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Lukas Nelson
Willie Nelson
November 17, 2021

Family, Love, and Music

with Lukas Nelson & Willie Nelson

On this episode of Unlocking Us

In this episode, I’m talking with Lukas and Willie Nelson about their new album, The Willie Nelson Family, a collection of country gospel–flavored songs performed by the Nelson Family Band and recorded at Willie’s Pedernales Studios—where we recorded this podcast—just outside Austin. We talk about faith and family, music as church, and love—and how it’s really all tied together. We also talk about what brings us together, what keeps us apart, and what holds us back. We get some Nelson family advice—including their three family rules. And we end the episode with a surprise treat you’ll be singing all week. It was a special day and a treasured conversation.

Show notes

The Willie Nelson Family finds Willie joined in his Pedernales Studios by a host of family members and an extended family of longtime band members, performing songs that they have performed for much of their lives. Sister Bobbie, sons Lukas and Micah, and daughters Amy and Paula all contribute, as do band members Mickey Raphael, Kevin Smith, and Billy and Paul English. The album is produced by Willie and Steve Chadie and shaped around a set list of 12 favorite spirit-driven songs from the Nelson Family repertoire that took on special significance during the lockdown, when the album was finished. The album (Willie’s 71st studio album!) draws on deep Americana (including A.P. Carter’s “Keep It on the Sunnyside” and the traditional hymn “In the Garden”) while celebrating classic songwriting from Hank Williams (“I Saw the Light”), Kris Kristofferson (“Why Me”), George Harrison (“All Things Must Pass”), and—of course—Willie Nelson (more than half of the songs). The group offers new takes on Willie Nelson–penned tracks with a spiritual bent from the late ’50s to the mid-’90s. Lukas (who fronts his own band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real) sings lead vocals on two of the album’s tracks—“All Things Must Pass” and “Keep It on the Sunnyside”—while sharing lead vocals with Willie on “I Saw the Light,” “I Thought About You, Lord,” and “Why Me.” These songs represent the final recordings Willie made with his longtime drummer and pal Paul English, who was Willie’s drummer for over 50 years before he passed away, in February 2020.

In God’s Eyes by Willie Nelson

All Things Must Pass by Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson

Just Outside of Austin by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music, the first-ever children’s book by Willie Nelson, his sister and bandmate Bobbie Nelson, and Chris Barton; illustrated by Kyung Eun Han

Willie Nelson’s Letters to America by Willie Nelson

Amazing Grace by Willie Nelson

What You See You Can Be by David A. Anderson

Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real


Brené Brown : Hi everyone, I’m Brené Brown, and this is Unlocking Us.


BB: And woah!! I’m so excited. Okay, y’all, special episode. I am talking with Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson in this episode. That’s right. The Willie Nelson and his incredibly talented musician son, Lukas Nelson. And this is a podcast that A, you’ll want to listen to, but B, you’ll want to listen to the very end, because… Yes, it’s true! They sing. And I’m sitting in a chair right across from them, watching them and losing my shit. Losing my mind. We recorded this in a studio right outside of Austin, where Willie records and where Lukas records. They have a new album coming out entitled The Willie Nelson Family, and it’s a collection of country gospel-flavored songs performed by Willie’s family, and it is amazing. It is church. But did I mention the part where I get to have a conversation with Willie and Lukas Nelson? Let’s just focus here. It was incredible. I’m so excited to invite y’all to share this with me. This is a good one, y’all.


BB: Before we get started, let me tell you a little bit about the new album. Again, it is The Willie Nelson Family, and it’s out November 19th via Legacy. And some of the songs are original, some of the songs are ones that we all recognize.  They’re songs that I grew up hearing my grandparents singing them.  I grew up hearing them on KBUC radio in San Antonio on a transistor next to my grandmother’s husband, Curly, was a forklift driver at Pearl Brewery.  And oh my God, he just listened to this music along with my grandmother. My grandmother, I called her Me-Ma,  Me-Ma would always stop and say, “Listen to the piano on this piece.” This is the entire Nelson family coming together. Extended family, long time band members, performing songs that they performed for their entire lives. Sister Bobbie, sons Lukas and Micah, daughters Amy and Paula, all contribute, plus band members Mickey Raphael, Kevin Smith, Billy and Paul English.

BB: It’s produced by Willie and Steve Chadie, who actually, shout out to Steve, who recorded this podcast. And it’s really, the whole album is shaped around a set list of 12 kind of spirit-driven songs from the Nelson family repertoire. Talking about the perfect holiday gift, this would be it. Willie’s son Lukas, who fronts his own band, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, sings lead vocals on two of the album’s tracks, “All Things Must Pass” and “Keep It On the Sunnyside.” And he shares lead vocals with Willie on “I Saw the Light.” Oh, what a song! And also on “Why Me.” “Why me, Lord, what did I ever… ” Okay, just incredible. I just can’t wait for you to hear the podcast. I can’t wait for you to listen to the album. Jump in. Here we go.


BB: Willie and Lukas Nelson, welcome to Unlocking Us.

Lukas Nelson: Thank you.

Willie Nelson: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.

LN: Yeah.

BB: All right. I just want to jump in and right off the bat, talk about this new album, The Willie Nelson Family album.

WN: Well, I’m really proud of it because all the family, we got to sing together, and Luke and Mike, Paul…

LN: Paul and Amy, and…

WN: Paul and Amy and all of us get to…

LN: And Bobbie.

WN: Yeah, it’s the whole family. Well, it’s a family deal, so I’m proud of it.

BB: Tell me about… When y’all came together to make this album, tell me about the decision to make it a collection of spirituals, of hymns.

WN: Well originally, we were going to do a gospel album, then we decided, why not just do a family album? We can include all kind of songs in there. The gospel songs are all good too, “In the Garden” and all those things. Sister Bobbie plays really great piano, and we decided a family album would be…

LN: It would say the same thing.

WN: Say the same thing, without getting too far out.

LN: Without getting too denominational.

BB: Yeah.

LN: We wanted to include everybody, so we didn’t want to make it a completely…

WN: If we called it a completely gospel album, then we’d miss the market.

LN: Yeah.

WN: So we play a lot of gospel stuff, but we include everything.

LN: Yeah.

WN: And I’ve got a double handful of gospel albums out there already.

BB: Right.

LN: And I think it brings more people in, to be just be more spiritual instead of religious in a way.

BB: Yeah, that garners a hearty “Amen” from me.

LN: Yeah.

WN: Yeah.

BB: But I guess I can hear God in pretty much all honky-tonk music.

LN: Yeah.

WN: Yeah.

BB: Tell me about what faith looked like in the Nelson family for you growing up.

WN: Well, we went to church every Sunday. And we had prayer meetings every Monday. And we did singing conventions in Hillsboro, I think on Wednesdays. So I was just raised up in gospel all around me and I loved it, it kind of give you a background to go and run on.

LN: I remember growing up, my favorite gospel song that, I don’t know if you wrote it or not, but, “In God’s Eyes.” Did you write that?

WN: Yeah.

LN: Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, but anyway, so “All Things Must Pass” is on this record too.

WN: Yeah, it’s a gospel.

LN: It’s a gospel too. And George Harrison was a very spiritual guy, and he felt God a lot in a different way than obviously the Christians do, but I feel it’s just as valid and just as important to express.

BB: You know, it’s funny, when I was listening, I got an early listen to the album, which I will admit that I got through half of one song before I was teary-eyed. It was so beautiful, and the first thing I wanted to do is share it with my family. There’s a definition of spirituality that I use in my work that is, like y’all said, inclusive, and it just means I believe that we’re all connected to each other in an important way that’s bigger than us.

LN: Yeah.

WN: Absolutely.

BB: Some people call that God. My dad calls it fishing.

WN: God calls it love.

BB: Yeah.

LN: Yeah.

BB: When I was reading…

WN: What is that one?

BB: This is Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music, and it’s a kid’s book. And it’s beautiful and it’s illustrated. There’s a line in here, I’m going to flip to it, that… I just love the whole story, but you write that music was how you gave, received and felt love in your family.

WN: Yeah.

BB: Can you separate… Can either one of you separate faith and soulfulness from music? Does music exist without soulfulness and faith?

WN: Music brings us all together. I don’t think there’s anybody, any religious organization or whatever out there that someone in there doesn’t like music.

BB: Yeah.

LN: Yeah. [chuckle]

WN: Music is what people travel a long way to see, whether it’s Luke or somebody out there. There’s an energy exchange that takes place out there on the stage. I know we get the feedback from the people who like what we do, and they like what we do, or they wouldn’t be there. So there’s a great reaction there that I look forward to at every show.

LN: Yeah. It feels like for me, when I play, I’m going to church. When I’m going to…

WN: This is church.

BB: Yeah, this is church.

LN: This is for church for us, yeah. And when I go out and sing, and most of the time singing about love…

WN: And it don’t matter if it’s a church or a beer joint. It’s all love.

BB: That’s right.

LN: It’s right.

WN: I used to sing at a place called the Nite Owl in West, Texas. Right around Waco and West, Hillsboro, and Abbott. And I’ll just sing to a bunch of people on Saturday night, and the same people would be on Sunday morning in church, and I’d sing to them again at the Methodist Church in Abbott, so it’s all tied together.

BB: How I loved reading about that community in Abbott, that church community and what it meant to you and to Bobbie, and it was just powerful.

WN: Yeah.

LN: Yeah.

BB: There’s a saying in spirituality that I love, that real spiritual moments are called thin places. And that means the distance between us and other people, and the distance between us and something greater and bigger than us becomes very thin.

LN: Sure.

BB: And for me, both of you make music that feels like a thin place.

LN: Thank you.

WN: Thank you. Yeah.

BB: Yeah. I loved a line in, I think it was Letters to America. I’m reading all of your books here [laughter] like no joke. That at some point you had to choose between playing honky-tonks and teaching Sunday school.

WN: They wanted me to.

BB: Yeah.

WN: Yeah. That was… Yeah, I remember where that was.


BB: Yeah. [chuckle] You said the choice was easy.

WN: Yeah. [laughter] I don’t make any money or anything. [laughter] But when I play at Nite Owl, I get a pretty good paycheck, so… I think I’ll stick with what I’m doing.

LN: Yeah.

BB: Can I tell you a story about how your covering a song, your singing a song really changed me, is it okay if I tell you?

WN: Sure.

BB: So it was probably, I don’t know, 15 years ago, I was just turning 40. And I don’t give a shit about what they say around 40 is the new 20. 41 is the same old 41, it’s always been. And I was just getting ready to turn 41, and I was having a super crisis of faith, and… I was so lost. And I ended up in Galway, Ireland at a conference. And the Celtic, the Celtic spirit stuff is really powerful there.

LN: Yeah.

BB: So I had my iPod, and I had been collecting versions of “Amazing Grace,” and I always thought that the line was, “It was grace that taught my heart to feel.” And I was always like, how is that going to work? How is grace going to teach my heart to feel, I don’t understand. So one day before the conference started, I put on my iPod and I walked up a hill, and there was a huge heart made out of stones that overlooked the water and the Aran Islands, and I sat on it and I hit shuffle on my iPod. And you came up, Willie, singing “Amazing Grace.” I can barely talk about it. And the way you sang that song, I realized in that moment that the lyric was not “it was grace that taught my heart to feel.” “It was grace that taught my heart to fear.”

WN: Absolutely.

BB: And it was fear that grace released.

WN: Absolutely.

BB: And in that moment, I thought, “Holy shit, I don’t know how to be afraid. I don’t know how to be afraid.” And I’m afraid all the time. I’m afraid as a mom, I’m afraid as a human being in this crazy world. And that’s what grace meant. It would teach me how to be afraid. Because you know how I’m someone who can get… When I get scared, I get scary.

LN: Sure. Everybody to a certain degree, would… It’s hard to deal with fear.

BB: It’s hard to deal with fear. And then there you were, Willie, in my ear “It was grace that taught my heart to fear.”

WN: Nothing wrong with fear. There’s a place for it. I’m afraid of fire. I’m afraid of a lot of things, but I’m glad I am. I used to be a little bit different where I wasn’t afraid of anything. And I’ve got a lot of scars to prove it.

LN: But it was you that told me that 99% of the things we’re afraid of never come.

WN: Never happen.

LN: Never happen as well.

WN: But a negative thought will release poison into your body and your heart and soul and everything. And enough of those negatives will cause cancer or anything else bad you can think of that can happen to you. But fear, who was it? “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

LN: But fear itself.

BB: Yeah.

LN: That’s the one, yeah.

WN: Whoever, Roosevelt or somebody like that.

LN: Yeah. And then the other one you told me was, 99% of the things you worry about…

WN: Never happen.

LN: Because worry and fear are two different things. I think, like you said, fear has a place, but worry is almost…

WN: I wrote a song called “Imagine What You Want, and Then Get Out of the Way”

BB: What does that mean, for you?

WN: That means that I can imagine things that I want to happen and if I get out of the goddamn way they will happen.


BB: Okay. So let me ask you a question, because I’m in the goddamn way all the time of what I want. [laughter] I mean, all the time. It’s like, yeah. So if you get in the way of what you want, what are you normally trying to do? What would cause you to get in the way of what you want? What’s the red flag?

WN: Well, fear, if I’m afraid of it, then wait a minute, maybe there’s a reason I’m afraid of it. Check it out, think about it, imagine what you want, but then get out of the way and let it happen. Because I believe that energy follows thought. And whatever you think is still out there, that thought is going around the world right now. Whatever you thought is still out there, that energy is there. If it’s a positive thought, that’s really good. If it’s a negative thought, it could bite you in the ass.

BB: But it circles around the world and then it catches up with you, right? And bites you in the ass.

WN: It’s still out there, yeah, you run into it again.

BB: Again and again.

WN: Yeah.

BB: What about you, Lukas? If you have a vision or a real sense of something you want, and you find yourself getting in the way of it, why usually?

LN: Well, mostly if I over-think it, or if I’m trying to force it to happen. My mom gave me this book when I was a kid called What You Can See, You Can Be! And I remember real clearly. And both of my parents, I think, are very powerful manifesters, if you will. My dad could see what he wanted, and he went there and got it from the time when he was 14 and had Bob Wills come play in Abbott, Texas, or was it Hillsboro?

WN: Yeah, I hauled Bobby’s piano in the back of a pick-up over there.

LN: Yeah, you were 14 years old.

WN: 14 years old.


BB: No way.

LN: He hired Bob Wills to come play at the town there.

WN: Paid him $1,000. And I brought in exactly $1,000. [laughter]

BB: Not $1,005 but $1,000?

LN: Yeah, and then my mom, she’s worked for Formula One, and she worked for McLaren in Europe, and was a dog groomer, and then did make up, and just had so many different… She’s always a go-getter and she is always a go-getter, and always made something, and then when they found each other, that powerful combination raised me. And so, that book that I got, What You Can See, You Can Be! It helped me, I think, to tap into my own powers of manifestation. And I’ve always believed that I could imagine something, but in the book, it says, “Imagine it and then put it in a bubble, and then let it go.” Right, so it’s not just something that you’re obsessing over, it’s just something that you’ve imagined and visualized and then trust, and find that feeling of trust and let it go, and then just work. Do what you do and work, and don’t be afraid to put in the time and work, and take opportunities when they come. And sometimes, like Dad said, “Fear can help you, but worry can hurt you.” That’s the difference. Fear, just instinctual, “Whoa! I better stay away from that.”

WN: Yeah. It’s an immediate thing, but worry is forever.

LN: Worry is this sort of a chronic thing that just keeps you locked in a certain mindset, and it’s not really helpful. It should be a very small amount of time that you use your brain to think through a situation, and at that point, there’s no use worrying because you’ve already weighed every option and now you just got to trust. And that trust is the hard part, I think. But once you can find a place to trust, and for me, that’s what helps. That’s what’s helped me to be able to let that little bubble go and just keep going.

WN: Imagine what you want and then get out of the way.

BB: That’s so powerful for me. Imagine what you… So, I imagine what I want and then I just try to control the shit out of it.

WN: Oh yeah, that’s the…

BB: I just wring the life out of it.

WN: Everyone has that same problem to overcome.

LN: Yeah.

BB: I had a therapist one time tell me, “Hey, Brené, the saying is ‘Let go and let God,’ not let go and let Brené.” [laughter] I was like, “That’s rude, but true.”

WN: God knows what he’s doing. We’re guessing.

BB: Yeah.

LN: Yeah.

BB: On the other hand, I usually don’t. So tell me what it was like, y’all quarantined as a family. Was there a lot of music?

LN: Well, that’s how we recorded this record, right? Most of this family record was done…

WN: Yeah, most of it was done because of the quarantine.

LN: Yeah, because we were up not too far from here, all together, and so we had time to lay these tracks down at Bobbie’s just right there, and we really had everybody together.

WN: It was something that was made to happen. It was meant to happen. For us to use that time that we couldn’t go out and play somewhere, to at least come in here, we’re still making music. And that’s what we love to do.

BB: Yeah.

LN: Yeah. And we were very lucky to be able to have Steve there running the studio, and just to be able to have this outlet.

WN: Yeah, have a studio here to do what we…

LN: Oh man. What kept us sane, I think. Kept us believing.

WN: Oh yeah, yeah. Or to a certain point.

LN: Yeah. Well, yeah…


BB: We all had a breaking point, right?

LN: Maybe it kept us functional, I should say.


BB: Okay. I just want a couple of pieces of Nelson family advice for the world. I think we could use some Nelson family healing right now.

LN: Well, the family rule is, don’t be an asshole, don’t be an… There’s three family rules, right?

WN: Yeah, you do two, I’ll do the third one.

LN: Okay. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be an asshole.

WN: Don’t be a goddamn asshole.


BB: God. Just don’t be an asshole, right?

LN: Oh yeah. [laughter]

WN: That’s it. That’s it.

BB: That’s it.

WN: It’s not hard.


BB: It seems pretty tough out there these days, I got to tell you…


WN: And there’s a lot of them out there. [laughter] I was, I am, maybe still, a gambler. I like to gamble, poker, dominoes, chess, you name it. But I also used to be a kind of a hustler. One time I had all the best calf-ropers in Texas get together and do a rope-off, and I would challenge the winner. I never won but I always come in at second place.


BB: Great job. [laughter] I’m going to definitely use that somehow. You’re going to see me on social media with a lot of second-place ribbons moving forward.

WN: Yeah.


BB: Okay. So, here’s where we could use some Nelson family energy.

LN: Okay.

BB: God, everyone’s scared right now. Everybody’s scared, everybody hates each other, everybody’s at each other’s throats. What is your assessment on what’s going on?

WN: Well, it goes back to nothing to fear but fear, as fear will poison you. We can be respectful but not fearful. You can stay in the house and get your vaccinations and protect yourself. There’s nothing you can do about those who will not take a vaccination. It’s stupidity, I think, is rampant right now around the country, maybe it’s because of everybody being holed up for a long time. I saw this sign about six months ago outside a window that said, “Husband for sale.”


BB: You can make a lot of money selling those signs during this quarantine, I can guarantee you.

LN: I think it’s important that we not demonize each other.  That we not vilify each other. We have to be able to talk to each other without getting to the point where we call the other one an asshole. Because once you’re into that place of name-calling, then you’re an asshole yourself. You know what I mean? You just got to that level, you let yourself go, you let yourself get to that place where your anger is more important than the issue at hand, and I really think it’s important to let go of that part and just try and communicate and reach a part of somebody else where you have common ground. And there may be a point where you can’t, and at that point, then you just gently let go, but you can’t hold on to that vilification. Short of somebody killing somebody, which has happened in this country, and there’s a lot of fear…

BB: Fear.

LN: Yeah, panic, but to the point where we can’t let ourselves be enemies of each other here in this country or in the world. We have to find places where we connect, and if we don’t, then we are going to tear each other apart, I believe. And so, we have to find a place where we all want to live happily, we all want to be able to eat, we want to be able to have food and water. And everybody, I believe, when it comes down to it, when you forget about political affiliations, I think that most people, if taken away from their political affiliations really do have compassion. It’s just they’ve gotten into this mindset where it’s like a team, it’s the blue and the red. And then, of course, there’s just this perpetual news cycle. And so you have to really be careful that you don’t associate with a certain team, and you don’t actually talk about the issues. And you’re not actually discussing rationally. And there are many people out there that are. But it’s important not to associate or find your identity with the left or the right, just find your identity with what matters, in my opinion.

WN: Also there’s the Great Communicator. Is there still Reader’s Digest book out there? Anyway, it used to be in the middle page and it was all two pages of jokes.

BB: Oh God, I remember that. I remember that.

WN: And the name was “Laughter is the best medicine.”

BB: Yeah.

LN: That’s right.

WN: Period.

BB: I remember that. And I have to say, I loved your… You had a lot of posts for a while about like, “Turn off the news,” and that was helpful.

LN: Yeah. Well, because it was just… For me, it’s not about inaction. In fact, it’s about action, it’s about putting down the phone and doing something. I met a guy, a friend of mine, who’s a big fan of ours, and he had a bad accident. And what happened was that accident had sparked him into action and it told him, before he was very concerned with every new news cycle, and what he realized after his accident was, “I’ve been sitting on my couch and on my phone and watching this stuff and not doing anything about it.  I’ve just been feeling anxiety about it because most of the articles on here have nothing to do with me, they’re just something I have to read and I have no control over.” But when he had his accident, he was laying in his hospital bed, he came to the point where, “You know what, I’m going to join my local city council. I’m going to actually get into local government because that’s where I know I can make a difference.”

LN: And so now it’s a bipartisan thing, he’s just figuring out issues to make his neighborhood better. And everybody has the opportunity to, I think in their lives, even if it’s just with their family around them, to cultivate love in their garden, if you will. Turn off the news and build a garden. Turn off the news is the first step, building a garden is really what that song means, and the garden is connecting with people and trying to find common ground and trying to figure out how we can make the world a better place because we can’t by just continually clashing. We have to figure out a way to get along.

BB: Yeah.

LN: And so that’s really what that is about, is turn off the news and build a garden, do something. And I think that maybe, for some got missed when I first put that song out, but I’ll tell you every time we play that live, it’s a big highlight because people connect with that idea, and I think inside people know that they’re being sucked in, to the phones, and to the cycle, and…

BB: Oh God, it’s addictive.

LN: It is addictive, and a lot of people watch that movie, “The Social Dilemma.”

BB: “The Social Dilemma.” Holy shit, that scared me.

LN: It scares, it scares, about social media and how in a way we’re being assimilated by these devices, and it’s really important that we set that aside and go and connect with somebody…

WN: And we have to learn to think positive about politics.

BB: Say more

WN: Because it exists.

LN: Yeah, that’s a good point.

BB: Wow. Say that again, we have to think positive…

WN: Positive about politics because it exists, it’s here, it ain’t going off. My daughter sent me a thing the other day where it says, “Viagra makes politicians taller.”


BB: Wait! Stop! [laughter] Oh my God. That’s so funny.

LN: Yeah. But anyway…

BB: But it’s here…

WN: Still we need politicians. We need people to represent us…

LN: We need people to run the government.

WN: Locally, nationally, the world, we need them. [chuckle] But we need them to have a good attitude.

BB: We need the shorter ones. [laughter] We need the real little ones. [laughter] To me, what your song said was, “Stop tearing shit down.”

LN: Yes.

BB: And take that energy and build something.

LN: Exactly, yeah.

BB: And what I realized when I heard it the first time was, at first I was like, “Oh, that’s neat, but I’m not going to build a garden.” And then I was like, “Oh, this is deeper, this is a metaphor for, stop using all your time and energy just to tear shit apart.”

LN: Sure.

BB: “And make something, that matters.”

LN: And there’s so much being made right now, I just saw an article about the great garbage patch in the Pacific that’s being cleaned up right now.

BB: Oh God. Yeah.

LN: There’s new technology being rapidly invented right now. And there is hope, if we put our energy in the positives, in the building, in the finding politicians that believe in the future of the planet, and aren’t cynical.  It’s really important to figure out how we can build a better world for ourselves and our future, and there’s a lot of cynicism even in our youth right now, and I think we have just gone through a really traumatizing time…

BB: Oh my God, for sure.

LN: That’s really made the divisions deeper between us, but we have to find ways to repair those divisions.

Annie D’Angelo: People forget we are the government. And we… We…

LN: Yeah. Yeah. My mom is saying, and you probably can’t hear because there’s no mic, but people do forget that we are the government, the government is the people, and we have to believe in that. We have to believe in that, we have to believe that we can put people in charge, that have our best interest in mind. It’s so easy to be cynical about that.

WN: And I also believe that if we put someone in charge, we could also fire ’em.

BB: Yeah, hold them accountable, right?

LN: Yeah, exactly.

BB: Hold them accountable.

WN: Yeah, yeah. If they’re not doing what you want, vote them out.

LN: Exactly.

BB: I want to ask y’all one last question, and it’s about music because Durkheim, who was a French philosopher.  They were studying this thing that they saw in church. And they thought it was some kind of weird magic, and they named it “collective effervescence.” What happens to people when they come together and there’s this collective joy? To me, the closest we have to that right now is music. When you’re on the stage and you’re looking out, and if you turn on all the lights and told people like, “What do you believe politically? What do you believe about the vaccine? What do you believe?” It’d just be a shit show. Right? But there’s a collective effervescence that brings us together with music. What does that look like for y’all when you see it? When you look out and you see people loving each other and singing together, what does that mean?

WN: Well, again, it’s me imagining what I want, and seeing it happening, and saying, “Thank you, glad you came here.” We’re all in the same place.

LN: Yeah.

BB: Wow.

LN: We’re creating a place that we want to see, that we’re creating the world. Like Gandhi says, “You have to be the change you wish to see in the world.” Well, the music, to me, ever since I was a kid and watching Dad go all over the world, I realized that music was a vehicle for a joyful life for me. Like I could follow music and travel everywhere and meet people and bring people together, it’s a win-win. I have fun doing it, they have fun at the show. I can make a living doing it if I play my cards right, and practice and get good at it. And there’s so much joy in learning a skill like that, and in a way, devoting yourself to something, like building a skill like that is connecting to God, to me too.

BB: God, amen. Yeah.

LN: It’s like an instrument of spirit, it’s a weapon of soul.

WN: Yeah. I started something one time, I don’t know if I finished it or not, which is “God is love, and love is God, and that’s all you need to know.”

LN: Isn’t that on the record? Isn’t that on the record?

WN: Is it? I don’t know.

LN: Is “God is Love” on the record?

AD: No.

LN: No, it’s not.

BB: No, I don’t think it is.

AD: God is the Borg, if you play it right.

LN: The Borg?

AD: It could be a good Borg.

LN: Yeah. Yeah, God brings us together, but not in a, “I’ll take away your individuality and assimilate you.” [chuckle] “But I’ll celebrate your individuality and our connection with each other.”

BB: Holy crap. Did you just make a Star Trek reference?

LN: Yes, she did. [laughter]

BB: I’m a Trekkie too.

LN: Oh yeah, me too. Yeah.

BB: Oh! Yeah. My husband calls me the Borg because wherever I go, whatever accent they speak, I come back speaking it. [laughter] So, you know, I…

LN: My mom does that too.

AD: You too.

LN: I don’t know about that.

WN: What’s that?

LN: Yeah. Wherever you go, you sort of adopt the accent that you’re around, that happens when I’m in the South a lot when I…

BB: Me too.

LN: I get that, for sure, but…

BB: The Borg, I just…

LN: But my mom does that when she’s in Italy, she’s all of a sudden really Italian. [laughter]

BB: I love it.

LN: Yeah.

BB: All right, y’all. Could you play a song?

LN: Oh yeah. You want to play “Just Outside of Austin” or you want to play one from the new record, or?

WN: Play that “Outside of Austin” and I’ll play some guitar with you.

LN: All right. Okay.

BB: Oh my God. I just want for everybody listening, I have… I thought about this moment, and then I got out of the way, and the shit’s happening right now, people, the shit is happening right now.


WN: There you go. Imagine it, and get out of the way.


LN: We are in C.

WN: C. All right.


LN: Cedar trees, the morning air, the way the dew sits on her hair, so peacefully below a Texas sky. I think I’ll leave her lying there, take a walk, I don’t know where, just bathing in the sunlight in my life. I hear the sound of windy leaves, summer birds and gently flowing rivers creeks and pools up from the spring. The music of the water on the rocks is getting louder, as I walk towards whatever life may bring. Just outside of Austin, high as I’ve ever been, just outside of Austin, I think I fell in love with you again. I went out to play the other day, the city and its city ways, a time and place for everything you’d say. But I just want to sit at home, ride my horse or write a song, a little bit of weed and I’m okay. Those nights when it’s just you and me, or maybe soon we could be three, it ain’t so bad a place to raise a kid, or maybe we should wait a while, no need to hurry nothing, I’m just saying I’d be happy if we did. Just outside of Austin, high as I’ve ever been, just outside of Austin, I think I fell in love with you again. Just outside of Austin, I think I fell in love with you again.

BB: Whoa!


LN: All right.

BB: Oh my God.


LN: There it is.

BB: Y’all will have to close this shit out. I can’t talk. Oh my God.

LN: Well, thank you, Brené. I appreciate it.

BB: Thank you for being on Unlocking Us, the new album is so beautiful. And just the timing of it.  It’s what we need right now so much.

WN: I agree.

LN: Yeah, me too. And I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it. Yeah.

WN: Yeah.

BB: Me too.

LN: We had fun doing it, so.

BB: And the love comes right through.

LN: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. Lukas and Willie Nelson, thank you so much.

LN: Thank you.

WN: Yes, thank you.

LN: Thank you, Brené. It was an honor to be here. Thank you. Fantastic author. Thank you.



BB: Okay. Can y’all believe that this happened to me? Like I wished it, I put it into the universe, and then I got out of my own damn way. Oh, what a moment. I want to tell you a little bit about Lukas and Willie. Lukas, if you’ve never heard Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, what… The song that you heard is from Lukas and his band, and just sit there and listen to hear him sing it and, man, that is a song that is so timeless and beautiful, I cry every time I hear it and don’t think I didn’t cry in the studio. I really encourage you to check out Lukas’ music. And then Willie probably doesn’t need a go-over, but let me just tell you, seven-decade career, he’s earned every conceivable award as a musician, he’s an author, an actor, an activist. He is just… He’s Willie Nelson, y’all. Like, just icon, just real icon.

BB: You can get all the links on the episode page on You can find Lukas’ music and Willie’s music on Spotify or wherever you listen to music. I will put links to all of the books. Sister Bobbie and Willie wrote a beautiful kid’s book. I love. If you saw my coffee table, you would see a lot of Willie Nelson and Nelson family books. I just love them. All right, I appreciate you being here. We’ll leave with two sign-offs. One, stay awkward, brave, and kind. And two, from the Nelson family rule book, don’t be an asshole. All right, y’all, take good care.


BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil, and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez, and the amazing Gina Chavez.

© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, November 17). Brené with Lukas and Willie Nelson on Family, Love, and Music. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.