18 March 2021 | Fred Topel | UPI
LOS ANGELES, March 18 (UPI) — Country music singer Willie Nelson said he is waiting until COVID-19 vaccinations are universal before considering a return to performing live. The 87-year-old Nelson gave a keynote address Wednesday at the SXSW Online Festival.
“I don’t want to do a show anywhere at any time where there’s a danger of somebody getting sick,” Nelson said in a prerecorded Q&A. “That’s going to have a lot to do with when I go back to work.
Nelson played his last live show on March 4, 2020, at the Houston Fat Stock and Rodeo Show. Subsequently, Nelson joined recording artists like Billie Eilish and Maroon 5 in postponing live shows due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We had 80,000 people,” Nelson said of the Fat Stock and Rodeo Show performance. “I miss that.”
Nelson received the first dose of his vaccine on Jan. 15. He spent much of 2020 at his ranch in Luck, Texas, and conducted the Zoom keynote from his studio there.
“It’s cold up here but we’re okay,” Nelson said. “We’ve got plenty to eat so we’re not like a lot of people out there who are really struggling.”
For now, Nelson’s tour bus remains parked outside.
“Every now and then I go and sit in it just to pretend I’m going somewhere,” Nelson joked.
As much as Nelson longs to get back on stage, the “On the Road Again” performer said he believes audiences have been longing for it too. Nelson said he still doesn’t know what his first show back would look like.
“I don’t know what it’s going to feel like because I don’t know what kind of comeback it will be,” Nelson said. “Whenever we do get back and moving, it’ll be a sign of some sort of success.”
One aspect of live shows Nelson misses is the end of his performances. Nelson greets fans at the lip of the stage and signs autographs.
“I love them all for being there,” Nelson said. “I’d like to go out and shake hands and hug every one of them every night if I could.”
Although COVID-19 necessitated a hiatus from performing, Nelson has no plans to retire. Nelson said he’s told artists like Paul Simon and Kris Kristofferson that their retirement only sets them up to make a comeback.
“You can’t make a big comeback until you retire,” Nelson said. “I may retire tomorrow but I’ll make a comeback.”
There are still many things Nelson wants to accomplish in his career. On June 29, his book Letters to America will be released and he’s preparing his next album, which includes his kids.
Nelson also joked that he’s still pursuing a rodeo championship.
“I haven’t won All-Around cowboy yet,” Nelson said. “Plenty of time to practice.”
SXSW runs through Saturday.