Lukas Nelson on Music Royalty and Getting Real

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real recently released a new self-titled record on August 25th. The record has soared to the #2 spot on the Americana music chart. A showcase of his songwriting ability and his band’s history, this record is Lukas Nelson’s labor of love. The music calls from genres across the spectrum, from soul to rock and roll, but is rooted in outlaw country like the greats in Lukas Nelson’s life. In case you haven’t guessed, Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son. Coming from music royalty, Lukas has every right to live off his father’s legacy but he does not. He extends it. Picking guitars, tongue in cheek lyrics, and heart tugging ballads only scrape the surface of Nelson’s songwriting. Each song on the new record is a carefully crafted masterpiece with the creative wordplay of a young Willie Nelson. Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real are a real dangerous band, they’ll have you falling in love and just as soon have you sleeping on the couch.

Like I said, Lukas Nelson has every right to live off his father’s legacy but he’s out there working almost every night playing venues of all kinds across the nation. I caught a show at the Music Farm on Thursday, September 21st and a damn good show is what I saw. Lukas and the band played their hearts out. I couldn’t help but think, “how do they do this every night?” and then I remembered that Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son – weed. Check out the phone interview I had with Lukas on Thursday, September 14th. Here are some good parts but you can listen to the whole thing here on our Youtube channel.  

Henry: How long have you been playing music yourself?

Lukas: I’ve been playing music since I was like, since I was a kid I’ve been singing. Started playing guitar when I was like 10 or 11. You know.

H: Yeah. Well you come from a pretty musical family.

L: Yeah it was always around so it felt natural to pick something up at some point.

H: . . . So, how much time do you spend on the road? How many shows are you scheduled for this new record?

L: Well we have a foreseeable future. I mean, man, we are touring nonstop and we will probably be touring till the end of the year and then beyond because we love this record and we’ve got a great label behind us, Fantasy, which I think Creedence Clearwater used to be on it so it’s like a great vibe and everybody’s super into the record. We’ve been spending a lot of time in Nashville actually and it’s made a big splash there. The Americana Fest, we’ve been playing a bunch of showcases and people are really into it so it’s awesome . . . You want to be able to play your music, you know? For a living.

H: Yeah, definitely. Your band, Promise of the Real: who are these guys and where’d that name come from?

L: [I]t’s Tony, Taco, Jessie, and Cory and these guys I’ve met throughout the way. I met Anthony at a Neil Young concert actually almost 10 years ago now as a drummer, and we loved Neil. And there’s a song called “Walk On” where it goes “some get stoned some get strange sooner or later it all gets real.” That’s a Neil Young song, “Walk On,” and I thought sooner or later it all gets real, and if that’s not a promise, I don’t know what is. So [we] called it the Promise of the Real.

H: That’s a true thing, that’s cool. Speaking of Neil, there’s a song I was listening to that you played. I think it’s the intro to “Running Shine.” To me it sounds like if you took “Mother Nature’s Son” by the Beatles and combined it with like a Neil Young fusion that’s what it would sound like.

L: That’s awesome! Man, both of those — I actually played “Mother Nature’s Son” at the Talkhouse in New York in Montauk and Paul McCartney was in the audience, I didn’t even realize.

H: No way!

L: Yeah, I did that song and he was there which was incredible.

H: That’s pretty flooring, actually.

L: I don’t know, had I known maybe I wouldn’t have done it, but I kind of had a feeling he might be there and I thought to go ahead so I guess I made a good call . . .

H: How would you describe your music yourself? Especially on this new record. Is this a new beginning for you? Because I know you’ve put out a few records before this.

L: Yeah, well no it’s not a new beginning, it’s kind of a culmination of everything we’ve done before and [it] showcases — I think — everything really that the band is capable of doing really well . . . It’s got a little of everything. It doesn’t rock as hard in some places, but I think I wanted to focus more on just great songs and great grooves. I wanted to evoke real emotion. I didn’t want to bash people over the head with too much heavy shit . . . I’m feeling more mellow in my life. I’m feeling, you know? Definitely there will be another rock and roll album at some point but even that one I want to be a rock opera kind of feel. I want to do something like Zeppelin where I can combine the acoustic and the electric. To do something really cool. 

H: That’s awesome.

L: So yeah like “Running Shine,” but then with electric guitars . . . Like add just another element to it, you know? And kind of pull some stuff like that. But I’m always moving in different directions and, see, the thing about my voice is that . . . you can pick it out, not a lot of people sound like that. And so its distinctive and I can do different genres with the same [voice] and have it still kind of tie together, you know? 

H: Yeah, of course.

L: Because I have more, I have a lot of freedom — as the character of the song — to kind of move about in the song and do different styles and still have it be me, with my guitar. It’s kind of like the Grateful Dead or something. All of their songs sound completely different, really. In terms of like chord structure, it’s not like they’re following a formula . . . But it’s great. I mean “Touch of Grey” is completely different than “Estimated Profit.”

H: Oh yeah, completely different.

L: [I]t’s a completely different thing but still it’s the Grateful Dead and . . . you know, hopefully people will see us in that way. Whatever we do, it’s still us.

H: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s great that you see yourself in that light and you give yourself room to breathe as an artist and you can kind of just freely do what you want you’re not really trying to please anybody. It’s not like you’re trying to be your dad or you’re trying to be somebody, you’re being yourself and I think that’s just very cool.

L: Yeah, well, [I] learned that from dad and from Neil. . . I mean they’ve never tried to be anybody else but themselves so I had a good example in that way. 

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real at the Music Farm. (Alyssa Lane)

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