New year, same ol’ Willie: 2024 just as busy for Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson
Photo: KXT archives

You didn’t think a new year would slow Willie Nelson down, did you?

For as incredibly prolific as his just-concluded 90th year turned out to be, the Texas legend is more or less picking up where he left off, and starting 2024 at a brisk pace. The New York Times, in a laudatory late December profile, celebrated his iconoclasm: “The turnaround came when he … decided to be fully himself, not only in his musical approach, but in how he presented himself to the world.”

The biggest happening actually happened at the tail end of December, when Paramount Plus debuted the four-part “Willie Nelson & Family” documentary (which KXT first told you about, well … about a year ago), directed by Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman.

“Words like ‘honored,’ ‘excited,’ and ‘humbled’ don’t come close to describing the way we feel about being entrusted with telling Willie’s story,” Zimny and Moverman said in a joint statement in 2022. “And what a story it is! We are celebrating the music, the career, the long road, the family, friends, and history. But, more than anything, we are piecing together a narrative — one never before seen in its entirety — about an extraordinary man with a unique ability to bring people together; folks of all races, orientations, genders, political ideologies, and musical leanings. These days, we sure could use the healing powers of Willie Nelson.”

A pleasant surprise to kick off 2024 came in the form of a collaboration with Dallas-raised singer-songwriter Charley Crockett, titled “That’s What Makes the World Go Around,” a one-off single that dropped just after New Year’s Day.

According to reports, Crockett fielded a call from Nelson, who was recording at Pedernales Recording Studio, and had an urge to record a tune, if Crockett had any he could share. “I told him I had plenty,” Crockett said in a statement. “We fired ‘em off to Spicewood where [Nelson] sang and took a ride on one that very next day. When I heard him come in singing on his first line, I shed a tear. Then his leads on Trigger hit, and I was crying!”

Elsewhere, Nelson is back on the big screen — playing himself — in the new film “Willie & Me,” which is due out in theaters and video-on-demand on Feb. 9. Written, directed and starring Eva Hassmann, the film, which features director Peter Bogdanovich’s final screen appearance, is a semi-autobiographical work about a Nelson fan’s trip to see his “farewell” performance in Las Vegas.

Last but not least, a pair of artists — Fort Worth’s Juan Velazquez and Burleson’s Travis Avila — recently began work on a mural in Hillsboro, paying tribute to Nelson, who originally hails from that neck of the woods.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.