Songwriter making homage to Willie
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.
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.