Willie Nelson premiered key tracks from his upcoming album God's Problem Child last night in Nashville during an intimate interview session for SiriusXM. Seated alongside the record's producer, his longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon, Nelson looked hale and hearty – far from the rumored state of ill health that's been making the rounds online.
Nelson confronted the stories about his being near death, both via song – he played the studio version of cheeky new track "Still Not Dead" – and in the interview. The Red Headed Stranger, who will turn 84 on April 29th, joked that he enjoys the rumors of his demise because "everyone is always so happy to see me."
The singer also addresses his mortality, in a more serious manner, in the new song "Old Timer," written by Donnie Fritz and Lenny LeBlanc. "You think you're still a young bull rider / until you look in the mirror and see an old timer," croons Nelson, who went on to reflect on his late friend Merle Haggard. Together, they gave Haggard his final Number One album with the release of 2015's duets LP Django & Jimmie. (Listen to "Old Timer" below.)
"It was a pretty good way to close the show," Nelson said of Haggard's chart-topper. The last track of God's Problem Child is a tribute to the Hag, "He Won't Ever Be Gone."
With the honky-tonks of Broadway lit up behind him, Nelson also took time to remember drinking at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, one of Nashville's more famous watering holes where artists like Nelson and Hank Williams would congregate after performing at the Grand Ole Opry next door. One night, Nelson says he inexplicably decided to exit the bar and sprawl out in the road.
"It was about midnight and there wasn't a lot of traffic so I went out and laid down on Broadway," he said. "And nothing happened, so I thought, screw this. This ain't as much fun as I thought it was."
Nelson revealed he has already recorded another new album, a project with his musician sons Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson. God's Problem Child is set for release on April 28th. Nelson's SiriusXM interview will air later this month on Willie's Roadhouse (SiriusXM channel 59).