Willie Nile Declares War
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Richard Brody, Bryan Lasky
USA Today has described him as “a rocker’s rocker.”
British magazine Uncut described him as “a one-man Clash.”
The London Times called him “a man who embodies the true spirit of rock ’n’ roll.”
The New Yorker dubbed him “one of the most brilliant singer-songwriters of the past 30 years.”
The Morton Report praised him for “crossing the power of the Clash with the social consciousness of Woody Guthrie.”
And four kids call him “Grandpa”…
“I have four grandchildren,” rocker Willie Nile proudly proclaims. “It’s a total gas, and I totally embrace it. Rock ’n’ roll is rock ’n’ roll, whether you’re 16 or 86. If it feels good and soothes the soul and gets the hips shakin’ and gets the mind turnin’, then you’ve got somethin’ worth singin’ about. I won’t be tied down by anybody else’s perception of what’s doable.
“Life is too short, and if Grandpa wants to rock, let him rock!”
Hence the origins of his song, “Grandpa Rocks,” featured on his upcoming album, World War Willie, due for release on April 1. “I figure an album with the borderline ridiculous title of World War Willie should be coming on on April Fool’s Day,” the 67-year-old Nile explains with a chuckle.
“Fools aside, I’m still learning all this songwriting, recording stuff and am having more fun than ever. Hopefully, some of that comes through in the listening.”
Nile, who returns to WAMC-FM’s The Linda for his pretty-much annual concert on Saturday (March 12), has been making great rock and roll for more than 35 years, starting with his acclaimed self-titled 1980 album debut.
“I’ve hit a good groove these days,” Nile says. “I’m enjoying the writing, the recording and the live shows more than ever. This is what I was looking for when I first started my musical journey. I’m very grateful that I get to do what I love to do. And as long as the fire burns, I won’t be stopping any time soon.”
His upcoming album is proof that Nile ain’t just foolin’ around. “For me, rock ’n’ roll, at its best, helps to make some sense of the world,” he explains. “There can be a redemptive quality in it. I guess it’s me trying to make some sense of the world with rock ‘n’ roll.”
That approach is best summed up in the upcoming album’s opening track, “Forever Wild,” which pays tribute to the transformative power of rock ’n’ roll. Nile follows the theme through with the anthemic “Let’s All Come Together” (a persuasive call for planetary unity) and a pair of tributes to departed rock legends Levon Helm and Lou Reed with the original “When Levon Songs” and a bristling cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”
“There’s a lot going on in this world between the good, the bad and the in-between,” says Nile, “and this album attempts to ride some of those horses.”
Willie Nile and his band – featuring Matt Hogan on lead guitar, Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums – takes the stage at WAMC-FM’s The Linda in Albany at 8pm on Saturday (March 12). Tickets are $20.
LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 5/16/15
LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 5/17/14
LIVE: Willie Nile @ LarkFest, 9/21/13
LIVE: Willie Nile @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 6/1/13
LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 2/18/12
Five Firsts: Willie Nile
LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 2/19/11
LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 1/23/10