This album seems to be less about hangovers and frozen cocktails and more about stories and song lines. Was that the idea going in?
I’ve always said I don’t find stories from talking about them, but if you can listen and hear and look around you and be observant, that ability — along with the chance to record in a place like St. Barts that’s been conducive to creativity — made it work. And I like albums that have a musical thread, a story thread. There’s 16 songs on this thing, but when you own the record company and you don’t have a lot to prove, you put them all on there! As Ry Cooder said, “You don’t know what the public’s gonna buy,” but I’m happy with it and proud of all the people who contributed to it.
But how do you keep up that enthusiasm, summer in and summer out?
This stuck with me: I saw Michael Jordan interviewed after the Bulls had won maybe their third or fourth championship. And Jordan was kind of choked up and there was some reporter asking, “Come on, you’ve won all these championships, does this really mean that much to you?” And Jordan looked him cold in the eye and said, “Let me tell you what: I was there when there was nobody, when I got off the train and was met by one guy. I played to that venue where there was 400 people, and I never want to see those days again, and I appreciate everything from that point forward.” And that’s exactly the way I feel about it. I was there when nobody came. But now it’s still running and we’ve tricked them (laughs) and made it through the gauntlet and we’re still having a good time.
I mean, who gets to do this? Detroit went bankrupt, and on the next day we sold 41,000 tickets. And I went, “What the hell am I gonna say?” I’ve always appreciated Michigan audiences, they’ve always been there for me, so I just got up and said, look, there’s a lot of great people in this city and state, you’ve got a good future ahead and why not start the next year with a party? And I cranked up, and they went crazy.
A lot of people look at Jimmy Buffett and think “That’s what I want to do when I retire,” but it doesn’t seem like you’re looking to retire from being Jimmy Buffett.
You know, Willie Nelson came out maybe a month ago and played a club in Montauk. When I was a struggling songwriter in Nashville, Willie was one of the few people who cut a few of my songs. We played a few songs; I wanted to see what 80 looked like on stage, because I’m 66.
And we were talking about it, and Mickey Raphael, who’s played with him forever and who I’ve known forever, told me a story about how last year the band had a big meeting with Willie on the bus where they asked, “Look, you’re gonna be 80 here, and we’re wondering what we’ll be doing if you’re thinking about retiring.” And Willie looked at them and he said “From what?” [laughs] I got a license to carry marijuana, we’re playing music and traveling and seeing the country, the kids are grown and happy. Retire from what? And if that applies to Willie it sure as hell applies to me, because I’m still having a good time, I still enjoy the creative aspect I’m a junkie for applause. As long as I feel that then I’ll stay there.