Having one of the greatest country rock outlaws as your father could actually be a pretty big albatross around your neck, especially if you are trying to make a name for yourself in the music world. But Lukas Nelson – son of Willie – has managed to do just fine, in part because there is simply no denying that he is one hell of a good musician, regardless of his last name.
Need proof? Just listen to any random track off of Wasted, the latest record from Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Combining influences as varied as the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul Simon and, yes, Willie, the band is – clichés aside – something you simply have to experience live.
Wasted was recorded live in the studio on analog – an anomaly nowadays – and captures well the energy of the band. Only a couple of years into its existence, the group is already building loyal fan bases across the country, in part thanks to a grueling tour schedule.
Mid tour, Nelson was kind enough to take time recently to answer a few questions talking about the band’s founding, onstage rituals and advice from his dad.
Innocent Words: How did you first connect with the boys in the band?
Lukas Nelson: Well, I met Anthony at a Neil Young show in L.A. Later, we went surfing under the pier in Seal Beach, and that night I got stung by a stingray, but the waves were so fun I just kept surfing. I had to put my foot in hot water that night to dull the pain, but I knew I had found a good friend in L.A., so I was happy.
I have been friends with Tato since I was eight years old. He came to Hawaii from Urugay and Argentina in his early 20s, doing landscaping and anything he could, and started to work at our house. We started to hang out a lot, and my brother and I would do landscaping with him sometimes. His sister was our babysitter, and we became good friends and have been playing music together ever since. Corey has been friends with Anthony for a long time too, as they both went to the same music college, Citrus in Pomona. In this way we all have known each other for a while now.
IW: You got a lot of attention with Promise of the Real. Did you feel a lot of pressure following it up with the new record?
Nelson: Not really. I am just writing all the time now, and I have so much material I’m just waiting for the chance to get in the studio again.
IW: Speaking of which, was the writing or recording process any different this time around?
Nelson: No, not really. I just hear a song in my head and write it down. We did, however, record it to 192kh digital sound and mixed to analog, so it has the highest digital sound quality possible.
IW: Is there a general theme to the songs off of Wasted?
Nelson: It’s an honest snapshot of where I was at that time in my life.
Nelson: Jim just let the songs speak for themselves, and we work so well together. He really is a brilliant guy.
IW: This album sounds a lot more expansive than the last one. Was that a conscious decision?
Nelson: I don’t think so; I think we’ve just matured as musicians and producers ourselves.
IW: Your sister is on this record. Any other guests?
Nelson: Yes, Cowboy Eddie Long played steel incredibly.
IW: You also play on almost half the songs off your dad’s new record. What was it like the first time you recorded with him?
IW: What’s the best advice your dad ever gave you about playing music for a living?
Nelson: Keep your family close and stay healthy.
IW: As a band, what one characteristic or aspect would you pick to be remembered for?
Nelson: For giving back as much as we took.
IW: As a band, have you guys developed any performance or pre-performance traditions yet?
Nelson: We like to get the crowd involved. They like to sing along to “4 Letter Word” and others. It’s fun!
IW: What’s next for the band?
Nelson: Well, I am already starting to put together all the material and concepts for the next album. It should be really great.