Paula Nelson

Paula Nelson

 Austin, Texas, USA


Update: See more new videos at

When your dad is a founding father of outlaw country and a major musical legend, at some point, you realize resistance is futile: Even if you don't seek a career in music, eventually, it's gonna seek you.

Like the Cash and Jennings kids, Paula Nelson picked up "Papa Bear" Willie's way with a song early on — along with her aunt Bobbie's skill on piano, which Paula started playing at age 7. Although her dad once advised her, "Remember to watch everything I do and do the exact opposite," she drew influences from his Highwaymen pals and contemporaries such as Kris Kristofferson's then-wife, Rita Coolidge, whose bluesy, supple vocal style provided one of Paula's earliest templates as she found her own voice. Texas Monthly has called that voice "torchy," and the Los Angeles. Times praised, "There's no missing the unforced power of Paula's singing."

Music writers will be searching for more superlatives upon listening to the new recording by the Paula Nelson Band, LUCKY 13, being released Feb. 26 on Pedernales Records/Justice Records. Created at Ray Benson's Bismeaux Studios in Austin, where Houston-born Paula was raised and still calls home, the album features 10 rootsy originals and three covers (including the timeless "Jackson" and "Angel from Montgomery") in a sultry Southern rock/blues vein.

Backing her up is a quartet of players she also calls her best friends. The current lineup reunites her with members from previous band incarnations: guitarist Landis Armstrong and drummer Kevin Remme. Bassist Mark Epstein is the latest addition.

But it was another dear friend, the late Clifford Antone, who truly helped her blossom into a confident musical talent. She credits her October 27 birthday twin with teaching her how to play the guitar, turning her on to all sorts of great blues tunes, and encouraging her to get out there and perform. "He made me get up and sing at Antone's all of the time," she says.

When Nelson returned from a short sojourn in Colorado to Austin, she corralled her band-mate buddies and jumped back in the game, appearing at her dad's Fourth of July picnic at the Fort Worth Stockyards. She also appeared at Farm Aid 2007 in New York; Willie returned the favor by contributing to the album, along with her brother, Luke.

In the early '90s, before she left Austin, Paula and the band could be heard at Antone's, Stubb's Bar-B-Q, the old Steamboat and other local venues. But she admits she's much more comfortable performing live now; she's got more material, for one thing.

"Most of my songs came from a relationship that's going either really good or really bad," she quips. "If it weren't for relationships, I'd have no songs at all!"

Whether she's just being modest or honest, Paula has also earned praise for her songwriting ability. When she released her debut album, COMING HOME, Texas Monthly said of her "confessional" lyrics, "She shares at least one thing with her father: the ability to say so much with so few words... Her promise is undeniable."

Like most songwriters, she's driven by a passion that formed before she even realized what it was. "I was around it all my life," she explains. "I have always been so affected by music and lyrics. Can't imagine my life without it.

"I knew this was what I was supposed to do. And it's much cheaper than therapy!" she cracks, adding, "And being a songwriter, I always have the last word!"

In fact, LUCKY 13's first track, "Fire Below," is a rocker she describes as "a woman's final words" tune. Over a bed of classic Southern-rock guitar, she sings, "I'm jumpin' the tracks and I'm not coming back, no, no, no."

Actually, she describes three of her compositions as "woman's final words" songs; "Baby You're Mean" and "Find Your Way" are the others. Clearly, anyone who might consider tangling with Paula in a war of words would have a hard time winning. She could also whip a few asses — even her protective big-brother band mates, she brags — with her Tai Kwan Do black belt. Another surprise: Nelson does stunt work on the side. She's appeared on the Austin-filmed TV series "Friday Night Lights" and served as Jessica Simpson's stunt driver in a "bad boy lawn-mower race" video that also featured Woody Harrelson, Owen and Luke Wilson and her father.

One can hear that gutsy streak in several of Nelson's rockers, but she's got an equally intriguing soft side, as exemplified by the string-backed ballad "Day to Day Love," a more pensive look at a failing relationship. The seductive "Overboard" sets a jazzy mood, and with the classic "Angel From Montgomery," she departs from her alto comfort zone to reveal a lovely soprano range.

That tiny little blonde girl with the kid-sized guitar and the big grin pictured in the album art definitely looks like she knew even back then where she was headed. And with LUCKY 13, Paula Nelson is finally where she belongs.


Fire Below

Written By: Paula Nelson

Blame it on the waiting on, blame it on my, my, my, my, mind
I’m jumpin’ the tracks and I’m not coming back no, no, no
Blame it on the radio for playing all those sad, sad, sad songs
I’m taking ’em back don’t want none of that no, no, no, no

There’s fire below, burning out of control
Low and behold, there’s fire below

Standing in the waiting line waiting for my go, go, go, go
I’m taking my turn and I’m moving on, on, on, on
Baby’s got his dimples on, waiting for my go, go, go, go
I’m jumpin’ the tracks and I’m not coming back no, no, no, no

There’s fire below, burning out of control
Low and behold, there’s fire below

Don’t mind if I do, don’t mind if I don’t
And I don’t...aww I’ll just chalk it up to lovin’ on, on a Saturday

Don’t mind if I do, don’t mind if I don’t
And I don’t...aww I’ll just chalk it up to lovin’ here on a Saturday
night ya’ll

Standing Tall

Written By: Paula Nelson

Burning desire, playing with fire when I know
How to find that road and where it goes
A prime rate example, waiting here to gamble what I’d win
I turn it off then right back on again
And when I’m staring down the barrel of a loaded gun
The evening’s begun

Am I extraordinary just, ask sister Mary she would know
She’ll tell you everything you wanna know
And it’s a risky business
Nothing is as hard as standing tall
I’m holding on, I’m climbing up the wall
So I‘m a little on the edge but I’m doing all right
At least for tonight

But I’m further along then the last time you called
Though I’m sleeping with dogs
They offer comfort where there’s not
So I’m pretending not to notice that your presence isn’t there
after all
And that your worries are conducive to the fact that you know
nothing at all
I’m still standing tall

Now the bright lights of Austin, are easy to get lost in I would know
I’ve done it all before and probably more
But to stay in the glory
Is quite a different story on it’s own
I’ve tried to leave but there’s just no place like home
So I’m a little on the edge but I’m doing all right
At least for tonight

Day To Day Love

Written By: Paula Nelson


Willie Nelson- Vocals/Guitar
Luke Nelson- Vocals
Tosca String Quartet

I’ve got a feeling, coming on
And I fail to see the easy in this all
You’re a mountain, and I am a rock
We’ve finally built that bridge between the fault

Day to day love, day to day love, day to day

Ask the mirror, ask the water
The reflections just the same in either one
You’re the mountain, and I am the rock
It’s time we walked away with what we’ve got

Day to day love, day to day love, day to day

Anytime at all if you should roam, running on the words that
went along
I’ll pick you up if ever you should fall
But all I can say is that I gave, I gave my all
Some things just aren’t supposed to be

Day to day love, day to day love, day to day

Short of leaving, a carnival
My perception you could say’s a little off
It amounts to something, I don’t know what
And I don’t know what to do since we’re not

Day to day love, day to day love, day to day

Every Now and Then

Written By: Paula Nelson

La la la la la la la
Cause every now and then there’s love

Last night up from a dream, I staggered down the hall
I couldn’t really help but feeling; I’ve had this dream before
Cause every now and then there’s love
And every now and then I’ll fall

I hardly ever take this road
I can’t remember where it goes
It never hurts to take a drive
Just to see what’s in front of me
Where it used to be

I hope you find what you have lost
No matter what it cost
A taller order in demand
I see I understand
Where it’s supposed to be

Over and over we change our lives
Closer and closer but far behind
Find your way home again


Little City- 2010
Lucky 13- 2008
Fireflies- 2002
Coming Home- 1997

Set List

Coming Home
Thinking About You
Wish I Was There
Tee Na Nee Na Nu
She'a About A Mover
Black Cat
Feel My Heart
Blue Blue Blues
Lonely Joe
Coca Cola Crown
Long Way Down
Here I Am Again
Being Without
At Last
Ooh Las Vegas
Easy Money
Standing Tall
Angel From Montgomery
Find Your Way
Being Alone
Every Now And Then
Baby Your'e Mean
Day To Day Love
Fire Below
Only You