Willie Nelson Explains Why He Doesn’t Use a Set List When He Performs

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)

Willie Nelson doesn’t need a list. All the red-headed stranger really needs is his band, a stage, his audience, and a clock. Much of Willie Nelson’s career has been spent putting feelings to music through some of his most iconic hits such as “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” “Always On My Mind,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” or “Forever Country.” And, his audiences love this about the singer. From performing some memorable country ballads that move the soul to some of music’s all-time best whiskey-drinking numbers, Nelson knows how to work an audience.

And, really, Willie Nelson can never make a wrong choice when deciding what to play onstage. However, the country music icon noted in a recent interview he is careful to let the moment define what it is he and his band play during each live performance.

Many are impressed with the country music star’s ability to connect so deeply with his audiences and country singer Maren Morris is one of them.

Willie Nelson Doesn’t Need A Playlist; Just the Time

During a recent interview with Willie Nelson as she sat in as guest host on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Maren Morris discussed this unique gift with the iconic country music star.

“I actually opened for you a couple of years ago,” Maren Morris said in the interview.

“I learned when I was on stage, on your stage, that you don’t really keep a setlist,” Morris continued during her discussion with Nelson. “You have a clock on stage that tells you how much time you have left.”

To illustrate this, Morris holds up the one “Willie Nelson setlist” that she saved from her time performing with the country star.

“This may be creepy and I do apologize,” the country star said as the audience began to laugh.

“But I kept what you did have as a setlist, and this is what it looks like,” Morris explained as she held up a sheet of paper that read simply “70 minutes.”

As soon as Willie caught a glimpse of the document, he joined the audience in the laughter.

“Well, it’s easy to do because I know all the songs,” Nelson responded as the audience’s laughter subsided.

Willie Nelson’s relaxed approach to his performances is part of what makes the country icon so great. His music and his signature crooning sound have long been a piece of country music and bluegrass history.

The easiness in which the icon belts out some of music’s most memorable sounds is what has made Willie Nelson a star. And, his dedication to continuing to approach his music with such passion is what keeps him at the level of the iconic country superstar that he is to this day.

Every Performance Is A Memorable One

From “Whiskey River,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” to “Still is Still Moving to Me,” or “A Horse Called Music,” and of course, “On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson and his band are up for pretty much anything during each performance.

“It’s just pretty easy to do without a ‘real’ setlist,” the country music icon explained.

Nelson added that his long singing career with his band has helped the group’s ability to play on the fly.

“The band knows them forward and backward and it would be almost impossible to throw them a curve,” he told Maren Morris. “We play together so much they know what I’m going to do.”