The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #25 – Gabrielle Stravelli

The acclaimed jazz and pop vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli joins Paul to talk about her first major album of distinctive original songs “Dream Ago” produced by David Cook. Called an “outstanding singer” by the Wall Street Journal and “hotter than the equator” by The Village Voice, Gabrielle Stravelli is an emerging sensation in New York’s jazz and supper clubs, who is gathering recognition and a following around the nation and beyond.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #11 – Renee Olstead

Hey. It’s Me. A great singer cannot be limited to a singular style, like jazz or country. Singer, recording artist and actress Renee Olstead is an example of this. Known by many for nostalgic interpretations of American Songbook standards, the Texas-born Olstead is exploring the emotional sounds of country music. Her latest single “Help Me Make It Through the Night” is generating considerable excitement on the internet.

The thing that is intriguing about Renee Olstead is how versatile she is. You could imagine her fitting in effortlessly on the set of a movie in LA, behind the microphone at a jazz club or a smoky Honky-tonk. Well, we’re just glad she thought she’d fit in here on The Paul Leslie Hour.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #1 – Willie Nelson

A postcard I wrote ended up in Willie Nelson’s hands.  He responded warmly.

For episode #1 of The Paul Leslie Hour, I want to invite you on Willie Nelson’s tour bus for an honest and light-hearted conversation with the man himself.

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Jimmy Webb: Singer, Songwriter, Recording Artist

Jimmy Webb is the writer of songs like “Up, Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston.” Jimmy Webb’s songs have been covered and performed by artists ranging from Glen Campbell, the 5th Dimension, The Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Joe Cocker, John Denver and Elvis Presley. According to BMI, his song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was the third most performed song from 1940 to 1990. Jimmy Webb is the only artist to have ever received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics and orchestration.

Jimmy Webb was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame by Actor Michael Douglas in 1999. He was inducted onto the Board of Directors for the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in early 2000 and currently serves on the Board of Directors for ASCAP. In 2010, he released “Just Across the River,” featuring many of his most well known songs and duets featuring the likes of Glen Campbell, Vince Gill, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Michael McDonald, Mark Knopfler, J. D. Souther and Linda Ronstadt.

Billy English: Drummer

 BILLY ENGLISH is the drummer for Willie Nelson and the brother of Willie’s longtime drummer and friend Paul English.


Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our great pleasure to welcome our special guest on this episode of The Paul Leslie Hour, Mr. Billy English. Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you Paul. It’s an honor to speak with you today.

The pleasure is all mine. So I want to kind of go back a little bit. What was life like growing up in your house?

Lots of music. My brother, Paul, has been with Willie Nelson for 45 years. Early on he played trumpet. We had an older brother, the oldest, and uh, Oliver. He was a utility guy. He played many instruments but his primary instrument was guitar so he was a guitar teacher. There was a lot of music in our house all the time, lots of celebrations. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we had so many cousins that play, we would, you know, it would always turned into a jam session (laughs). And also, my oldest brother would take me to jam sessions that he would have with his friends. He started me out on guitar and that was my primary instrument in the beginning because, since he was guitar teacher, he wanted to teach me theory. It was a great education for me. And he also helped Paul with trumpet and Paul took trumpet lessons. So, although Paul and I are both drummers, neither one of us started out as drums being our primary instrument (laughs). Suffice it to say, there was a lot of music around our house.

Now, your parents – were they encouraging of you all being into music?
Absolutely. They would have supported anything that, any career path we would have chosen, I’m sure. They were not professional musicians. Our dad did play, uh, guitar in church – just rhythm guitar at church. We were raised Pentecostal. We were very avid church-goers. They would have supported us no matter, uh, which career, like I said, we would had chosen.

 The music playing around the house on the radio or what have you – what kind of music was that?
A lot of it was country and gospel.

So how did you get interested in percussion?
In school. Around middle school I had a great music teacher, Mr. Pearce, at William James Junior High School in Fort Worth, Texas where I grew up. I was already playing guitar. He had several bands, a select string group. I played guitar in that. I just took up the drums, I think just because they needed someone in the percussion section and I was interested. And so when I started out in junior high school, they would alternate you. One day you would play bass drum, one day you would play orchestral snare, another day you would play auxiliary percussion, you know, triangle, shaker, so forth. And then I got more interested in it so I joined the marching band. So that’s how I got interested in drums and I only took a few private lessons so, as far as drum-wise, I’m pretty much self-taught. But that’s, that’s about the time in my life that I really became serious about drums – around middle school.

How did you become acquainted, the first time you became exposed to this gentleman, Willie Nelson?
You know what? I don’t remember the first time because I was so young, because my brother has been with him – well, consistently for the last 45 years but he has known him and been in contact with him longer than that. But I would go to some of their shows when I was just very young. Whenever I was about 20 years old, that was the first time that I ever had the opportunity and honor of playing with Willie. But no one really knew who he was. He was writing hit songs, but for other artists. And Paul was doing everything on the road. He booked the gigs, collected the money, drove the station wagon – there were six of us. That’s when I was, I was really exposed to Willie, whenever I had the, uh, opportunity to travel with him. I did play drums on a good part of the show then because Paul was collecting the money and handling so much of the business end of it. He did everything, in fact. But I don’t recall our very first meeting but I was very, very young.

How did you come to become a touring member of Willie Nelson’s band? And what is it like being a member of the band?
The way it came about was I was playing drums for an evangelist out of Fort Worth, Texas named Kenneth Copeland. He had a large band, like a huge swing bang, but all the songs, of course, had gospel lyrics and gospel messages. And, uh, he was a singer. Plus, he would bring in guest singers as well. Well, I had been working with him and traveling with him for about four years. And Paul called me one day and said that his drum tech had left, had quit – that’s the gentleman that sets up the drums for Paul – and he asked me if I would be interested in doing that for him. And I said ‘I would love to do that.’ Because Paul is considerably older than me so, uh, by the time I got old enough to know him, you know, he had already left the nest, so to speak. So this was an opportunity for me to travel on the road with my brother, ride on the same bus, set up the drums for him. It was a wonderful experience and I think, because up to that point all I had ever done, all I had ever known up to that point, was music and playing. And so I think he knew that I wouldn’t stick around forever unless I got to play some (laughs). And he was so gracious, he said, well – ‘cause I was hired, like I said, just to, just to set up the drums. So I was setting up the drums, loading the truck, and I, you know, I got roadie’s pay – and still very, very good pay – but that’s how it started. And he, to keep me around I think, he was gracious enough to say ‘Why don’t you integrate some percussion into our show?’ And Willie said it was OK to do so. And so I started playing some bongos, some triangles, some shakers, wind chimes, things of that nature. And then as it progressed, Paul, being the gracious wonderful brother that he is, he allowed me to play a few songs on drums. So we started switching off and he would play percussion on a few songs and I would play drums on a few songs. And as far as what it’s like? It’s wonderful. It’s still a hard life because we live on the bus. You know, we go to the venue early in the day and we don’t play sometimes ‘til very late. But tonight, for example, is the sixth consecutive one-nighter that we’ve done and we’ve done some fairly high mileage. A couple of, over 500 miles per night and played the next day. So, it’s not easy but it’s all worth it for that hour-and-a-half on stage that you get to play with Willie Nelson and for his adoring fans. So it’s all worth it for that and it’s wonderful to be able to travel with my brother.

You mentioned a lot of percussion instruments there. You said bongos, triangles. With all the different kinds of percussion that you play, have there been drummers or percussionists that have influenced your style?

Well, I just listen to all types of music. A lot of my favorite drummers – some of my favorite drummers are also great percussionists. Alex Acuña, for example. He’s world renowned as a percussionist but he’s also a great drummer. There are a lot of professional, uh, percussionists like that, that people aren’t aware of, that are terrific drummers. And I listen to all sorts of music as far a drummers – Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Smith, Stanton Moore. Stanton Moore is a friend of mine, just a fantastic drummer from New Orleans. But every time I listen to any, any song I’m always analyzing the rhythm section – the percussion as well as the bass part and the drum groove.

You’ve played with other musicians and other bands. Is playing with Willie Nelson – is it a different experience in terms of what is expected when you’re playing percussion?
It is. Willie is a very trusting individual and he – although the stage is his domain. He does dictate what goes on the stage. You know, that’s the one place that’s his area. He is kind enough to leave it up to our musical discrepancy to be professional enough to listen to the song and play, emotionally, what’s musically appropriate for the song. And a lot of times, with some artist, you don’t have that freedom. And if Willie does want something changed, he’s not specific, musically specific, about it. He may say ‘That sounds really good but can you simplify it a bit?’ So he is different in that way but it’s in a very good way, you know? He trust you. If you’re on that stage with him then he trusts you.

Have you recorded with Willie Nelson in the studio?
I have but it’s been awhile. Yeah, he has, uh, a studio in Spotswood, I don’t know, 30 or 35 miles outside of Austin. That’s where his golf course is and recording studio. Well, actually I recorded with him before I started working with him. I don’t remember when I got the call but Paul called me and said ‘Do you want to play on this album with us?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I’d love to.’ And it was Red Headed Stanger and it was way before Willie had his studio. It was at Autumn Sound in Garland, Texas, near Dallas. That was Willie’s – technically, his second million-seller in country music period. The first one was the Outlaw album. I believe that’s correct. But for Willie, that was his – just Willie, as an artist – that was his first platinum album. That was done, like I said, at Autumn Sound in Garland, Texas. But we have done a few recordings in his studio and at the Pedernales over the years. We just haven’t done any in the last few years.

When you’re performing, is there a Willie Nelson song that is most meaningful to you?

That is most meaningful for me? That’s a terrific question. He’s such a great writer. There are a lot of songs that he has written that the public is not aware of. Actually, my favorite Willie Nelson song we don’t do on stage but it’s a, to me, a timeless song and it’s called Will You Remember Mine?. Like I said, it’s timeless. It’s something about ‘when you hold’ – now, after they have broken up – ‘Now when you hold another’s hand will you think of mine? When you kiss another’s lips will you think of mine? Will you remember mine?’ Excuse me, which is the name of the song, Will You Remember Mine? That is actually my favorite Willie Nelson song. It really, really touches me and I feel that it’s just timeless.


One of the interesting things about this program for me is as I’ve been talking to, like, Mickey Raphael and your brother, Paul English, they’ve told me a lot of interesting stories about people that you’ve met on the road. You get the opportunity to meet people that most people maybe would never get to meet. Leon Russell. Ray Price. Those are some of the people I’ve heard about. Who have you met through performing with Willie Nelson that has been especially memorable for you?
Oh, another great question (laughs). If I have to narrow it down to one, actually Ray Price would definitely be near the top of my list. I’d say Merle Haggard also. Merle has always been one of my heroes. We did a tour not that long ago called Last of the Breed and it consisted of Ray Price and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. I just thought it was just one of the greatest tours that I’ve ever had the honor to be part of. So I would probably say Merle – Merle Haggard.

This was a tough question for Mickey Raphael to answer but he had a really good story for us so I’m going to ask you the same question. What has been the most memorable story that you have from performing with Willie Nelson and the Family Band?

I think, to me, one of the most memorable stories would be when we were asked to play for Jimmy Carter whenever he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is kind of on the serious side but it, it stands out in my memory. We flew to Oslo, Norway. There was Santana – there were about a half-dozen more acts – but he and Willie have had a good relationship over the years. It’s pretty common knowledge. That night that we played for Jimmy Carter receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Willie called Jimmy Cater out on the stage just before we played a note and he said ‘Here’s a song that I’d like to do for a very close friend of mine.’ And he just put his hand on Jimmy Carter’s shoulder – in fact, he hugged him – and then he turned to the mic and sang Georgia and there was not a dry eye in the house. It was a very – I mean, including myself. It was a very touching, moving moment. And we had a friend of ours that’s Norwegian and he translated the newspaper for us the next day, and it said that that was the highlight of the evening. That was quite an honor and it, it stands out in my memory still today. Thank you.

Would you believe I was going to ask you about that? Because I had seen a YouTube video of Jimmy Carter playing harmonica – I don’t know which gig this was but it was Jimmy Carter playing with Willie Nelson. This might have been in Atlanta.

Well, a few years back we played on the steps of his – I think it was his high school. Yeah, that, that may have been it. I don’t know. That was kind of fun, too (laughs).

What is the best thing about being Billy English?

The best thing about being Billy English – I get to, I get to travel with two of my heroes, Paul English and Willie Nelson. And I get to play music for fans almost all over the world. And I get to meet wonderful people, establish great friendships everywhere I go. It’s just an honor to play with Willie. I mean, he is a legend and I’m very fortunate to be here and I know it. It makes me smile. It makes me happy (laughs).

For my last question – our special guest has been Billy English – we have listeners all over the place, thanks to the power of the internet. What would you like to say to all the folks who are listening in?

I would just like to say thank you for supporting Willie and the Family over the years. It’s brought great pleasure and joy to all of us, the entire band, to make music that they enjoy and that we enjoy playing. So I would just like to say thank you.

Mr. English, I appreciate very much this in-depth look at what it is that you do, and your time. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Well, the honor was mine, Paul. Thank you very much.

Well, have a good show tonight.
Thank you. Looking forward to it.


Paul English: Drummer

PAUL ENGLISH has been playing and traveling with Willie Nelson longer than just about anyone.  He’s more than a drummer, he’s Willie Nelson’s best friend and also handles many of the duties of the tour, including security and collecting the payment.  Paul English played on several of Willie Nelson’s albums including “The Redheaded Stranger” and “Stardust.”  He was kind enough to give us this interview.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to welcome our special guest, Mr. Paul English. Thank you so much for joining us here on The Paul Leslie Hour.

Alright, Paul.

Who is Paul English?

(Laughs) I don’t know. He’s just old Paul around here. Just old Paul, that’s all.

Well, I think most stories are best from the beginning so tell us, where are you from?

Fort Worth, originally.

Fort Worth
, Texas. And what was life like growing up?

It was pretty mundane, you know. It was pretty mundane. It just, just happened. I looked around and all of a sudden, I’m 78 years old.

Well, tell us. Was there a lot of music playing around the English household?

There was a lot of music around the household. You know, my older brother he was a musician. I’m not a musician but my brother was a musician so that’s, that’s where the all the music come from.

Did you parents play a lot of records or was there a radio playing around the house a lot?

The radio was playing all the time.We listened to the radio all the time. I mean, all the time…And so I had the radio going all the time and we listened to country western all the time.

Can you remember a favorite musician growing up?

Sure, I can remember a favorite musician growing up. Willie was the number one musician around our house. I didn’t know it, but I thought he was an older man, the way he came across, you know. But we listened to his show – it was three, three and a half hours I think, and we listened to his show every day. We listened to it every day so that, that was the main thing.

How did you begin to play music?

Oh that was, that was an accident, you know. I played trumpet all my life, you know, ‘cause my brother asked me to take lessons in trumpet so I took lessons in trumpet. And I played a little bit around town but not, not anything spectacular, you know. My brother called me from, I think it was KCLU but I don’t remember the name of the radio station. It was where Willie was playing at. So they wanted me to come up there and play the drums. And I never had played the drums before. He said ‘You can do it. You just count 1-2-3-4 and count off like that and start playing..’ And so I said ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ So I just – I didn’t have a full set. I just had a snare drum. So I said ‘1-2-3-4’ you know? And I could play that, I could play the bass. That’s about all I could play, you know? Then I got a bass drum – I was sitting on a Coca-Cola case – and a chair, and that’s how I got started playing the bass drum. The bass drum and the snare drum. And then somebody got me a snare. I finally got a snare drum. After about six weeks we, you know, we got a job. And everybody said ‘Well, who we gonna get to drum?’ I didn’t think they was gonna use me ‘cause, you know, ‘cause – see what I – I was too busy at the time, you know. I could take off work. It didn’t bother me to take off work ‘cause I could make it up some other time down the line. So everybody …why didn’t we wanna use Paul ‘cause we spent all this time for nothing. So my first job was with Willie. And I think my last one’s gonna be with Willie as well.

Well, let me ask you this. What was your first impression of Willie Nelson when you met him?

He was a lot younger than I thought he was. A lot younger than I thought he was – a year younger than me. I was shocked to hear that. He sounded like an old man on the radio but he sang good.

Have there been any drummers that have influenced you over the years? Any drummers that you appreciate?

Oh, yeah. Yeah, there was, there was a drummer a long time ago, you know, that I used to listen to a lot, you know. I can’t remember his name now but I remember him. I remember him very well, I just can’t remember his name.– anyway, it wasn’t Mickey. It was something else. It’s so far back I can’t remember his name. There was another drummer but I can’t remember his name either so that goes to show you.

Do you have any favorite stories from the road, from playing with Willie Nelson?

(Long laugh). You know, I’ve got a lot of them. Just a lot of them. Yeah, there’s an awful lot of them. Yeah. I started working for him in ’66. That was, that was when I started the job – in ‘66 and we’ve been going ever since. But yeah, there was some good stories about what got me going and all that. All the stuff we had to do at that time, you know? Like collecting the money – that was, that was the main thing. Collecting money was the main thing to me.

So there was a time when it was harder or – for the act to get paid.

Oh yes. It was really a lot harder then. We never were beat completely but one time. We got beat out of it completely and that was, I think that was in Florida somewhere or something. That was where a guy wasn’t gonna pay us. He wanted to pay me $600. I said ‘Well, that’s OK.’ And then Willie said ‘No, that’s not all of it. It’s all or nothing.’ So he’s like “OK. Nothing, then.’ and he kicked us out. He had a policeman kick us out. He had his own police force right there. Sam, he didn’t get a contract. That’s how we couldn’t beat that … without a contract.

Well thankfully, Willie Nelson and the Family Band are in a lot better position right now (laughs).
Oh yeah. It’s a whole different story now. It really is.

Why do you think people love Willie Nelson so much?

(Laughs) I don’t really know. You know, I really don’t know. Maybe they lose faith … as far as I know. I know he’s a great guy. I mean, I know he’s a great guy, you know, but I don’t know what keeps him popular. I don’t know about what makes him popular. I really don’t know.

When Willie came out with the album and the song Me and Paul how did you feel about that?

(Laughs) I was really thrilled about that. That was really, really a thrill, you know? That was another thing that endeared me to him, to himself. So I guess that’s why he’s endeared everybody to himself, like what he done to me. That was in 1970.

You had the chance to perform with a lot of people as a result of working with Willie. Leon Russell – a lot of people. Who has been a favorite?

Willie Nelson’s is a favorite. Always has been, you know? There was a lot of people who were a favorite. I liked Ernest Tubb. I liked him a lot. He was a great guy, Ernest Tubb was. Yeah, he told me something one time when we were working on the band. I was working in Forth Worth at the time and he called Ray Chaney – that’s who I was working for, Ray Chaney, as a ranch hand – and he said ‘He’s a drummer.’ Well, Ray Chaney could loan me out. So he loaned me out to him and he hired up another drummer there in town. And I just worked five days with Jack, his grandma and his sister got killed and he had to go down and bury her so… Anyway, I worked for, I went to work for Ernest Tubb for a week and I said ‘Well, I’m not a very good drummer.’ And he said ‘Son, I’ll tell you something. I’ve found out in my life that you can find a good person and you can make a good drummer out of him. You can’t necessarily make a good drummer out of a bad person.’ So he told me what I had to be – that I had to be a good person. And I made it pretty good for that week. I made $25 a day. He was a good guy. A great guy.

What is it like performing with your brother, Billy English, who’s also in Willie Nelson and the Family Band?

Well, it’s great. He’s been with us now about 26 years. He’s great. Great to work with. He’s the primary drummer now. You know, I had a stroke last year and he’s the primary drummer now. I just come up to play four songs and maybe that’s it. I still try to make the money and stuff like that. It pays the bills at home so, you know …

You all have played a lot of cities and towns all across America, really. Has there been a favorite place to play?

 Oh yes. By far Red Rocks is the one I like the best. Great, great place.

What do you like about it?

It’s built in a mountain. It’s inside a mountain and it’s great, great, great acoustics, you know, inside of a mountain. I like that part of it.

When someone goes to see you guys – see all of you guys perform, what do you hope they get out of the experience?
Well I know, I know that most times when people come to see us, they don’t come to – it’s not the first time, you know. But when people do come for the first time they say ‘Well, I’ve never heard of him before and it’s nice to hear him sing.’ you know. And that’s, that’s what I get most when people are new people. But very rarely do we meet new people now. I mean, we’ve actually been on the road for so long, there’s not very many new ones left. You know, they’ve all been around for a while. We’ve got some people all over.

Do you have a favorite Willie Nelson record album that you played on?

It’s the, it’s the one with, it’s the one with Ray Price. Willie and Ray Price. I love that one.

Oh yeah, that one.

I love that one best. That’s where I played the best drums I ever played on an album, I think. Ray came over to me and said ‘Good playing!’ and I said ‘Well, I’ve been listening to you for a long time.’ He’s another one I like a lot – Ray Price. He’s a great guy.

What have you learned from your years on the road and recording with Willie Nelson?

(Laughs) I don’t know what I’ve learned. I know I’ve learned benevolence and how to be peaceful. That’s, that’s what I’ve really learned most of all and it took me about ten years to learn that but I did it.

Well, that’s one thing that some people never learn so I guess that’s, that’s really quite – quite amazing. I have two final questions for you.

Yes sir.

Alright. The first one, it’s kind of lighthearted. It’s kind of silly. What is your, your absolute favorite meal?
I don’t know. I don’t really have a favorite meal right at this point in this time. I really don’t unless it’s Belgian waffles for breakfast. That’s what I like most.
Belgian waffles.
We have that in common.
Yeah, I’ve eaten them for every breakfast. On this, on this tour I’ve eaten them every morning for breakfast so that’s hard to say.

Well, that sounds like that’s your favorite (laughs). My last question for our guest, the one and only Paul English. This broadcast is going out all over the place so my last question – what do you want to say to all the folks who are listening in, all the Willie Nelson fans out there?

Well, just keep coming to see us. That’s all we can ask for. Just keep coming to see us.  Bear with us.  We’re going to be there.

Well, Mr. English, thank you so much for this interview.

Thank you very much for having me. I mean that sincerely.


Joe Nick Patoski: Willie Nelson’s Biographer

Some people can be so fascinating that they capture the hearts and imaginations of generations, and one example of a man who fits the bill would be singer-songwriter and actor Willie Nelson.  Our special guest on this episode of The Paul Leslie Hour, is a writer, Joe Nick Patoski is the author of WILLIE NELSON, an Epic Life.  Author Joe Nick Patoski wrote the biography of Willie Nelson after conducting over 100 interviews with Willie Nelson and Family.  WILLIE NELSON: An Epic Life, published by Little, Brown and Company received critical acclaim and widespread popularity among Nelson’s fans.

Marshall Chapman: Songwriter

MARSHALL CHAPMAN is one of the absolute greatest songwriters.  I had pursued an interview with her for years, and finally an interview took place in Decatur, Georgia.  Her album Big Lonesome was one of the greatest albums released in 2011.  The album was a memorial to the great songwriter Tim Krekel



Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to welcome singer, song-writer, recording artist, spoken-word artist and author, Marshall Chapman.

And now ‘actor’.

And now ‘actress’ – right (laughs). And she’s just released her newest album, Big Lonesome, as well as her second book entitled They Came to Nashville.


It’s a great pleasure.

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Paul.

Who is Marshall Chapman?

What a question. Marshall Chapman is a six-foot tall, skinny white girl from South Carolina who went to Nashville, who loves music, who at age 62 is still out there having, like, the year of her life. Um, I’m having a lot of fun right now. If I had known you could have this much fun at my age I would have relaxed a lot more when I was in my 20s and 30s. But who is Marshall Chapman? You know, I’m probably the last person to ask that. Tim Krekel said it best. Uh, the song we wrote, Sick of Myself, it started as an email from me to Krekel. I just was thinking I really was sick of myself that day. I was thinking if I could be somebody else for a day, maybe two, who would it be? Tim Krekel. I’d like to know what it’s like to be laid back and cool / To play that guitar the way that you do / Like your soul is connected to every string / And the whole room starts swaying when you’re playing that thing. And then two hours later, he emails me back. Well I’m sick of myself. I’d like to be you. Would you trade places with me for a day, maybe two? And you asked the question ‘who is Marshall Chapman?’ and I think Tim Krekel answered it in that song. He said I’d like to know how it feels to be regal and tall / To charm a whole room with that Carolina drawl / To rock with a purpose like ole Jerry Lee / While wearing your soul on your rock and roll sleeves. And if there’s ever a tombstone to mark my passing, those are the words I want to have on it.

Sometimes music says things so well. So from the Marshall Chapman album, Big Lonesome, Sick of Myself, here on the Paul Leslie Hour – the beautiful thing about this album is that the songs, to me, they seem to be very cohesive.

Thank you.

I can relate to all of them. I didn’t know Tim Krekel as well as you do but as someone who knew him, they all seem to go together. So what do you think about the album, Big Lonesome?

Well, I just think it’s, by far, the best album I’ve ever made. And I tell people, you know – first of all, I wasn’t going to make another album. I was really burnt out. I was writing a book. Um, I’m a contributing editor to Garden & Gun magazine – weird name, I know. Um, I have a column with National Arts magazine. So I’ve been writing a lot of prose and that seemed to be a very quiet, contemplative kind of life and I was enjoying it. I was even joking, telling friends of mine that I’ve tried not to write songs because if I write them and they’re good, I’m going to record them. If I record it and it’s good, then my ass is back out on the road. I know how to nip that off in the bud. That was my thinking. And then Tim Krekel was diagnosed with cancer – died within three months of his diagnosis. He was my best friend in music – probably best friend period – and we were very close. And it rocked my world, Paul. And the only thing that seemed to comfort me, going through that experience of Tim’s death, was picking up my guitar. And every time I did, a song poured out. And when I wrote Tim Revisited I just thought I’m doing to do an album and I’m going to make the best album I can possibly make to honor my friend, and that’s what I did.

So let’s play it – Tim Revisited, from Big Lonesome. [song plays] We’re talking to Marshall Chapman. The album starts off with the title song and in the liner notes it says that it was recorded in a Pullman car parked in Union Station?

(Laughs) Correct. I mean, I had a friend named Tommy Spurlock. He’s now down in Austin, Texas but he actually was living in one Pullman car, then right behind it was another Pullman car and they were parked right on a track behind Union Station in Nashville. And he had converted one into living space and the other one into a recording studio. But even though he had the walls padded, when the trains would move in the train yard, you’d have to stop recording because you – it, the noise would bleed through the walls. So it was a real challenge to record there but I think Dave Olney recorded in there with him and also the guy that wrote, um, Wild Thing and Angel in the Morning – Chip, Chip Taylor – I think recorded an album there with Spurlock. He had it briefly and then he kind of just took off for Austin and disappeared. And so, when I decided to do this record, I didn’t have a copy of the, you know, multi-track of that song and I knew I wanted to include it. I had gotten in contact with him and he couldn’t find it. He looked, he couldn’t find it. So I – finally I sent him a check just for his troubles and sometimes money talks (laughs) but, uh, within a week he had sent the ADAT tape of that. We converted it to Pro-tools and the amazing thing was when we were listening to it in the studio, I was – I co-produced this album with Michael Utley, who I love working with. And the reason I chose Michael was because Michael and I co-produced Love Slave, which is probably my favorite studio album until Big Lonesome and now Big Lonesome is my favorite. But anyway, we went in the studio and when we were listening to, uh, converting it to Pro-tools, I didn’t realize Tim’s voice – you know, we were just in the train just goofing off. We had written a song, we were demo-ing a lot of songs, but I liked the way Big Lonesome sounded. And it’s one of my three favorite songs. We’ve written a ton of songs together but there are three that are my favorite that I’ve written with Tim. One is Big Lonesome, one is I Love Everybody, I Love Everything and the other one is Sick of Myself which actually I finished after he died. I mean, he – it was just an email, sort of a love email from me to him and him back to me, and I kind of thought it should be in the shuffle. And then when I decided to make the record, you know, I sat down and put it to music.

Just a moment ago you mentioned Michael Utley who co-produced the album. What’s it like working with him?

Oh, he’s just – well for me it’s just heaven. We work really well together. Mike’s a very positive person and um, and he digs what I do, you know? I mean, I’ve always said happiness is hanging around people who dig you. I don’t purport to be everyone’s cup of tea so, uh, happiness is hanging around people that like you and I like Mike. We were neighbors at the time. He’s since moved to California much, much to my chagrin but he lived right around the block. So I said, you know, I want to do this album to honor Tim. And, of course, we had all been in Buffett’s band together. That’s really when I got to know Tim Krekel. I may be answering one of your subsequent questions but, um, we were in Buffett’s band in 1987 and that’s when I really got close to Tim. He was my favorite person to hang out with, ‘cause with Jimmy, by then, there was a lot of days off.


So you’re hubbing out of some city like Chicago or New Orleans, you know. Jimmy had it down by then. You’d be in, you’d be in some great hotel in New Orleans and you’d hub out and go play Biloxi and you’d go play Houston and you’d play New Orleans and you’d come back to the hotel, with lots of days off in between gigs. So you got time to go to museums and go see movies so we starting hanging. He was just an easy-going guy.

My favorite song on the album is Falling through the Trees.

Ahh, you have good taste.

Yeah, I do (laughs). I pride myself on that.

You do. No, you have depth, man. Thank you. Falling through the Trees – actually, I wrote that when my last album came out, Mellowicious!, which was sort of an experiment and, um, I was working with a guy that was sort of the synthesizer king of Nashville and I learned a lot doing that record. And after doing that record, I was just convinced that this record would be completely organic. Falling through the Trees, when I realized that last record wasn’t going to make it, um, I was just heart-broken because I had invested so much into it. and, uh, I just woke up one night in the middle of the night and wrote that song. And it’s, you know, it’s about the death of a dream. And the same thing, really, is the Cindy Walker song – Going Away Party – so I just thought they were great bookends. They just seemed to flow so well, one into the other. But Falling through the Trees, if there’s one line – you know, I’m sitting there talking about the heartbreak of when dreams die but the line that saves it is I wouldn’t have it any other way. That keeps it from sliding into victimhood …


and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it’s cool that you mentioned that because William Gay, the novelist, who’s my favorite writer in America, he listened to the album early on and that was his favorite – Falling through the Trees – and he’s the deepest cat I know.

Oh, yeah?


Well, I think nobody said it better than Todd Snider when he said, uh, ‘The album is sad but not hopeless.’

Yeah, ‘like blood on the tracks.’

Oh, I thought that was a perfect description of this album.

Yeah. Todd is like my brother. I love him.

One of the other songs on the album is a cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

Right. Well, you know I was down in Mexico. Um, Tim and I were supposed to go to Mexico and play a bunch – we had a bunch of gigs booked for that summer and he died June, you know, it was June 24th or June 26th of 2009 – and we were supposed to go to Mexico and play some gigs. I have a benefactor in Mexico that flies me and my husband down there and puts us up in a house with, like, a cook, maid service, pool – all that. And it’s on a mountain overlooking of San Miguel, which – San Miguel is on a high mountain plain at 10,000 feet. And people think ‘You’re going to Mexico in July?’ You wear a sweater at night. It is so fabulous. It’s so magical and it’s always been a magnet, that town, for poets and dreamers. It’s where – Jack Kerouac used to hang out down there. In fact, Neal Cassady, that’s where he died, in San Miguel. He got hit by a train down there. It still is a real magnet but – help me keep on track, OK?

(Laughs) Oh, yeah.

But anyway, so I got down there. Tim, the promoter, my benefactor/promoter – when Tim died, we had a plane ticket for him and Debbie to fly down there with us – he said ‘I can understand if you wouldn’t want to come down tonight.’ I said ‘I need to come to Mexico. I’m coming.’ So I wrote that song, Down to Mexico, on the plane flying down there. And when I got down there I played a benefit and then I played a private party at this guy’s house and a benefit called ‘Feed the Hungry’ or ‘Feed the Children’ – yeah – and Tim was supposed to play it with me and I played it by myself. But, um, after the second gig, this expatriate from Mississippi – and there’s a song in there called Mississippi Man in Mexico that was also written, I wrote that on the plane flying home – but we went out to this rancho outside of San Miguel, Rancho Jaguar. And we get there and it’s in this field but this guy grows, he cultivates cacti, cactuses, that he, you know, ships all over the world. And he, uh, he’s from Mississippi. He’s also a great cook and he had dug all these pits that he had mesquite logs burning in them, and when we got there they were hot coals. And he had all these doves he had shot that he had wrapped with bacon and he was roasting them over those mesquite logs, and he just prepared this feast for us. And it was just one of those nights – you know, there’s no night pollution down there. We’re out in the country. You can see all the stars and the moon was full. And I leaned back after that meal and this one little single cloud in the sky moved across the moon and it turned purple. And I thought about Hank Williams. And in that moment I wanted a guitar to materialize in my hands because I wanted to sing that verse in I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, ‘the moon just went behind the cloud to hide its face and cry’. And I was thinking about that song because I used to sing it. I used to sing all these songs. I used to know about 350 songs by heart before I started writing my own songs. You know, I would play in lounges and sing these songs and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry was one of them. But ever since I started writing songs, I quit singing them. And so, that night I’m at my benefactor’s house with his teenage son, Mark, and I started – there was a guitar there and I just started singing all these songs I used to sing, just to see if I could still remember them, before I started writing songs. Songs like Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer, Bob Wills. Songs like Bye Bye Love, the Everly Brothers. Songs like, uh, Don’t Be Cruel, Elvis Presley. Songs like Every Day by Buddy Holly. From Four Until Late by Robert Johnson. To Be Alone with You by Bob Dylan. Uh, all these songs that I just love. And I couldn’t remember the words to I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry so his son downloaded them off the internet. And for the next few nights – we were staying in this house that had this big courtyard and it had great echo in it, you know, like natural echo? Like Sun Records – and I’d get up, because I had my guitar with me, and I’d sing I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry in there and it just sounded so great and it was exactly how I felt because my friend had just died. So I just knew, you know, when I wrote Mississippi Man in Mexico, I knew that song was going to come right after it and it just seemed so – they just, they sounded so good together.

You nailed it.

Yeah. You know, I’ve had a lot of people tell me, you know, and I put that augmented chord in there and I don’t think anybody – I know Hank didn’t have it in there but there’s been probably 300 people record that song but I don’t think – and I think BJ Thomas’s version was pretty good but I’ve had a lot of people tell me that this version is their favorite. Somebody said it’s their favorite along with BJ Thomas’s. But, uh, I think, uh, when we recorded this, man, it felt so good. I felt that Hank was probably smiling.


Yeah. I felt like we did it justice. And I do feel like that song has the most beautiful quatrain ever written in a song which is The silence of a fallen star / Lights up a purple sky / And as I wonder where you are / I’m so lonesome I could cry. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. I probably answered three or four of your questions.

No – great answer. Great story.

Alright. What’cha got?

There is a book that you have and it’s called They Came to Nashville.


It’s a collection of interviews. One of the chapters I thought was very entertaining. It’s the Willie Nelson chapter (Marshall laughs) and you’ve got a track on the album called –

Don’t give it away! Well, it’s interesting you bring that up. The new CD and the new book were released on the same day but, unlike my first book when we released a companion CD, this new CD was about Tim Krekel. But there is one connection to the book and it’s what you mentioned. It’s riding with Willie. I spent three days on Willie Nelson’s bus trying to interview him for the book and we won’t give away what happens but, you know, I write an intro for each chapter. Each chapter is a songwriter I’ve known. Each chapter I write an intro. Some of the intros are a paragraph long, a half page long. Well, the Willie Nelson chapter, my intro is 46 pages long. And you know, some of the critics have described it as up there with Hunter Thompson as far as rock and roll journalism because, man, I was out there. I did not sleep one minute while I was on the bus. I was literally hallucinating when we pulled up to the Beaumont Holiday Inn. And when we did, as often happens when I’m in a state like that, these words starting coming and they were pretty cosmic, more cosmic than I usually write. You know, When everything is swirling around out of control / And everybody’s down to their very soul / Dancing to the rhythm of the universal whole – I don’t think I would normally write a lyric like that unless I’d been on Willie Nelson’s bus for three days, because let me tell you something. You don’t have to partake, you just breathe, OK? It’s there. So I was probably out there in my mind a little bit when I wrote that. But I just wrote it as two verses and kind of a chorus. I thought it was a poem. I wasn’t even sure it was a song. And then exactly a year later almost to the date, when I decided I was going to make a record to honor Tim Krekel, I was sitting at my desk and ‘I thought I need to look at those lyrics.’ And I finished the song, writing two more verses about what happened on Willie’s bus after the Beaumont show, which is – I don’t know about you but if I was 75 years old and been touring for three weeks playing one-nighters, and just played a 2½ hour show, and signed autographs and done everything, I would go crash in the back of my bus. I would not do what Willie did which was he went back, took a shower, changed into a size XXX Snoop Dog black T-shirt and came out in black socks with his guitar and walked to the front of the bus and sat down with him and his sister Bobbie, who plays piano in his band. And he said ‘Somebody get a Casio.’ And they got a little Casio and put it across my lap and hers. And by then, we were going along a bumpy stretch of Interstate 10 near Houston and I’m trying to hold it still. And she and Willie proceeded to play for about 2 ½ hours, like from 2:00 to 4:30 in the morning.


They were playing instrumental songs that they used to play, trying to see if they still knew them. Um, a lot of Django Reinhardt, he played Nuage, uh – it was just magical. And so, when I came to finish riding with Willie, sitting at my desk a year later, that scene of him – of him and Bobbie playing those songs – played a big part in that last verse.

The album closes out with I Love Everybody. This is a live cut and it was recorded at a music club and bowling alley.

Yeah. Music club/bowling alley. The Vernon, the great Vernon in Louisville, KY. Yeah, Tim had first told me about that place. He said ‘God, you gotta come here and play. It’s this great new club. It’s in the basement of a bowling alley.’ Of course, when I was playing it that night, that recording was – they hadn’t quite finished renovating the club so the ball returns for the bowling alley which was upstairs were going right over your head. And you could not only see the bowling balls you could hear them, so it was pretty rock and roll. You know, when it finished the record, the last song I had was – I thought it was a studio album, all new stuff recorded in the studio. And then I remembered Waylon Jennings had that album, Dream of My Dreams, which was a great studio album – which I think probably was his finest record – and he put that live cut, Bob Wills Is Still the King, that he had written on the bus and played in Austin that night. And I thought ‘You know, that’s kind of cool, having a live cut at the end of a record.’ And for some reason, you know, it’s kind of cosmic, too, with Tim – the fact that this was to honor him and that he had died – to end it with a live cut. It’s almost like the whole album is sort of cathartic and just goes through the whole process of coming to terms with his death and then ending it with something live. That just seems so appropriate. I don’t think I was even thinking about it as logically as I’m expressing it to you now. So that’s what I decided to do. But when we first finished it – we had played the Belgian Rhythm and Blues Festival. Tim came and it was like – I had a band called the Love Slaves. It had two lead guitar players. One of them couldn’t go so I took Tim Belgium and we played the Belgian Rhythm and Blues Festival. And there’s a great track that the Belgian radio has recorded but it wasn’t 24-track. They were kind of mixing it in their mobile unit as we went along. And so I had that on the album. And then I called Debbie because I wanted her to hear the album. And Tim was playing harmonic on that track. And she and her sister were driving from Florida back to Louisville and they were just 10 miles out of Nashville when I called her and I said ‘Hey, let’s meet for lunch.’ And we did she said ‘You know, there’s a live track of the last time you and Tim really did play together. You know, when the band came up and joined you, like write about in Tim Revisited. I said ‘You are kidding.’ And she said ‘No. they got a 24-track.’ So that night they overnighted and I called Utley and we went back in the studio. That was an expensive piece of information, I might add ‘cause I opened up the whole – I thought I was through with the album. We went back in and there was one little train-wreck place that we cleaned up and, uh, because it was 24-track, but that’s pretty much – I thought it was so cool to have the actual last time I played with Tim Krekel close out this album.

Amazing. Real quick last question.


I’m going to ask you the same thing I asked Tim before we ended our interview. This interview will be heard by people from all over the place …


and now read. What do you want to say to all the people?

Well, if you don’t know about Tim Krekel, he’s a great singer-songwriter, band leader, that worked out of Louisville, KY. A little bit more R&B than country but he could play it all. And if you don’t know his music, I recommend you start with the two last CDs. It’s almost like part of him knew he wasn’t going to be with us much longer because, you know, at an age when most people are phoning it in, Tim was upping the ante. I couldn’t believe the albums he was making, like Angel Share. I mean, come on. So go out right now. Go to Amazon and order World Keep Turning and Soul Season. It’s a very ‘stacks- kind of 60s-they buried Wilson Picket in my backyard’. You’ll be glad you did. That’s what I got to say.

Thank you so much Marshall Chapman.

Oh, thank you, Paul.