Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Lukas Nelson Talks New Album, Learning From Willie Nelson, Neil Young
Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real have quietly made a big name for themselves in the nearly 10 years since they first started playing together.
Inspired by the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young, they've spent several years as Young's touring band while also releasing several studio albums independently. This past August marks their first self-titled label debut.
You've just released your new self-titled album this past August. You've been recording and touring together for many years at this point, so I'm curious: Was there a particular aspect of this new record that speaks to your band and your sound — something that said, "This is what we're about, this record is us" — and if so, what was it?
It definitely encompasses everything that the band is all about, and I feel like it showcases a lot of the versatility of what the band is. So I feel like this shows what we really are, and it's also the first major release that the band has put out — all the previous releases were independent and spread mostly through word of mouth. This marks the beginning of Promise Of The Real's journey into a more international, and hopefully more widely heard, setting
You've got some great collaborations with Lucius on the new record — how long have you all known each other?
Lucius and I met at Desert Trip in Indio. They play with Roger Waters, and we play with Neil. So we were doing our thing, and we got to hang out with them backstage and became friends, and now we're really close.
You spent some years recording and touring with Neil Young, an artist who's obviously also a big formative influence for you. First off — did you ever think when you were a kid that touring with Neil was something you'd be doing someday? And secondly, what type of shenanigans is Neil Young up to on dayss off at this point in his career?
Well, to answer your first question: Only in my dreams did I ever think of something like that. And then a day off with Neil is great. He does Pilates, he takes good care of himself. We actually have a truck that goes out with us on the road that has a Pilates gym in it. So he has an instructor come out, so we'll do that during the day or we'll go on ride bikes. I'll try to find a golf course somewhere and play golf, or go swimming. I've got my skateboard, I like to do that. With Neil — he's a regular guy, you know? He's a really good guy — he's funny! He's really funny. We'll go to dinner sometimes and just explore the town we're in.
Are you a street skater or a long-boarder?
Both, actually. I grew up surfing and then skateboarding. I built a mini-ramp in my backyard, and I'd go to skate parks wherever I could find them. Then I started trying more intense things, and getting hurt and then being on the road at the same time, it just wasn't really fitting. So now I tend to just cruise, and maybe I'll make sure I can still kickflip or make sure I can still do all the things I used to love to do.
When you started your career in music, did your father give you any sage advice or touring tips, or did he let you go off into the world to sort things out on your own?
He more led by example, you know? I just watched the way he does it, and the balance he keeps on the road of taking care of himself and keeping the right people around himself. That's the main thing really.
Are you a reader? What's the last great book you read?
I like to read a lot actually. The last great book I read was Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It's a really great book.
Do you remember your first guitar? The first song you learned to play?
Yeah! I had a Rain Song acoustic, and then I had a Fender electric. And "The Star Spangled Banner" was the first song I learned how to play.
Can you choose a song of the album and tell us the story of how it was written or what inspired it?
"Find Yourself" — it's a song about taking your power back. I remember when I wrote it I was really feeling it when I wrote it, and it's just taken on a life of its own. Lady Gaga, my friend, sang on it. She kind of turned it into a universal relationship song. Having that female balance there, it was really nice, and she just kills it. "I hope you find yourself/Before I find somebody else/To be my love." It's kind of a universal concept, and a really fun one to play live. They all sing along.