WILMINGTON — Lukas Nelson will play the Greenfield Lake Ampitheater next week.
Nelson, the son of country legend Willie Nelson, is touring with his band Promise of the Real in support of the group’s self-titled album. Before he takes the stage in Wilmington, Nelson took some time to talk with Beau Gunn, general manager and deejay for 98.3 The Penguin.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will play Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. (Tickets are available here.)
(Audio: listen to Part 1 of the interview)
(Beau Gunn) Aloha Lukas.
Aloha to you.
(BG) Yeah man, it’s my understanding that you are spending a lot of time in Hawaii these days. Does such an inspirational landscape lend itself to the creative process of your songwriting and playing?
Yeah, I mean it really does. But, honestly when I’m in Maui all I’m doing is I’m relaxed and most of the time I’m only there for a week or two, you know, out of the year, it seems like these days because we’re traveling so much. So, when I get there I try and jump in the water and release all that accumulated stuff that you get on the road, you know.
(BG) Right. Do you get a chance to surf a lot?
I do. I surf. I didn’t go this last time — I’ve been golfing a lot. Actually, I’ve been playing a little golf. That’s my other passion, so I was doing that and you know hanging with family which is the other main events over there.
(BG) Absolutely. All right. So, Neil Young wrote a song called “Walk On,” I know you’re aware of that. There’s a line in it that says, “sooner or later it all gets real.” What is it about that line that inspired you to name the band after it?
Well, when I was when I first met the drummer of the band who I started the band with, Anthony LoGerfo, it was a time in my life where I was, I was — I had just come from Maui and I’d grown up in Austin, now, and you know slow paced, just more a very organic mentality, you know. Country living, you know, either island and country living are actually very similar.
So, then I go to college in L.A. and it’s this kind of culture shock, it’s something completely different. And I was struggling with the term “what is real,” you know with the concept of what is real. And Neil, Neil just seemed to embody that to me for some reason. He stuck out as somebody that was completely real in my life for whatever reason.
So, after I heard that song I just decided to call my band name … and make my band name sort of a mantra on the way. Yeah, something that I could tell … you know could I tell myself every day and I remember that there’s that promise that I made to myself that I’d be real and keep my integrity and stay strong for better or worse — just not be afraid to be who I am in life or you know or otherwise.
The ‘very best songs of my career’
(Audio: listen to Part 2 of the interview)
(BG) I saw one of the promotional videos for the brand new record that dropped last Friday — by the way congratulations, we’re digging on it, I know you’re excited to release it — and in the video you talked about this dream that you had and you were you kind of went inside yourself and it was just almost like this metaphor of singing from the heart that really must’ve just had a profound impact on you when you woke up. I mean was that something that you had to write down, or was it just there forever?
Oh no, it’s there forever, it’s burned into me, you know.
I didn’t even know how to write that. And I think I was barely — I was barely old enough to write back when I had that dream. And I couldn’t explain it to anybody else. It just it was just in my mind.
(BG) So, the brand new self-titled album is out. It looks like you’ve got a mix of new material on there as well as some of the road-tested tracks as well. I imagine you’ve got a ton of songs to choose from. How do you go about narrowing it down to the 12 tracks that are on the record?
It’s almost like, I mean we had to we had to get rid of so many good songs to narrow it down. But what we wanted to do was just create that kind of a new … like, you know, an evolution for the band. And really, but we also knew that because we were doing it with Fantasy (Fantasy Records), that more people would actually get exposed to this record. And so I wanted to pick my very best songs from my career.
It expanded from my extended career and give those other songs that were on other records that I really loved it maybe didn’t get a chance to see some major spotlight. So, there were some songs that I just thought were kind of a collection of what I feel like are some of my best songs. And there’s 30 or 40 other ones that that didn’t make it. But that’s why it’s a good thing too because then we’ll have a good follow up record you know.
(BG) Yeah, absolutely. And then there’s a nice balance of some love songs on there but also maybe some songs that came out of heartbreak here or there which you can’t have an album without having a song about heartbreak right or at least to put on your walking shoes on and getting the heck out of there.
Yeah, I mean you know I don’t think about too much like, ‘yeah it is a song about heartbreak.’ There really is this song about you know inner exploration epiphanies and learning from your mistakes. And there’s a lot of learning in these songs. You know it’s not just resolving it. There’s a lot growth in the characters of these tunes and you know that a lot of the characters are kind of taking their power or you know sort of asserting who they are in the songs, you know.
(BG) Do you find with your songs that they will evolve over time as you and the band kind of get to work them out on stage, and maybe a jam turns into something… that the song you know five or 10 years ago might be something totally different now?
Oh yes, completely different than in the way we play it (on the record). I mean even the instrumentation is different. You know you’ve got new band members in. We’ve got… well we had Alberto Bof (piano, keyboards) and then we’ve got Jesse Siebenberg on the steel guitar.
(BG) How long have you been a six piece? You were a four-piece for a while. And is this something that’s new within the last year?
Yeah, it’s within the last few months really.
Special guests, film debut and sitting around the poker table
(Audio: listen to Part 3 of the interview)
(BG) There are a lot of prominent guests on the album including your aunt and your dad and your brother but there’s one name that stands out when you pull out the liner notes it’s all it’s in all caps. It’s Lady Gaga. Take us back to how that relationship got started.
Well, it started with this movie that we’re doing, “A Star is Born.” I’m helping produce with Bradley Cooper and producing some of the music, right, and the music was with Gaga and consulting Bradley on how to be kind of a rock star and then we’ll be in the movie too. Promise of the Real will be his backing band and it should be great.
(BG) Fantastic. Can you pull back the curtain a little bit on that or is there more to come in terms of a release date or…
More to come, I don’t have any exciting news for you guys but I’m sure that the powers-that-be will divulge.
(BG) OK fair enough. Anyone who has seen Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real show know that you absolutely crush it on the Fender. What age did you start playing? And just being in such a musical family do you remember just were there guitars around always and it was like almost like a play toy when you were little?
They were always around but I was never really forced or even encouraged to play. I kind of guessed that they wanted us to kind of pick it up if we wanted to do with they didn’t want to you know force it on us. And I fell in love with the guitar around maybe age 10 and I got into Jimi Hendrix Stevie Ray Vaughan and that really did it.
(BG) Are there any inspirational figures along the way that that kind of gave you these unforgettable guitar lessons?
Well besides Neil Young and dad — I mean dad’s given me something great. He’s an incredible guitar player in his own right. And Neil (Young) and (Kris) Kristofferson has given me some songwriting — songwriting is really first and foremost what I feel I do best. Yeah. And it just gets better and better. I do have a lot more songs recorded, in demo form, that you know that are really going to people are going to like I think because they’re just good songs you know. So I’m excited about that, too.
(BG) Do you carry around a pad of paper or a pen, you know near your bedside table in case that that moment strikes you?
I do not, no. I do not. I can’t write fast enough with those now and I’m so good with the text. I just kind of do it on my phone and then or I’ll just put the push record on my phone and play the song as I’ve got it in my head on a guitar.
(BG) So, I follow you on Instagram — you’re a big Instagrammer — I always get a kick out of some of your posts and every now and then you’ll post a shot at the poker table. One I saw not too long ago was your dad and Kris Kristofferson and a few other guys at the table who at that table would most likely try to bluff you out of your chips?
(Laughs) Dad or Kris. I don’t know, everybody’s bluffing. You never know.
(BG) And who’s the one that’s most likely to walk out with all the chips on the table?
It’s a crapshoot literally.