An Outlaw and a Lady

Valley resident Jessi Colter recalls musical and spiritual journeys in her new book.

By christina fuoco-karasinski

Jessi Colter feels she has a task: to maintain the vision and music of her late husband, Waylon Jennings.

“I’m so happy that he left me in a position of trying to keep the flame alive,” says Colter, during an interview at Handlebar-J in Old Town Scottsdale. “The flame is alive in people’s hearts.”

The 74-year-old Scottsdale-area resident is a visionary in her own right. She was the first woman to receive Album of the Year from the Country Music Association. Colter also played an important role in the “outlaw” country movement with Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, among others.

She is now recalling her spiritual journey in the recently released book An Outlaw and a Lady: A Memoir of Music, Life with Waylon and the Faith that Brought Me Home.

An Outlaw and a Lady covers Colter’s musical career, from singing in church to performing with Jennings, Nelson and Cash. An Outlaw and a Lady also traces Jennings’ struggle with addiction and the effect it had on the couple’s marriage.

Written with David Ritz, the book chronicles Colter’s return to faith, and how Jennings shared that faith with her in the latter stages of his life.

“The whole thing was so out of my control in the sense of the way it came about with David Ritz,” Colter says. “It was almost supernatural intervention. I had no intention of writing after Waylon’s book, which was such a beautiful book about the business.

“I had been approached several times, but I said the only way I would be interested was if it followed my spiritual journey and my heritage. My heritage is Arizona. The book is a homegrown organic book. I guess that’s what I am.”

She calls the process of going through every step of her life and losses “agonizing.” However, she is at peace when she recalls “one of the most incredibly supernatural experiences.” Fronting a band in Santa Monica early in her career, she knelt to show grace to God and calm her nerves.

“I know what athletes talk about,” she says. “It wasn’t that. It was supernatural.

“I was afraid of coming out, so to speak, and being out front like that. What happened then was so incredible. It was a feeling I’ll never forget. I didn’t feel like I was afraid or shaking. It didn’t make me bold or arrogant. It was the most secure feeling and I knew that’s how it would be in our next world.”

That feeling kept her connected to her performance and her late parents; the same with Jennings and her children, including country singer Shooter Jennings.

“Now God has led me and kept me,” she adds. “The things he does are so natural. It’s hard to describe. With this book, I was just so willing and happy to show how other philosophies didn’t work. I shared what does work and what did work for me.”

Colter recently released the album The Psalms and is planning another record for Sony, she says. She’s considering a Bob Dylan covers album or a collection with Shooter Jennings.

“I will definitely do follow-up work,” she says. “But lately, I’ve been a little lame on writing. Waylon liked to pick a song as if it would be a single – with everything he did. He put it that way and he was serious – a serious card player, a serious musician and a serious gambler. I think about him often.”