Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Chris Shiflett took a circuitous route to his love for outlaw country. He grew up in the eighties, a Southern California kid raised on a steady diet of metal and classic rock, before starting to play guitar in a series of punk bands. With the early nineties emergence of Americana music, he got into artists like Son Volt and Lucinda Williams, then worked his way back to the renegade country acts who’d inspired them. Not long before taking over lead-guitar duties for Foo Fighters in 1999, he picked up a recent, relatively overlooked Willie record, VH1 Storytellers: Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson.

The album is remarkably intimate, just the two old friends and their guitars, with Willie handling almost all the guitar solos as he and Cash run through fifteen of their iconic songs. Shiflett, an unabashed nerd for great guitar picking, regardless of genre, became a die-hard Willie fan.

(Read a transcript of this episode below.)

On this week’s One by Willie, Shiflett jumps back even further, to Willie and Waylon Jennings’ classic 1976 duet, “Good Hearted Woman.” It was the song that blew up the outlaw movement, a pop crossover hit that won Single of the Year at the CMA Awards, and it prompts discussion of the evolutions of Willie’s and Waylon’s sounds, along with the creation myth behind the recording. But the conversation turns when Shiflett picks up a guitar. He’s got a new podcast out, Shred With Shifty, in which he talks with legendary guitarists—think Nile Rodgers, of Chic; Richie Sambora, of Bon Jovi; Alex Lifeson, of Rush; et cetera—and analyzes their iconic solos. And that’s what he does when we listen to two old Willie records, illustrating on his own guitar why he thinks Willie is an absolute one-of-a-kind guitar player.

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.


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, Foo Fighters’ lead guitarist Chris Shiflett talks about one of the original outlaw country anthems, Willie and Waylon’s “Good Hearted Woman.” We’ll spend good time there, talking about Willie and Waylon’s key roles in the outlaw movement, and the creation myth behind their recording of “Good Hearted Woman.” But then, when Chris grabs his guitar and starts picking, the conversation gets special. He’s also a big deal podcast host, and on his show, Shred With Shifty, he analyzes iconic guitar solos—and that’s what he does with us, listening to a couple classic Willie solos, then illustrating why he considers Willie an absolute one-of-a-kind guitar player. So let’s do it.

[Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings singing “Good Hearted Woman”]

John Spong: Where we always start, then—it’s always a ridiculous question, especially in this case—what’s so cool about “Good Hearted Woman”?

Chris Shiflett: Well, it’s funny, you know, because . . . When Maria—when my publicist first asked me about doing this podcast, I had ten songs come to mind that I would love to sit and talk about, and all those songs were taken. [Laughs] And so I found myself going through Willie’s catalog and just looking—I mean, obviously he has this long, illustrious recording career. Not only is he one of the all-time greatest songwriters, but in country music there’s no shame, like there is in rock and roll, of doing covers. So he’s done all these great songs by all these other great songwriters too. I mean, it’s a funny thing. It’s a real difference between country music culture and rock and roll culture, where rock and roll culture, you’re not supposed to do—people take a dim view when you do a cover, as opposed to country music seems to be the exact opposite. You know, somebody like Willie Nelson, who cut his teeth as a songwriter before he was a well-known solo artist, goes out and does everybody’s songs. And seems to have always done that. So, there’s a lot to choose from there. If I was really . . . You know, what’s funny is—and I never looked into this before until the idea of doing this podcast came up—but if I’m honest, the song that has hit me in the gut by Willie, more probably than any other, is “Always On My Mind,” and he didn’t write it. You know what I mean?

John Spong: Right.

Chris Shiflett: But I never knew that. I always just assumed . . . I always thought, and I don’t know why—guess I never looked at the dates or whatever—but I always thought that Willie had written that song, and that Elvis covered it. That’s what I thought had happened. Now that we’re talking about it, I don’t even remember who wrote it, but it wasn’t Willie. But there’s something about his version, and particularly, for me, his acoustic version of it, and particularly the one he did on that Storytellers record with Johnny Cash.

John Spong: The Johnny Cash deal. Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: Yes. It’s such a great version, where his guitar’s a little out of tune, you know? But it’s just—it’s so pure. I don’t know. There’s something about it—everything about it, you know, his vocal and his guitar, and just that it’s just those two things, and you hear, like, the air, and it’s so heavy in its way. But anyway, we’re—

John Spong: It’s like he’s sitting—

Chris Shiflett: I was going to say, we’re not here to talk about that song today.

John Spong: But wait, wait, let me stay there with you for just a sec, because I love that you brought that up. Because I remember—when I hear that version of that song, I feel like he’s sitting at the end of my bed. When you talk about hearing the air in the room—

Chris Shiflett: Exactly.

John Spong: But with it—I’m a few years older than you, and so I did know that as an Elvis song before Willie did it. And so the first time it comes on—I find out Willie’s doing it when I’m in high school or whenever the hell it was—I was like, “We don’t need this.” He completely stole the song from Elvis. It is Willie’s song now, to your point. But then on top of that, because so much of what Willie does live is improvisational—you know, he’s a jazz player, really. And so, so much of it changes night to night. On “Always On My Mind,” that is so ingrained, you know, in the fabric of American culture—however one would say it, whatever flowery way you’d say it—that he kinda does it the same way every night. So to hear him on that VH1 Storytellers thing do it just acoustic, without Bobbie’s piano to kick it off, you know, is—again, he’s on the edge of the bed. It’s absolutely breathtaking to have that song that’s so familiar done in this completely different setting.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah, when I was thinking about it, I wanted to watch that version of it from the VH1 record. And I looked on YouTube and I couldn’t find that version, but I found this other version of him doing it on some BBC show in the early eighties that’s very similar. It’s almost even more simple. You can see, between that—and that was in, like, ’82 or something—between that and that VH1 Storytellers thing, that was maybe in the, what, mid-nineties or something—

John Spong: I think the early nineties, yeah.

Chris Shiflett: It had evolved quite a bit, because when I think of Willie Nelson’s guitar playing, in particular, he does that interesting thing—you’re right; I think that he is steeped in that gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt kind of thing, but there’s a lot more—the later version, there’s a lot more movement around. He’s noodling around and doing those chromatic walk-ups, where he’s just throwing every note on the neck, between chords and stuff. There’s none of that in that early eighties version. It’s just, like, the cowboy chords and his vocal, and that’s it.

[Willie Nelson playing “Always On My Mind”]

John Spong: Oh s—. This is going to be fun, because we came to talk about “Good Hearted Woman” and we’re already here. So you wound up—I will not say “settled”—you landed on “Good Hearted Woman.”

Chris Shiflett: Yeah, yeah.

John Spong: What’s up with that?

Chris Shiflett: Well, it’s interesting, because again, if I’m honest, it’s really—I know that probably the biggest version is that live version from the Wanted! [The] Outlaws record, that’s Willie and Waylon singing on it together. But the version I really, really know the most is just the Waylon studio version from whatever record—I think the record was Good Hearted Woman; that’s like years before that. And it’s funny—I was listening again, just to do a little prep before we did this, and I was listening to the Willie-Waylon version that’s on that Wanted!, and it’s so obviously—it’s great, it’s fantastic, but you can hear where they sort of dub in the crowd noise and stuff, and it’s really kind of, like, ham-fisted. It made me think, “Okay, first off, is that actually live? I don’t know.” I went and just read some stuff online and people saying that it’s actually Waylon’s live version that they dubbed Willie’s vocal onto. So, I guess it is a little bit of showbiz, but who cares? You know what I mean? ’Cause they both sound fantastic on it, and the band sounds fantastic, and it’s just a great tune. It just sounds like the seventies to my ear. It sounds like the way records sounded then, the way bands sounded then—you hear all the parts.

John Spong: Well, let’s do—let’s spin it real quick, and I’ll pull up the lyrics, and then we can spend a little more time on the creation myth.

[Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings singing “Good Hearted Woman”]

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: I mean, the first thing you think—or the first thing I think when I hear that is, “If this is, in fact, what they did was take a Waylon live recording and dub Willie’s vocal on it—if that’s a Waylon live recording, that’s a great . . . what a great band!” You know what I mean? How great is his vocal? You know what I mean?

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: I always think of the fake live albums as something that came later, but they were fake live album–ing it then, too. So I would be curious to know—maybe you know—is that really live, on the Waylon side?

John Spong: Yes and no, exactly. Because what happened was, not to go too far back, but so, Willie leaves RCA in ’72 and makes a couple records for Wexler at Atlantic that do pretty well. They don’t sell, but they’re cool—you know, Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages. And Atlantic starts going after Waylon, and Waylon gets creative control from RCA and gets to stay. But then Willie hits with Red Headed Stranger in ’75, and RCA is like, “Holy s—, what have we done? We have to capitalize on this. Let’s put out a comp—a compilation of old stuff. Waylon has this live album he’s putting out later this year. Let’s pull a track off of that.” And they do, and then they bring Willie in. So if you get—and I think, on your show, Steve Earle said that the greatest live album he’s ever heard is Waylon Live.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: That’s this. That’s this.

Chris Shiflett: Oh, okay. So is Waylon Live really Waylon live? Because Kiss Alive II, in 1978, isn’t “alive” at all. You know what I mean? They had the technology to pretty much—and just to blow people’s image of everything, you know, people need to know that when you hear a live album, like, pretty much universally, it’s not really live. It might even have been recorded in a studio. Oftentimes they are, and they just add clap tracks to it, or they keep bits of it and fix other—it’s almost never live. Nothing in this business is what it appears to be, you know?

John Spong: Well, and that’s the thing—I don’t mind calling RCA on their cynicism here, because—and really, the most cynical thing they did, more significantly than that, they put two Willie songs on here off of his 1971 album, Yesterday’s Wine, which is like the coolest record he ever made, that they refused to market because it was so weird. But then they pulled “Me and Paul” off of that, and they pulled the title song, “Yesterday’s Wine,” and put it on Wanted! The Outlaws. That is . . . you should have done the guy the favor a couple years ago. But who cares? Because this becomes the first-ever platinum-selling country record. It makes Waylon and Willie both so much bigger than they were. It grows their audience, and they get to do what they want because they did this.

Chris Shiflett: Wait, so this was the first platinum—so, I thought Red Headed Stranger was the first platinum country record.

John Spong: Mm-mm.

Chris Shiflett: Really? But Red Headed Stranger was a big hit. Right?

John Spong: Huge. Huge. But it didn’t get to a million as quickly as this did.

Chris Shiflett: Ohh. It’s really interesting, because that whole time period—I was born in ’71, so I was not paying attention. So my timeline on this is all twisted, because I’ve got into it all, like, decades after the fact. But when I look back at that time period, I always sort of wonder, when do historians exactly sort of pinpoint the “outlaw country” movement starting? Because it’s like . . . Is it this record? I always hear it’s, like, credited as this record. But all that stuff you’re talking about was years before. Like, even Honky Tonk Heroes came out way before this. You know what I mean?

John Spong: Well, it’s weird, because then you start to get into a semantic thing. And Steve Earle’s fun to talk about this with, because Steve gets . . . Well, he’s so smart. But for so many people, it’s like, the term “outlaw,” it’s a marketing term. It’s bulls—. It’s what Nashville called it. And supposedly, yeah, it was Hazel Smith, the marketing agent, who said, “We’re going to call them ‘outlaws,’ ” and that’s how they got the name of this record.

Chris Shiflett: But isn’t that true of basically every genre—like, the people that are considered the grand pooh-bahs of the genre are always like, “Hey man, I ain’t grunge.” You know what I mean?

John Spong: Exactly.

Chris Shiflett: “Don’t put that s— on me!”

John Spong: I think it was Dave Davies who said, “Well, it wasn’t called heavy metal when I invented it.”

Chris Shiflett: Right, right, exactly.

John Spong: But the thing is—so what you have in the early seventies in Austin, and out in California—and you’ll know this stuff a lot better than me—you’ve got the Byrds, and Gram Parsons, and all this stuff going on out there is folk and country, and Haggard fans are mixing with rock music. And then in Austin you’ve got these—what we called progressive country or cosmic cowboys. But so, with it, you’ve got, basically, Willie getting near-creative control, because when he went to Atlantic, Jerry Wexler and Arif are in the room, but Willie’s doing what he wants. But Waylon gets creative control. And so he makes that Honky Tonk Heroes.

And so either Shotgun Willie or Honky Tonk Heroes are probably the first true outlaw record. Man, I tried not to use that term—but that’s probably it. But it gets popularized with this stuff. And that’s just what’s so cool about—Earle says, Steve’s always: “People think it means you’ve got to do drugs, you’ve got to break rules.” The only rule they were breaking was creative control. They wanted their bands in the studio with them, and that wasn’t allowed previously. And so if that’s outlaw, this is outlaw.

[Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson singing “Good Hearted Woman”]

John Spong: Well, so you say a second ago about becoming a Willie fan later. Yeah, you grew up playing punk rock, you know, in Santa Barbara?

Chris Shiflett: Well, I really grew up listening to classic rock and heavy metal and stuff like that, really. I’m a child of the seventies and the eighties, and I had an older brother. So my older brother was listening to all the stuff you would imagine kids in the 1970s would be listening to. That’s what we were listening to. And it wasn’t until later, once I got maybe late into high school that . . . I always just liked older music. I just always had an affection for any kind of older music. I just like the way those records sound, particularly old rockabilly records and stuff like that, which are pretty closely related. So, just kind of got into some Johnny Cash and some Patsy Cline stuff maybe later, just because I thought it was cool and retro, or whatever. But I wasn’t really “into it” into it until really more like the mid-nineties—Son Volt and bands like that coming along, opening my eyes up to it. And, of course, that led to Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams and all that. And that led to the stuff we’re talking about today.

John Spong: So what Willie did you land on first? Or do you recall?

Chris Shiflett: Oh, well, it’s—the reason that I love that “Always On My Mind” from the Storytellers is because that was probably the first Willie Nelson record I owned.

John Spong: Oh, wow.

Chris Shiflett: Whenever that was. Yeah. And then went and from that, got Red Headed Stranger and Phases and Stages. And with the other one that you just mentioned right around there.

John Spong: Shotgun Willie? The Sound in Your Mind?

Chris Shiflett: Yeah, Shotgun Willie. Yeah. Yeah. So I kind of checked all that stuff out and then I just knew that Willie had written all those songs that were hits by other people, you know, like “Hello Walls,” and “Crazy,” and all that stuff. So just as you do, you know—“Wait a minute: Faron Young, who’s that?” All that sort of thing.

So yeah, I’ve always been drawn to that era probably the most—his sort of seventies output. And I love those big pop records he did a little bit later too; I think they’re great. He’s just something about Willie Nelson—his voice, his writing, his guitar playing: it’s all so particular to him. There really is nobody else. As wildly influential as he’s been over the years, nobody sounds like him. And then when people cover his songs, it just sounds like a completely different thing. It’s great. But it sounds entirely different. There’s just something about the way he delivers a line, or the tone of his voice, and the sound of that nylon-string guitar is so kind of peculiar in a world of Martin D-48s or whatever, that it really kind of cuts through.

John Spong: When you had Lukas on your show—because I’m curious about Willie’s melodies. Because what Lukas said is, you know, when you listen to “Crazy,” there’s so much jazz in the melody—and that’s the way it’s always described—but, of course, I don’t know exactly where to hear that myself. But, Daniel Lanois was on here recently, and he said, “Yeah, when I’m in the studio with U2, and they’re having a hard time writing a song, they’ll say, ‘Let’s find a Willie chord to put in here.’ ” And that unlocks the song for them, somehow.

Chris Shiflett: Interesting.

John Spong: And are those diminished chords? What does he do in a melody?

Chris Shiflett: That’s a very good question. Right when you said that, I just thought to myself, “I wonder what the Edge thinks a ‘Willie chord’ is.” [Laughs] “How exactly are we defining that?” I don’t know. Certainly, when I think of his songwriting structure, I guess, and his guitar playing, it’s sort of the opposite of what a lot of country music—especially, older country music tended to be very one-four-five kind of chord progressions. These sort of very well-worn chord progressions. You didn’t hear a lot—I mean, there’s always exceptions to the rule, but, you know, you can just go back and listen to, like, “Hit Country Songs From 1968,” and it’s all kind of one-four-five stuff, for the most part. But Willie throws in a lot of other little tricky, jazzy chords, you know? 

John Spong: You don’t have a guitar under your desk to illustrate that, do you?

Chris Shiflett: I have one pretty close by I could grab. You want me to grab it?

John Spong: Are you serious?

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: Oh, s—. If you don’t mind, yeah!

Chris Shiflett: Yeah, yeah.

[Chris Shiflett strumming guitar]

Chris Shiflett: Now, I didn’t work out any of—any of these songs, so I’m just completely talking out of my ass here. But, when you think of country songs—[strumming guitar]—like those kind of chord progressions, you know what I mean? Whereas he might throw in like a—[strumming guitar]—you know, some of that stuff.

John Spong: Mm-hmm.

[Chris Shiflett strumming guitar]

Chris Shiflett: I mean, I guess that’s all kind of typical stuff. You know?

John Spong: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: And then he probably throws in stuff that’s even jazzier than that. You know, he’s probably throwing in some of those kind of—[strumming guitar]—whatever that is, diminished. Like his, like passing-note chords.

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: All that kind of stuff. You know? But he’s also—with his guitar playing, he’s the master—and I kind of mentioned this before, and you hear a lot on that VH1 record, where he will do chromatic walk-ups or walk-downs in excess of anybody I’ve ever heard, where he just throws every—like, if you just play every note between the G and the C, eventually you’re going to get to something that works. You know what I mean? [strumming guitar] You know? He lands there on the four chord. You know?

John Spong: Yeah. That’s what Charlie Parker invented, right? Kind of?

Chris Shiflett: I mean, that’s a little above my pay grade, if I’m being honest. I’m not the most music school–theory kind of player. But yeah. I love it when I hear it.

John Spong: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let me . . . You’ve just played. Can I play a great Willie guitar song for you?

Chris Shiflett: Yeah. Absolutely.

John Spong: This one would be more in the shredding vein.

Chris Shiflett: I like it.

John Spong: Cool. Then this is Willie and Trigger, on “Stay a Little Longer,” from Willie and Family Live.

[Willie Nelson playing “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)”]

Chris Shiflett: Ooh, yeah.

John Spong: That work for you?

Chris Shiflett: I tell you what. The first thing it made me think of when I was listening to it was—’cause that record, what, was like in the late seventies?

John Spong: Seventy-eight.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah. So, I wonder how he was miking his guitar back then. Because you’re playing live. He’s going up against—like, people got to understand, first off, there’s different stages of difficulty in playing guitar, in terms of tone. And for what I do, mostly, I’m playing loud rock and roll type of thing, where you’ve got volume, and you’ve got gain. And gain is distortion. It’s overdrive. You know? So, that’s like—that’s how you sustain notes. When you go to, like, from that to a Telecaster through a little Fender amp that doesn’t have a lot of gain, that’s—now that’s harder. Now you have to play different to compensate for the fact that you don’t have that little cushion anymore, tonally.

John Spong: Mm-hmm.

Chris Shiflett: Then, when you go from that to playing an acoustic guitar—especially an acoustic guitar in a loud environment that’s amplified, or that has a pickup in it . . . Sometimes they have—you mic it, like with a—

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: But then you have to stand there. Nowadays everybody puts a pickup in it, right? Now, that’s a whole ’nother level of difficulty, because that’s like you’re handcuffed on that thing. And it’s acoustic, so you probably can’t do a lot of string-bending stuff. You have zero sustain. If you blow it, you hear it. Then, if you want to get even harder, put on a nylon string. Like, that’s like—he is up against so much, tonally. You know? It’s so wild that that’s—that that’s his comfort zone, you know? I mean, that’s so specific, and, I mean, I’ve never done it loud, but I imagine that would be very hard. The necks on those guitars tend to be a little wider, too. They’re harder to—just to get all the strings down, you know? You can’t bend on them really much at all. And you hear all that stuff kind of reflected in his playing.

Also, listening to it, it’s like—I don’t know; does Willie ever do the sort of classic, traditional country licks? The well-worn thing that everybody else does? It’s, like, not really in his stuff at all. You know what I mean? All that, like—[strumming guitar]—like, all that stuff. I mean, it’s—I’m sure he does it and knows it, and it’s probably— I’m sure that once this thing comes out, there’ll be comments pointing to the eight million times that he did that. But you just don’t hear that much in what . . . Especially when he’s jamming. It’s all kind of more in that—[strumming guitar]—like that. More like sort of blues-based, pentatonic scale kind of thing, which is interesting. I think it’s really interesting. He’s very—like I said, he’s very, very specific, very . . . he’s just a one-of-a-kind player.

John Spong: Yeah. Well, and he—it’s like if he does something straight like that, he’ll put it in there, but to be funny.

Chris Shiflett: Right.

John Spong: Because you can tell he’s just cracked himself up.

Chris Shiflett: Right. Yeah.

John Spong: I really think, sometimes, listening to the choices he makes, it’s like listening to Thelonious Monk, just because they’ve found this note over here just to satisfy themselves and crack themselves up, and then they’ll move on.

Chris Shiflett: Right. Yeah.

John Spong: When people talk about his playing, that’s another thing. There’s a call-and-response thing that he does between his vocals and his playing, and it’s not even sure which is the tail and what’s the dog. Is he leaving room for his guitar to pick, or is he leaving room for his vocals? But that interplay—I don’t know a lot of artists that do that, at least not in the country realm, for sure.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah. Usually it’s not the singer doing it. If you think, of like . . .

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: Oh, what’s the song I’m thinking . . . “Night Life.” “Listen to the blues, they’re playing,” or whatever, and then you go ba da ba da ba . . . 

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah, yeah. That’s great, you know? That in itself is a classic country thing, of filling between the vocal. But, yeah, he does it very, very specific.

John Spong: Britt Daniel from Spoon is a buddy, and we were geeking out over some of this, and I asked him if there were any other examples he could think of—people that did this—and he said, “Hendrix,” and I was like—

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: “Oh, okay.”

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: “Okay.”

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re right. Can I play one more for you?

Chris Shiflett: Oh, sure. 

John Spong: Cool. And so, this is “Funny How Time Slips Away,” off that VH1 Storytellers record, with Johnny Cash, that we’ve been talking about.

[Willie Nelson playing “Funny How Time Slips Away”]

Chris Shiflett: I mean, how great is Johnny Cash underneath him on that track?

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: Just solid from start to finish. Just right on time, keeping it, and then you just have Willie floating on top of it. And that version of that song exactly illustrates what we were talking about earlier, where he’s throwing in all these cool chords, and some crazy passing notes, and doing that chromatic thing of just, “I’ll just throw in all the notes, and eventually I’m going to get to the one that makes sense.” Like, in that lead—and I love that lead in there. [playing guitar] Like that kind of stuff. You don’t hear a lot of people do—like, commit that hard to a chromatic run; you know what I mean? [playing guitar] It’s great.

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah. And even that—he’s going from the D to the G in the verse—[playing guitar]—and then throwing that G-sharp as the passing note. [playing guitar] Instead of, like, probably most people would go . . . [playing guitar] Would be just a more kind of typical way to get there, you know? Or . . . [playing guitar]

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: . . . would be a typical way to get there. But he goes for . . . [playing guitar] Which is way—it’s a little harsher on the ear, but you remember it. You know?

John Spong: This is so going to register with the Edge.

Chris Shiflett: [Laughs] Exactly. Yeah, he’s . . .

John Spong: You finally—

Chris Shiflett: As the Edge said, we have now determined the Willie chord. Yeah.

John Spong: I think between the two of us—but, I must be honest, it’s mostly you—I think we’ve gotten U2 over the hump.

Chris Shiflett: Exactly. I think they need to hire us to produce that next record.

John Spong: [Laughs] But also, to your degree-of-difficulty comment earlier, does it matter at all that the frets on the neck of Trigger are almost worn down to the wood at this point? He’s doing that without frets down at the bottom.

Chris Shiflett: Really?

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: So he doesn’t—he’s never gotten that thing refretted, huh?

John Spong: As of a story that we did in the magazine about him, I think eight or nine years ago, which was kind of like a profile of Trigger . . .

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: Trigger’s life story. He had not, as of that point, and Willie didn’t feel like it, and everybody had been saying, “Come on, we got to.”

Chris Shiflett: Wow.

John Spong: And he said no.

Chris Shiflett: Because, haven’t they done a lot of work just to kind of hold it together? Aren’t there, like, stents inside of it kind of holding the body up?

John Spong: Yep. Yeah, there’s little braces in there.

Chris Shiflett: Braces, yeah.

John Spong: And they’ve done all that. They did have to move the pickup, because at one point it was somewhere else, and then they had to put it somewhere else, but I forget why. But yeah, I mean, it is a very well cared for instrument.

Chris Shiflett: Does he have a couple other, lesser-known guitars that he takes with him on tour as backups that we just don’t know about?

John Spong: I’ve heard rumors that there are stunt doubles.

Chris Shiflett: Interesting. Because that’s such a thing nowadays—you know, people take their prized guitar, and you give it to Fender or Gibson or whoever, and they make an exact replica, and they age it, and it’s beautiful and amazing . . . That’s a very common thing. And there’s all these boutique guitar makers that make amazing, like—I bought this one, a brand called Pre-War, that makes what basically feels and sounds like a prewar Martin. And if I put this thing in your hand and told you it was built in 1942, you would believe it.

John Spong: Oh, wow.

Chris Shiflett: They have that down to a really—it’s amazing. They have it down to a science, for sure.

John Spong: I read that they did something like that with Trigger, and Willie strummed it and was like, “Eh, I like Trigger.”

Chris Shiflett: Yeah. [Laughs]

John Spong: Just handed it back.

Chris Shiflett: I mean, at this point, like why retire that from the road? You know what I mean? It’d just be crazy.

John Spong: Absolutely not.

Chris Shiflett: Until it turns to dust in his hands. You know?

John Spong: Exactly. This is the way it’s got to be.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

[Willie Nelson playing “Funny How Time Slips Away”]

John Spong: When Lukas was talking to you, he was talking about how he had this kind of spiritual experience driving through the redwoods, listening to Are You Experienced. And you said, “Oh, yeah, that’s the perfect place to listen to that record . . .”

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: “That did change you, I’m sure.” Where do you listen to Willie? Where do you want to be? Where does it take you? What’s the best place to listen to Willie?

Chris Shiflett: Ooh. I mean, there is something about a long car ride, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, that’s pretty great. There’s something about, like, a moonlit summer night camping, you know, that’s pretty great. I live in Los Angeles. It’s very busy. It can be kind of therapeutic to listen to music that has a little more space in it, because we don’t have any here. You can trick yourself into feeling like you’re out in the great wide open somewhere. But I also find myself listening to a lot of—I don’t know, I guess just any kind of American roots music, or even if you want to just throw rock and roll in there too. When I’m traveling abroad, when I’m away from home, it’s like my mini musical version of that thing that happens to people when they move out of their country, where they become way more patriotic or something.

John Spong: Yeah.

Chris Shiflett: I kind of have that with music. If I’m on tour, and I’m far away, Red Headed Stranger, or Phases and Stages or something, just kind of, I don’t know, just kind of puts me somewhere I want to be.

John Spong: Yeah. Home.

Chris Shiflett: Yeah.

John Spong: That’s wonderful.

[Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings singing “Good Hearted Woman”]

John Spong (voice-over): All right, Willie fans. That was Chris Shiflett talking about “Good Hearted Woman” and a whole lot more. A huge thanks to him 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. Oh, and please also check out our One by Willie playlist over at Apple Music.

We’ll see you guys next week.