When it was announced that Willie Nelson would be recording a Gershwin tribute album in early January, the idea was met with almost immediate enthusiasm.
As often is the case, details of the album began leaking fairly quickly over the web, and folks couldn’t help but start getting excited for the prolific singer’s newest musical journey.
At 82, Willie’s voice is still that of an angel. Most fans can’t imagine American music without him. And those who loved 1978’s Stardust or 2012’s Heroes are sure to find much to love in the idea of Summertime, which is set to hit store shelves on Feb. 26.
“We kicked around a couple of ideas about what to call the album, but we had a lot of success earlier — 30, 40 years ago — with an album called Stardust, so I said why not just call it what it is,” Willie recounts in a promotional video for the album.
Nelson accepted the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2015, which spurred an interest in the singer on doing a tribute.
The album is being produced by keyboardist Matt Rollings, who rose to recognition with Lyle Lovett’s Large Band and has worked with a number of other country artists.
“When my buddy called me about this and explained [the concept], I immediately got it in my head what it should sound like,” Rollins says. “It’s kind of a jazz record, but it need to be enough to the middle of that where it’s successful, so casting was key — we hired this band and from the first note, we didn’t have to tell them anything!”
Willie also mentions that with the singing, Frank Sinatra was a big influence on the recording of Summertime.
“I listened to his album of Gershwin songs, and Sinatra is my favorite singer. So, it wasn’t hard to pick out which songs. [those] that he was singin’.”
“Ira and George Gershwin were just fantastic writers, they wrote some of the greatest songs ever,” says Nelson.
Watch as Willie Nelson reflects on the recording process of the new album: