Willie Nelson Turns 84 With God’s Problem Child

Longtime Producer Buddy Cannon Talks About Working With a Master Artist

The first time Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Buddy Cannon received a song idea from Willie Nelson via a text message, it shocked him.

The message was the beginning of what became “Roll Me Up,” a musical living will of sorts that ended up on Nelson’s 2012 album Heroes.

“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever done as far as writing a song goes,” Cannon said over the phone during our CMT.com interview. “But it works. We’ve got about 25 or 30 songs down, and we wrote them all just like that. We’ve never sat together in a room or on his bus with a guitar and said, ’Let’s write a song.’ We talked about doing that, but we both agree that this is too much fun and it works so well, we’re afraid we’ll mess it up if we try to do it the normal way.

“Usually [Willie] goes to his place in Maui and gets in that mode of life down there,” he added. “When he does that, he starts writing stuff and as he writes it, he’ll just send it to me. It might be two lines. It might be a whole verse. It might be what ends up being a chorus, and he just sends that to me.”

Text was how they started seven songs on Nelson’s latest album God’s Problem Child, a moving 13-song collection that explores the concept of mortality. They began song eight “Still Not Dead” a couple years ago following a flurry of death rumors and hoaxes that have followed Nelson in recent years.

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