Willie Nelson In a Writing Mood: Releases Album of Originals, With Another Set for Fall

Willie Nelson
iTunes Festival at SXSW

Willie Nelson performs at the iTunes Festival at SXSW on March 15, 2014

"Band of Brothers" arrives June 17. The prolific artist will be releasing another originals-heavy album, "December Day," recorded with his band, in the fall

Willie Nelson says he only had to look as far as "Band of Brothers" producer Buddy Cannon to get him writing again.

"He produced the album, but he's also a great writer and we're good together," Nelson tells Billboard. He and Cannon collaborated on nine of the 14 tracks for "Band of Brothers," which comes out June 17 and marks the American music icon's first release in years to feature primarily his own original material. 

"We had a sort of formula that worked. I'd come up with an idea I'd send him, just me and the guitar, just one take on it, and he would take that into the studio and hire musicians and cut the whole track from that, then I'd go back and put my vocal on it. So it was an easy album to cut, really."

However, Nelson adds, he doesn't really keep tabs on how much he's writing versus how much he's recording other people's material. 

"With writing, some days you feel like doing it, some days you don't," explains Nelson, who also recorded songs by Vince Gill, Billy Joe Shaver, Billy Burnette and others for "Band of Brothers." "A lot of times you get an idea and you have to write about it, or at least I do. The ones you have to write are usually the ones that become the best songs."

A case in point from the new album is "The Wall," on which Nelson sings about "a pretty rough year" in his life. 

"I kind of overbooked myself, I guess, and like they say I hit the wall," he says. "I had a shoulder problem and had to go to Germany for, like, an orthoscopic kind of surgery; they take out the blood and recharge it with something and put it back in and that fixes the problem, or at least makes it feel better. George Clooney turned me on to this guy, and while I was over there Kobe Bryant was there. It's a four or five day process, but it was worth it."

"Band of Brothers" isn't the only new music we'll be hearing from Nelson this year. In the fall he'll be releasing "December Day," which he recorded with his regular band. Nelson says the set has "about eight or nine originals" including "Back To Earth" and "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" as well a version of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band." 

"I've been waiting to put one out with me and the band for a long time," Nelson says. "These are songs we've been playing for a long time. I really like working with the guys we had for ('Band of Brothers') and anyone else I record with, but I really wanted to do something with my band, too."

Nelson is currently on the road with Alison Krauss + Union Station and will host his annual Fourth of July Picnic this year at Billy Bob's Texas in Forth Worth.