Nelson launches label with sons' album


NEW YORK - Over the years, Willie Nelson has liked to do "anything that makes record companies nervous. Nervous is a good sign."

The country icon can now experience those nerves for himself at the helm of his own label, Pedernales Records.

Its first release is due June 15, the as-yet-untitled debut album by 40 Points, a quartet that features his sons Lukas (vocals, guitar) and Micah (drums). His partners in the company include veteran music producer James Stroud and Nelson's longtime manager, Mark Rothbaum.

"I just think it's a good idea," says Nelson, who will formally announce the label Friday at the South By Southwest Music & Media Conference in Austin, Texas. "I have a whole lot of material I've recorded over the last 25 years in my studio in Texas, and it's just laying there. Also, there's other artists I think could use a good record label. Everything just seems so right about it."

Nelson says his own stash of material includes performances with Wynton Marsalis and others earlier this year at a Lincoln Center benefit in New York as well as unreleased sessions with Les Paul, Grady Martin and Jackie King. "It makes a lot of sense to have your own label if you have that much material," notes Nelson, who plans to record solely for Pedernales after his current deal with Universal Music's Lost Highway expires.

Pedernales Records will be headquartered outside Austin, on the banks of the Pedernales River. Nelson also owns the Pedernales Country Club and founded Pedernales Studios, which is now owned by his nephew Freddy Fletcher.

Nelson's next project -- "Last of the Breed," a two-disc collaboration with old friends Merle Haggard and Ray Price -- comes out March 20. The trio is currently on tour, backed by Asleep at the Wheel, and will play two nights in Austin following the label announcement.

Nelson also recently co-wrote "Right to Dream" for the film "Tennessee" with Mariah Carey. "She's a sweetheart," Nelson says, "and she can really, really sing. It was no more left field than working with Julio Iglesias (his duet partner on the 1984 tune "To All the Girls I've Loved Before")."