming up on 80, Willie Nelson has no plans to retire. But if there's a second generation of music in this family it's his 24-year-old son Lukas, already a dynamic musician in his own right.

"When I was young, probably 10 or 11, I asked my dad what he wanted for his birthday and he said, 'I want you to learn how to play a guitar,'" Lukas recalled.

Lukas can sound a lot like Willie, but his talent on the guitar is much more complex. During one song while opening for his father, Lukas pulled the electric guitar up to his face and started playing it with his teeth.

Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn influenced Lukas. But the 24-year-old doesn't discount his dad's direction.

"He was also very helpful guitar-wise,” Lukas said. “He said, 'Lukas, you're good.' — I must have been acting up — he said, 'Lukas, you're good... but you're not that good.'"

WFAA: "You said you wouldn't allow them on stage if they weren't good."

WILLIE: "If they weren't good, no."

Willie Nelson is the patriarch of pop country, the elder statesman of cool, and approaching 80 he still lives the life he loves.

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