Song­writer mak­ing homage to Wil­lie

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360BETS - — Michael Cor­co­ran

Hit Nashville song­writer Gary Ni­chol­son is in town to record a tune with lyrics made en­tirely from Wil­lie Nel­son song ti­tles, backed by Asleep at the Wheel.

“Ray Ben­son has a plot to get Wil­lie to play gui­tar on the al­bum, so we’ll see how that works out,” says Ni­chol­son, who hails from the Dal­las area and has an as­so­ci­a­tion with Del­bert McClin­ton that goes back four decades.

At any rate, Ni­chol­son will have Wil­lie’s wind — har­mon­ica player Mickey Raphael — at his back when he plays the Saxon Pub tonight.

Ex­pect to hear a lot of fa­mil­iar songs, as gui­tarist Ni­chol­son re­claims num­bers he’s writ­ten for such acts as Vince Gill (“One More Last Chance”), Patty Love­less (“A Thou­sand Times a Day”), NRBQ (“A Bet­ter Word For Love”) and McClin­ton/Garth Brooks (“Squeeze Me In”).

Ni­chol­son also co-wrote, with Stephen Bru­ton, the song “Fallin’ and Flyin’,” which ended up on the sound­track to “Crazy Heart.” The pair wrote the song about a year be­fore the movie with the idea that it would end up on a Bru­ton solo al­bum. “One day Stephen called me up from the set and said, ‘Hey, they’re gonna use our song.’ They had just filmed that se­quence of Jeff Bridges sing­ing the song with Colin Far­rell.”

Af­ter his friend from Fort Worth passed away from can­cer and the movie came out, Ni­chol­son re­al­ized Bru­ton was writ­ing about what he was go­ing through when he penned the lyrics, “You never see it comin’ till it’s gone/ It all hap­pens for a rea­son/ Even when it’s wrong/ Es­pe­cially when it’s wrong.”

Ni­chol­son has col­lected many of his mail­box money mak­ers on “Nashville Song­book — Vol­ume One,” an al­bum that Ni­chol­son says was harder to make than it would seem. “A song like ‘That’s the Thing About Love’ was writ­ten with a spe­cific singer in mind — Don Wil­liams,” he says. “It’s not re­ally in my style.” That 1984 song was Ni­chol­son’s first No. 1, top­ping the charts when Ni­chol­son was play­ing gui­tar for Bobby Bare. Bare told Ni­chol­son that he needed to find him a new gui­tar player be­cause Ni­chol­son had to stay in Nashville and write more hits. Which he did.

But he stills con­sid­ers him­self a Texan and plays his home state any chance he can. On July 25, he’ll go full cir­cle, play­ing the Plaza Theater in Gar­land where he saw an Elvis Pres­ley movie — “Love Me Ten­der” — at age 6 and im­me­di­ately went out and got a gui­tar.

And Ni­chol­son will be back in Austin in March, when he’s in­ducted into the Texas Song­writ­ers Hall of Fame.

alan Messer

Gary Ni­chol­son, who wrote Vince Gill’s hit ‘One More Last Chance’ and co-wrote ‘Fallin’ and Flyin’ ’ from the ‘Crazy Heart’ sound­track, plays the Saxon Pub tonight.

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