BRIARCLIFF, Texas – A world away from the stage, and with the steering wheel of his old pickup truck instead of a guitar in hand, Willie Nelson loves few things more than to go on a drive around his 700-acre chunk of the Texas Hill Country near here.
He calls his ranch "Luck" and smiles as he explains, "When you’re here, you're in Luck, and when you're not, you're out of Luck."
Over 70 horses roam Nelson's ranch, most of which he rescued before they could be sent to slaughterhouses.
"My horses are probably the luckiest horses in the world," Nelson said. "They get hand-fed twice a day, and they were just ready to go to slaughter is probably the last thing they remembered, so they’re happy horses."
Nelson has included his love for horses in a CD that will be released in early summer. It's a song entitled "Ride Me Back Home."
As he approaches his 87th birthday, Nelson is still touring and spending about 200 days on the road.
"It’s a lot of traveling and being away from home," Nelson said. "But that’s what we do."
With the exception of a benefit performance in 2018 for then-senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, Nelson’s shows are void of politics.
"We leave all of that at home," Nelson explained. "I think that’s why a lot of people show up, because they don’t have to worry about what they’ve been watching on TV all day."
Though in good health and living a relatively stress-free life, Nelson noted that it hasn't always been that way, as reflected in troubles he had with the IRS.
Nelson said, "I remember that I remember those guys." He's since settled his debt and moved on.
"You're supposed to get a little smarter as we get older," Nelson said with a smile. "Every now and then, I think I’m getting a little smarter, but I’m not sure."
Among the things he remains focused on are advocating for the legalization of marijuana, marketing his brand of marijuana, called "Willie’s Reserve," where it's legal and raising money for American farmers during his annual Farm Aid Concerts.
Retirement, Nelson says, is not a part of the conversation.
“I retire after every show,” Nelson said. “I say, ‘That’s it, I’m not goin’ no more,' but then we hang out awhile and people (his band) feel like playing, and so we go play again.”