Willie Nelson recently gave a very in-depth interview to a lifestyle magazine for older Americans and in it he disclosed the name of the artist that he drew inspiration from. Nelson mentioned obvious choices such as Hank Williams, although that’s not the artist that he was originally drawn to.
“He [Williams] was an incredible writer, sang with so much feeling… and he had a hard life. Died at 29. But nobody wrote better songs than Hank. It was the simplicity, melody and a line anybody could understand.” Nelson said.
The individual that had the biggest impact on Nelson’s singing style was none other than “old blue-eyes” Frank Sinatra.
“I learned a lot about phrasing listening to Frank. He didn’t worry about behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever – he could sing it either way, and that’s the feel you have to have.” Nelson said.
Sinatra found his fame in the early 40’s when Nelson was only 10-years old. Finding music early as a child set the scene for Nelson to dedicate his entire life to the craft of songwriting and playing the guitar.
“I started when I was 5 or 6. I had one of those old Sears & Roebuck guitars with the strings high off the neck – your fingers literally would bleed. When they healed up, though, they were pretty tough”, Nelson recalls.
By the time that Sinatra was becoming the star he would eventually be, Nelson had already been playing guitar and singing for about 5-years. Sinatra came along right at the time that Nelson was able to start fine-tuning his sound and he decided to emulate the singing-style of Sinatra.
Nelson is known for his unique voice and for singing a little off-beat, something Sinatra can also claim.
“I’m a huge Frank Sinatra fan. He’s my favorite singer. I’ve been listening to him for many, many years,” Nelson said in an 2016 interview. “And I loved the way he phrased — that he kind of sung it the way he wanted to…..I liked that, and felt like it was easy for me to do.”
You can listen to Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra sing together in the video below for the song “A Foggy Day”.