Willie Nelson shares the secret to writer’s block and his approach to songwriting: “I haven’t quit”


At 90, country music icon Willie Nelson proves that age is just a number for the enduring singer-songwriter. Known for his pioneering spirit in the music world, Nelson continues to captivate audiences with his storytelling and songwriting skills.

In his latest book, “Energy Follows Thought,” released in October, Nelson delves into the stories behind his numerous classic songs and describes his creative journey. He said his approach to songwriting comes from an organic process.

“I wrote this thing once that says, ‘I don’t really want to write another song, but don’t tell me.’ It keeps throwing out words and I have to make them rhyme,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s output remains substantial, and the 12-time Grammy winner has released 18 studio albums released in the past decade.

When it comes to the issue of writer’s block, Nelson said it happens to “every songwriter.”

“They get to a point where the well runs dry,” Nelson said. But he said the secret was to “wait”.

Songwriting gives Nelson a sense of accomplishment and joy, especially at this stage of his life.

“I haven’t quit … I’m 90. Maybe I should, but … after every tour. I said, this is it. And then get the desire to go back,” Nelson said.

His introduction to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year was another achievement for Nelson. He performed with artists such as Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews at the event.

“Obviously it was a great honor, you know,” Nelson said. “I know the difference between the Rolling Stones and Hank Williams, but it’s still rock and roll.”

Nelson started out as a songwriter in Texas in 1961. He moved to Nashville to sell his songs, and his breakthrough came when Patsy Cline recorded one of his tunes, “Crazy,” in 1961.

“She heard ‘Crazy,’ loved it,” Nelson said. “Recorded it. One take.”

However, he struggled to find success as a solo artist because he didn’t fit the conventional Nashville mold.

Nelson said he began drinking “too much” and contemplated suicide. To counter these dark thoughts, he began to find solace in positive thinking and eventually stopped drinking altogether.

Nelson reinvented himself when he returned to Texas. Embracing his identity as “The Red-Headed Stranger,” he became America’s favorite outlaw musician.

Now in his 10th decade, Nelson’s passion for life extends beyond music. He maintains a daily routine of martial arts. He started in kung fu, but then switched to jiu-jitsu and judo and taekwondo. Now Nelson has a fifth degree black belt.

Nelson said martial arts give him confidence and help him feel like he has nothing to worry about.

In his songwriting, Nelson often makes light of his age. He has previously said he believes in reincarnation, suggesting a philosophical outlook that underpins his enduring career.

“I don’t think life ever ends, you know?” he said. “And I’ll be back in a minute.”


“Willie Nelson’s 90th Birthday Celebration” airs on CBS this Sunday at 8:30, 7:30 Central, and will be streamed on Paramount Plus. The new Paramount Plus docuseries “Willie Nelson & Family” will stream on December 21st.


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