Amanda Shires considered Bobbie Nelson one of her heroes long before they became friends and started work on their new album of duets, Loving You, back in 2021. While much of the world thinks of Bobbie as Willie’s sister and longtime piano player, Shires saw Bobbie as a North Star guiding light in her own right. She was a musician who managed to shine as a side player in a band, just as Shires started doing when she joined the Texas Playboys at the age of fifteen. Bobbie was also a female who navigated a male-dominated industry and a working mom to boot, overcoming some of life’s hardest obstacles by leaning on faith, family, and music.

In this week’s episode of One by Willie, Shires talks about hearing all those qualities in the new album’s title song, “Loving You.” It’s the only song Sister Bobbie ever wrote, a solo piano instrumental on the album, but with lyrics that Bobbie, who died March 10, 2022, started years ago and that Shires—at Bobbie’s request—intends one day to finish.

(Read a transcript of this episode below.)

The song’s also a jumping-off point for a discussion about how the two women recorded the album in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the friendship that flowered in the studio. They created a family band, adding Bobbie’s son Freddy Fletcher—a Grammy-nominated record producer himself—on drums and working up songs they’d both been playing since they were kids, such as “Summertime” and “Old Fashioned Love,” along with a couple covers of favorite Willie songs, “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” and “Always on My Mind.” They also had a grand idea for what to do when the album came out.

“Our big plan was to go around about once a month to towns and spend a long weekend playing these songs and doing a little shopping and some fine dining,” says Shires. “And although she’s not here now to do that, I felt like what a dishonor it would be to not see it through, to tell her story, and maybe inspire somebody else along the way.”

Following through on that intention, Shires is playing two tribute shows at historic Texas venues next month with Bobbie and Willie’s old friends and collaborators, Western swing stalwarts Asleep at the Wheel. And eventually, when the time feels right, she’s going to finish Bobbie’s lyrics to “Loving You.”

We’ve created an Apple Music playlist for this series that we’ll add to with each episode we publish. And if you like the show, please subscribe and drop us a rating on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

One by Willie is produced and engineered by Brian Standefer, with audio editing by Jackie Ibarra and production by Patrick Michels. Our executive producer is Megan Creydt. Graphic design is by Emily Kimbro and Victoria Millner.

Amanda Shires and Asleep at the Wheel: A Celebration of Bobbie Nelson: July 8 at the Longhorn Ballroom and July 9 at Gruene Hall.


John Spong (voice-over): Hey there, I’m John Spong with Texas Monthly magazine, and this is One by Willie, a podcast in which I talk each week to one notable Willie Nelson fan about one Willie song that they really love. The show is brought to you by Still Austin craft whiskey.

This week, we do something a little bit different and a whole lot special. Amanda Shires is big deal singer-songwriter and a hot s— country fiddle player. Her new album is a duet record with Willie’s sister, pianist Bobbie Nelson, and Amanda’s going to talk to us about that album’s title track, “Loving You.” It’s the only song Sister Bobbie ever wrote, a solo piano instrumental that Amanda says is all about love, faith, and family. She also talks about how Bobbie was one of her heroes long before they became friends and made this record, as a trailblazing female in a male-dominated industry, as a musician in general, as a mom, and just as a person.

So let’s do it.

[Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires playing “Loving You”]

John Spong: So, we always start with the focus song, which, in this case, will be a new one to just about everybody listening. It was written and performed solely by pianist Bobbie Nelson, who of course is Willie’s sister, and it’s called “Loving You.” Can you tell us a little about “Loving You”?

Amanda Shires: When she started playing that song, I was just thinking, “Wow. You wrote this? That’s incredible.” And then she said, “I have a few words for it too, and I’d like to get words to all of it.” And we were working on it. And I’m a really slow writer—I still have the notes and the voice memos I took of what we were doing. But my regret is that I didn’t get to finish the words part, but I know I will one day. But I also didn’t want to rush that part of it.

John Spong: Mm-hmm.

Amanda Shires: And it stands so beautifully there on its own as an instrumental. And it’s tough to face something when one of your heroes passes on. So I think maybe time might heal things more to where I could finish it. But anyway, it’s a song that I think really encompasses the way that she lived in her faith, and her loyalty to her family and role as a mother and all that, and a testament to her life and many loves, be it familial love, or the love between men and women—and the love of God.

John Spong: And the love of God. Because it seems, when I listen to it . . . separate from Bobbie’s work with her brother. I think about two kinds of music, kind of, when I think of her. I think about gospel, and I think about Tin Pan Alley–type stuff. And there’s something about the melody to this and the performance of this that, to me, it’s almost like the left hand is in the church and getting the momentum from that, but the melody is somehow Cole Porter or the Gershwins. It’s the two musical sides of Bobbie right there, when I hear it. 

Amanda Shires: Yeah—yeah.

John Spong: Will you listen to it with me? Can I spin it real quick? 

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

[Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires playing “Loving You”]

Amanda Shires: That’s an emotional roller coaster there.

John Spong: Tell me.

Amanda Shires: It feels like—it feels like . . . it feels like feelings and heart.

John Spong: Does that go into how she wrote it and why she wrote it?

Amanda Shires: I think so. I think so. It’s hard for me to speak for her, or attempt to, but knowing her story and the way she managed crisis and abuse, and also the joys and ups and downs of life, and did it with such grace and so much forgiveness, and led with love . . . is an amazing thing. And while life can be so heartbreaking, you can sort of feel the way that she could handle things with class and grace and faith. Yep. Yep.

John Spong: And so, it’s tough . . . but she told you, it sounds like, the impetus for writing that in the first place?

Amanda Shires: Yeah, you know, it has to do with the loves won and lost in her life. Husbands, and kids, and . . .

John Spong: Yeah.

Amanda Shires: And other family losses and everything, and the way that it is that we love, and we continue to love even though we know we can certainly be in for a heartbreak. And—

John Spong: Yeah.

Amanda Shires: Like, you know, having kids, it feels a lot of times your heart’s just out walking around in the world without you.

John Spong: Yeah. And as we talked about before we got on here, her son Freddy is a friend and has been really helpful with me for a lot of things through the years. He said this song was about his older—that she wrote it after his older brother Michael died, which is in the summer, I think, of ’88. So he said, “Man, that’s an old song, from Mom. She wrote that a long time ago.” And one of the things—because I know you’ve read the book Bobbie did, Bobbie and Willie did, and she talks about it so much in there, you know: Michael died of AIDS.

Amanda Shires: Yep.

John Spong: And that was a time—I just remember reading the newspaper back then. When you saw a young man’s picture in the obituary section of the newspaper in Texas in 1988, it didn’t list a cause of death.

Amanda Shires: No, right, right.

John Spong: You know?

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

John Spong: And if the parents were gracious at all, they would mention a “special friend.” But more likely than not, they didn’t. And then six months later, her other . . . Freddy’s other older brother, Randy, died in a car accident, you know, and—

Amanda Shires: And one of Willie’s children, too, within that time.

John Spong: About a year later, yeah. Yeah, Billy, Willie Jr. And so when I hear this song now—I mean, I’d gotten really into this song and this recording before connecting those dots.

Amanda Shires: Mm-hmm.

John Spong: And now that they’re connected, it just . . . This will sound weird—it kills me that the melody’s not sadder than it is. It’s like the song is about her love of Michael more than her loss of Michael.

Amanda Shires: Yeah, and I think that goes a lot with her faith and her—how she knew that he was with God, and that gave her peace. And you can’t help but imagine that as being beautiful, even though you’ve lost . . . I can’t imagine the loss of a child. I can’t imagine the loss of two children. I can’t even . . . They say God doesn’t put a burden on you you can’t bear, but Jesus. Wow, she’s a strong woman.

John Spong: Yeah. Yeah.

[Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires playing “Loving You”]

John Spong: So, Bobbie is someone you’ve admired for a long time, before you even got to know her.

Amanda Shires: Right. I’d been playing in The Texas Playboys band. I got to know them early in my teenage years. They’d start paying me. Somewhere when I was fifteen is when I started getting paid. Tommy Allsup was running the band then, and Leon Rausch was the singer.

John Spong: Oh, wow.

Amanda Shires: And we had Tom “the Wolf” Morrell on steel, and sometimes Bobby Koefer on steel, who is still alive. Bobby Koefer is still alive. And he was a kid himself playing with the Wills band. My sister helped me find him recently on Facebook, because I don’t have Facebook, but he’s in his nineties. And I know that’s kind of off-topic, but I’ve always been a person that pays attention, and I really love old western swing, and Bobbie and I bonded over that, for sure. And that shows in a couple of the songs that are on the record. But yeah, so I was playing in that band. I played with Billy Joe Shaver. I played with anybody that’d have me, really, and saw her play often. And then Mickey Raphael introduced me to her and afforded me the chance to play with her and Willie onstage a few times. And we got along great. We always talked about how we liked each other’s clothes. And then we just started talking about old tunes. And then come to find out, we knew almost all the same tunes. She even knew “Red Wing.”

John Spong: Oh, wow.

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

John Spong: Wow. And I remember reading, when—your daughter is Mercy, and when you had Mercy, there was some . . . I forget where I read it, but you had said, “Becoming a mother—is this going to get in the way with being a musician, or do I have to give one up?” Was Bobbie kind of a . . . That’s her example.

Amanda Shires: Yeah. Yeah.

John Spong: She had this fight with that.

Amanda Shires: Mm-hmm. Yeah. She was an example for me. That question didn’t come into my mind until . . . I was playing—Gregg Allman had me out on the road, and he was totally cool with having a pregnant woman out there opening shows. And, I mean, this was much after his, uh, interesting past. But then there were other folks that would see that as a liability and not have me because I was pregnant, which is really—it’s not a disease or anything. People walk around the world all the time pregnant. And it’s not a condition. It’s just a thing. It’s a thing that happens, and it doesn’t change anything except for the length of the seatbelt across your waist. And a tour manager once told me—somebody else’s—that they weren’t sure that I was doing something right for the baby. And I said, “Well, sir, when you start being able to have babies, I might take your comment seriously.” And then I never spoke to that person again.

But yeah, I did look at folks who had done it before, like Bobbie, and there aren’t many during that time that had done it. And then this was in the time before Beyoncé was blessing the covers of magazines with her, you know, glorious, glorious, I guess, protuberance. [Laughs] But it’s so beautiful. I mean, why hide that away? It’s a beautiful thing, what the human body can do. But I definitely kept front and center that my mom did it, and Bobbie did it. And, yeah, there were a few other examples I had, but I saw people that could do it. So I was like, “Whatever. I’ll just do it.” And then two weeks later, I was playing at the Ryman and having to have a stage manager take my freshly pumped milk back to the house because Mercy was being watched by my mom. And it was not easy, you know? I didn’t know at that time that I needed a special bra so I wouldn’t lactate in front of two thousand people. But you live and you learn.

John Spong: You live and learn. You’re catching up to modernity, aren’t you?

Amanda Shires: Yeah, exactly.

John Spong: The hard way.

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

John Spong: Bobbie, of course, couldn’t do that. That’s part of her famous story. Her kids were taken away because she was a musician.

Amanda Shires: Exactly.

John Spong: She was playing in bars!

Amanda Shires: She was. They sullied—they called her things that were untrue. And she dealt with it. And she went to school, and she modeled B3s, and got her kids back eventually, and then, you know, in the Wexler years, got to rejoin Willie and all that. And it’s like—it’s an amazing thing that she found a place for music even through that. She didn’t give up music. She found ways to do it, like at establishments where they weren’t drinking, and all this kind of stuff. And it’s just a shame that that was the case, but also, had she not done that, it would’ve been different now, because steps would’ve been slower to getting to where we are now, for sure. It takes a lot of little ripples in the water to effect change. And I don’t take it lightly that she went through all of that.

And that’s part of the reason I think this record needs to exist, because while we all are getting to have more, because of the work of others, it’s necessary to honor and tribute the folks that worked so hard and had to experience so much, you know, heartbreaking things and learn how to live with it. You know what I mean?

John Spong: I do. And it makes me think. If I may, can I tell you this much about how I got to know Bobbie—

Amanda Shires: Oh, please. Yeah.

John Spong: And the one really special night I spent with her?

Amanda Shires: Mm-hmm.

John Spong: So, it’s about twenty-five years ago, and I was going with this young woman who was really tight with Bobbie’s son Freddy and Freddy’s wife Lisa. And every Sunday night, that woman would have dinner at a Tex-Mex place in Austin with Bobbie and Freddy and Lisa. And so, right about that time, I spent a weekend with some buddies in Mexico City, and the short version is, our cab got hijacked by some dudes with pistols.

Amanda Shires: Oh, jeez.

John Spong: Yeah. One of the guys got shot, and survived, but it was pretty touch and go. And he was a big deal writer. It was Jan Reid, who wrote the book The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, if you’ve ever seen that.

Amanda Shires: No, but I’d love to. That sounds amazing.

John Spong: People like Lyle will tell you it’s the bible for the singer-songwriter movement in Austin in the seventies.

Amanda Shires: Okay. Okay.

John Spong: But so, Jan’s the one that got shot.

Amanda Shires: Mm-hmm.

John Spong: And it was national news for a couple of days. But anyhow, when we get back, this girl I’m seeing, Lisa, says, “Aunt Bobbie wants you to come to dinner with us on Sunday night.” And I said, “What?” And she said, “Yeah. She just wants to see if you’re okay.” And so we went to this Tex-Mex place. And I mean, it was because she cared so much about my friend, Lisa, and by extension about me. But she really cared. She wanted to make sure I was okay. She was one of those people that just sat and asked questions, didn’t try to make it better, just tried to be there with me through a really nasty thing.

Amanda Shires: Yeah. For sure. And she’s known for doing that, even for folks—whatever good or bad arose, she was known for being there. And . . . 

John Spong: Yeah.

Amanda Shires: Speaking of nights with Bobbie, I had my first escargot with her, and also my last. [Laughs]

John Spong: Is there more in there, or do you want to leave it at that?

Amanda Shires: I mean, I guess that speaks to her enjoyment of finer things. And I admire that too, ’cause I came from nothing, you know? I mean, except for the little family I had. But, I don’t know, I identified with that, with her, ’cause, I mean, I didn’t even have mussels till I went to Scotland once. So, I don’t know. It’s just neat. It’s just neat drawing lines and similarities into the experiences we get to have, and are afforded by the luxury of getting to do the things we love to do, which is music, and make friends along the way.

John Spong: Well, and talk about courage, ’cause I’ve got to figure that the first time she ever tried a snail, it was when Willie made her do it. It was Abbott escargot, and Willie said, “Oh, trust me, you’ll be fine.” 

[Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires playing “Loving You”]

John Spong: How did this record happen, then?

Amanda Shires: Well, I was recording my record Take It Like a Man. And that record is very much a deep dive into the . . . a low point, a major low point in my marriage with my husband. And people talk about how when you’re married, they’re like, “It’s not hard. It’s work,” but there wasn’t a lot of description as to what that was. My grandparents really didn’t tell me what that was. And my mom didn’t know, obviously, because she loved being married so much she did it six times.

But anyway, there’s a record that deals heavily in matters of the heart and marriage, and “You Were Always on My Mind,” you know—I’d heard Willie and Bobbie and the band play it a lot. And it was a song that, when we were touring with Willie and them, whenever it came on, we’d go to the front of house and listen to it together and dance—it’s not a dance number, but kind of slow dance. And that was reminding me of a good time, but also the subject matter of “You Were Always on My Mind” is related to that record. And I thought I wanted to put that on the record. And I was thinking about it—during the studio, I tried it with my piano player. And I said, “Lawrence, you know, it has to be Bobbie. We gotta see if Bobbie will do it with me.”

John Spong: Oh, wow.

Amanda Shires: And we called, and Freddy said that she said yes. And I said, “What’s her favorite flowers?” And he said, “Orchids.” And so I sent her some orchids. And then we found ourselves in the studio recording it. And then, at that point, we started talking about our leaky heart valves. And we were deciding at that point we were going to be a band, and we needed to keep that song for our record of Bobbie and Amanda and the Leaky Hearts. And then she said, “The next song we’re going to cut is ‘Summertime.’ ” And I said, “Okay, Miss Bobbie. That’s what we’re doing.” And our big plan was to go around about once a month to towns and spend a long weekend playing these songs and doing a little shopping and some fine dining. And although she’s not here now to do that, I felt like what a dishonor it would be to not see it through, and to tell her story, and maybe inspire somebody else along the way.

John Spong: Yeah. I’m so, kind of, joyed that it starts with “Always on My Mind,” because as much as I’ve enjoyed the album, that was this track that was kind of the revelation moment, the Rosetta Stone moment for me. And it’s because her intro on the piano on that is so different from when she does it with Willie. And the thing is, the intro . . . Do you have the bandwidth—can I just spin—

Amanda Shires: Go for it, please.

John Spong: —the way she does it live with Willie and the way you did it.

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

John Spong: Because I mean, it is iconic, in the way that Pig Robbins on the front of “Behind Closed Doors” is iconic. When you hear the first notes of her doing that with Willie, you know what’s coming.

[Bobbie Nelson playing intro to “Always on My Mind” on Willie Nelson’s Live at Budokan]

Amanda Shires: Wow.

John Spong: We know that. Now listen to this, though.

[Bobbie Nelson playing intro to “Always on My Mind” on Loving You]

Amanda Shires: Man.

John Spong: This is so different. It’s a reimagining of the song, for me.

Amanda Shires: Well, I was talking to her . . . she loved this song too. And I was saying to her, like, I want to do this—much like when we were doing “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” later—I said, “I don’t know how to do this. It’s already been done.” And she said, “But it hasn’t been done by you.” And she said, “Your perspective makes it different. I mean, everybody brings their own life experience and stuff into the situation.” And then she said, “Also, when you’re doing the music, you’re not supposed to think about that other stuff.” And I was like, “You know, you are actually right, Miss Bobbie. You’re not supposed to think about that stuff. That’s the stuff you’re supposed to leave out.”

And that helped me in more than one way, just more than that recording experience. ’Cause we do oftentimes find ourselves comparing ourselves to others or wishing we had something that we didn’t have, when in truth, we have everything that we need. We were all given it. And trusting that is sometimes difficult, and you need reminding. Like, Bobbie was so quick and short with her deliveries of big things like that, that I was just like, “Wow.” Things that felt revelatory, which weren’t. You know that she’s right. And she’s just basically told you, “That’s not what this is about. That’s not what music’s about.” And I was like, “You’re right. Why am I letting all that in?” But she had a way of centering folks around her, and just, like, she radiated pure things. And she was also strong and tough. And I don’t want to use the word “sassy,” because she wasn’t. That’s what people say about women. But she was strong, and she was tough, and she would say what she thought.

John Spong: Yeah. Yeah, there’s a levity to “sassy” . . . well, there’s dismissiveness—

Amanda Shires: Yeah. Yeah, there’s a—

John Spong: —to the way it usually gets used. So screw it.

Amanda Shires: Yeah, exactly.

John Spong: So, when y’all recorded this, that’s middle—not lockdown necessarily, but it’s pandemic time.

Amanda Shires: Mm-hmm.

John Spong: And I had forgotten this, but she had just had a couple of strokes.

Amanda Shires: Yes. And Freddy said that this project was really helping with that. She was excited about it, and she definitely was when we would get in there, and then . . . she could play. She could still play. And then we were getting fired up about all this stuff, you know, and having fun with it. And the joy was effervescent, I guess, because I can’t find a better word. And bubbly things are joyful.

John Spong: Yeah. I remember he had said a while back that it was after one of the strokes, that it was just bleak . . . until they got a keyboard in front of her. Once they got a keyboard in front of her, she starts playing Bach. She’s not even playing—

Amanda Shires: Wow.

John Spong: —gospel or whatever. It’s Bach and Beethoven, and the tumblers start to click again.

Amanda Shires: Yeah, that’s incredible.

John Spong: And she becomes Bobbie again.

Amanda Shires: Yes. Amazing. The thread, you know, the music.

[Bobbie Nelson playing “Old Fashioned Love”]

John Spong: So it sounds like you knew most of these songs already. I wondered if you had to go find recordings like “Old Fashioned Love.” Or—

Amanda Shires: No. I learned that in the Bob Wills band.

John Spong: —“La Paloma.”

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

John Spong: Of course. Yeah.

Amanda Shires: “La Paloma” I had to learn. I did not know that. And she was like, “We’re putting this one on there.” And I was like, “I don’t know that.” And she was like, “You will by the time we’re done with it.” And I was like, “Yes, ma’am.” And I went so far as to locate sheet music for it, and it was pages long—fifteen pages. I had to get two music stands. And then she sat on the other side of the wall, because I overdubbed it. I was like, “This is going to take me a minute, guys.” And it sure did. But that’s a good thing about music. You can always learn something new. And I did learn something new there. And it was also quite intimidating to be on the other side of the glass, not hearing the commentary as I kept on screwing it up. But when I did finally finish it, there was a margarita ready for me. And I was like, “Okay, awesome. I see. We just had some real fun here.” And I thought that one turned out fantastic.

[Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires playing “La Paloma”]

John Spong: Oh, it’s so cool. And that was one of the ones Freddy was most proud of, because—what we haven’t even mentioned yet—he’s playing drums on a lot of this stuff. And he said, “These are songs—”

Amanda Shires: He played drums on all of it.

John Spong: Yeah.

Amanda Shires: We added a couple of percussion things, because it’s fun, and Jay Bellerose is good, but Freddy is the drummer on this.

John Spong: When he said, “These are songs my mom played for us when we were kids, and that we’ve been playing together,” I mean, he’s been playing that song with his mom—

Amanda Shires: Yeah.

John Spong: —fifty-five, sixty years, something like that. And that’s the other thing that’s so cool about the record. So many Willie records, if you’ve read up on which is which, some of them really are just him sitting around with his buddies and his old friends. And that’s what this is. This is like a family thing with Bobbie and Freddy.

Amanda Shires: And we get to have that because—

John Spong: And now you’re part of the family.

Amanda Shires: We get to have that because Willie worked with Waylon and all the folks that made it possible that we could play music with our friends. Yes, I love Chet Atkins, but Waylon was right to change that up, because without that having happened, we might not have had the Willie or the Bobbie that we know today. Music would’ve been different. They still would’ve been there. But for them to kind of buck the system then, of having the fantastic Nashville players, the studio players—they were wonderful—

John Spong: Yeah.

Amanda Shires: —and that’s not slighting them, because I would never do that. But to be able to, as an artist, control your music and know what it’s supposed to sound like, and to have the damn guts to say, “I want to make my records with the folks I want to make my records with.” And because of them, those outlaws that we call them, we get to have folks like Bobbie in our lives, and Paul English and all that, and Freddy Fletcher. Otherwise we’d be relegated to the choices that others make for us. And I think that those of us that create music know what we want to do with it, and some of us do want to use only the studio musicians, and others of us want to use the folks, our family, that we play with every day and that we tour with.

John Spong: Yeah. And it gets at this really cool thing in music history and in Nelson family history. Especially if you’re in Austin, everybody’s convinced that Austin made Willie Willie, and he came here, and that’s when it all happened. But the fact is, he thought about moving back to a lot of places in Texas. And Houston was the first one. But then he picked Austin and moved here because Bobbie lived here.

You know, and when you mentioned the Wexler records a second ago, Willie tried everything Chet Atkins put in front of him, and he did it well. It didn’t work, with much of the country, with audiences, but he did it well. Those records are wonderful. Everything changed for him when he started playing with Bobbie again.

Amanda Shires: Yep.

John Spong: It changed when Bobbie got in the band.

Amanda Shires: Yep. And, you know, she had this way of keeping you at your center. And they know each other really well, obviously. But they knew the hymns, and they knew the music they played together, and she was a sideman, and she loved that role. And she was really good at it. And she was good at supporting. And to have somebody out there that knows you that well and that you can sit there—if you turned all the lights off in a room, they could play their instruments together in time without even seeing each other. You know?

John Spong: Yeah.

Amanda Shires: That sibling connection thing, and then all the time and things that they spent together and saw together—I mean, these are my theories, of course. I’d have to have somebody else vouch for if those are correct. But I do have a sister, and I know what that’s like.

John Spong: [Laughs] But you also have a family that’s got music at its heart.

Amanda Shires: Truly, truly I do. And I am blessed because of that. Because I don’t know what I’d do if I was wandering around talking about chord changes and nobody knew what I was talking about.

John Spong: [Laughs] And when you mentioned a second ago that she was a sideman, in a sense, for much of, well, for her career, professional career, her public career . . . on this record, you’re the vocalist and your violin, your fiddle, is so wonderful on the record, but it’s kind of Bobbie’s record.

Amanda Shires: It is. I’m a side person. I started as a side person, and I find myself in the side person role, sideman role, often. And it’s a hard one for me to separate when it is, in fact, my name on the sign sometimes. But I don’t mind it. I like to think of it as I know both sides of what it’s like. But in the studio sometimes, it would be difficult trying to figure out who was the leader, because neither of us were leading. We’d [be] following each other around. To me it felt a lot like we were waltzing around the room together. We were waltzing with our instruments, independently together, in a room. And I think that was pretty special. I was like, “Who’s supposed to be following who here?” And she was like, “I think I’m following you.” And I was like, “Nah, I’m definitely following you.” She said, “Oh, yeah, you are.” I said, “Okay, good.”

And I did. I followed her, and it was magical. And I love that opportunity, that I got to learn from her and to reconnect with the music that I started playing, and to feel one hundred percent joyful in music. I like those kind of experiences. Oftentimes in the studio . . . it feels a lot like a microscope looking at you. You’re examining your own flaws too closely. And it was never like that with her, you know?

John Spong: It sounds like you miss her, but she’s still with you.

Amanda Shires: Yeah. I mean, it might sound simple to say, but I don’t care: She, with her faith . . . I’m a nonpracticing Catholic, but she helped me find light again too, in that way.

John Spong: Okay. Well, since I’ve started crying, maybe we can wrap up.

Amanda Shires: Okay. Okay. You started it when you played that “Loving You” song.

John Spong: You’re so generous. But even more than that, more than talking to me, thanks so much for making this record with her. The world needs this.

Amanda Shires: Thank you so much. It’s my hope that if people hear it and like it, that they might choose to lead with love and forgiveness too.

John Spong: There we go. You’re the best.

Amanda Shires: You’re the best. Thank you.

John Spong: Thanks.

[Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires playing “Loving You”]

John Spong (voice-over): All right, Willie fans. That was Amanda Shires talking about her friend Bobbie Nelson and the song “Loving You.” A huge thanks to her for coming on the show, a big thanks to our sponsor, Still Austin craft whiskey, and a big thanks to you for tuning in. If you dig the show, please subscribe, maybe tell a couple friends, and visit our page at Apple Podcasts and give us some stars. And please also check out our One by Willie playlist at Apple Music.

Oh, and be sure to tune in next week, when we visit with the great Ray Benson, who will talk about an old Cindy Walker song that his band, Asleep at the Wheel, cut with Willie in 1998, “Going Away Party.”