Willie Nelson was born and raised in Abbott, Texas, a town roughly five miles north of West, which was recently devastated by a fertilizer plant explosion. I caught up with Willie on his bus in Nashville, Thursday night, before he recorded an eightieth birthday special for CMT.

To you, West means your community, your friends and neighbors.
Sure, I grew up in Abbott. We have a home there. The Methodist church there is our church, and my sister Bobbie and I went to church there all our lives. West is just a few miles down the road—about five miles from where my house is there. We go there whenever I’m in Abbott. We go for kolaches. And there used to be a place called Shadowland that had great stew. It’s our old stomping grounds.

And sadly, your own stomping grounds have been leveled.
Stomped. It’s a horrible thing. Our thoughts and prayers are with those folks going through it all. 

People have moved quickly to help, but obviously, they’re going to need so much.
People have really come together. Anybody who can help, I’m sure will. We wanted to give them a few ways. One is turning the concert at the Backyard into a benefit for the West Fire Department. Anybody who can’t buy a ticket can just pretend they did and send the money to the West Fire Department.

I imagine turning the concert into a benefit was an easy decision.
Very easy. It’s a small something, but not enough. There’s other things we’ll think of. People are generous. Over the years, from Farm Aid and other benefits, I’ve learned people want to be asked to help, but they need to know their money is going to the right place.

Money aside, you also believe in music itself as a healing force. 
There’s no doubt about it. Music is the healer. That’s why people drive a long way and pay good money to clap and sing along. It’s therapeutic. George Beverly Shea, the great gospel singer, just passed away. He was 104. But let’s keep singing those gospel songs. 

But between Boston and this, these have been dark days. The only ray of light, in both cases, seems to be people pitching in to help. 
All over the world, people are people. I get ask all the time how was the audience here compared to the audience at some other place. And I say, “They’re no different.” People are people. Same with these tragedies. The people in Boston showed up and they’re helping. They showed a lot of heart. Same with West. Texas is coming together. We’ll get through it.