Archive for the ‘Micah Nelson’ Category
Neil Young & Promise Of The Real’s first show of 2016 featured a Willie Nelson sit-in, a tribute to Merle Haggard, at Whitewater Amphitheater, New Braunfels, TX.
photo: Tim Mosenfelder
by: Hector Saldona
Brothers Lukas and Micah Nelson have an enviable vantage point, standing side by side with, and witnessing the power of, two musical giants.
One of them is their father, Willie Nelson. The other is Neil Young.
Lukas and Micah front Promise of the Real, the self-described hippie-cowboy-surf-rock band that collaborated with Young on his provocative album “The Monsanto Years” and which has been serving as his fiery backing band. They arrive at Whitewater Amphitheater on Tuesday.
The tight band includes drummer Anthony LoGerfo, bassist Corey McCormick and percussionist Tato Meglar.
“It’s just incredible,” Lukas Nelson said. “I never would’ve thought growing up that music would embrace me in much the same way it embraced my dad, and not only that, but embrace my brother, too. It’s a blessing to be able to play music for a living and to be able to do it with the mentors that I’ve been blessed to know.”
But there is a difference between playing with his dad’s legendary Family Band and being on the road with Young. Lukas has expressed in interviews that being onstage with the mercurial rocker is almost an out-of-body experience.
“Every show we make leaps and bounds in terms of connection and maturity and musicianship. It’s an experience like no other,” Lukas said. “I’m just riding it like a big wave. I pinch myself every day. I ask myself whether my life is real or it’s a dream. Maybe it’s both.”
Young used similar language to describe his relationship with Promise of the Real in an interview with Rolling Stone: “I feel like I’m doing something I’ve never done before. It’s not just music. It’s a soundscape. It’s kind of like flying around and listening to things with your eyes closed.”
There’s no questioning Young’s or Willie Nelson’s vitality these days. As guitarists, the aging stars remain among the most instantly indentifiable, from Nelson’s quivering chromatic runs on Trigger, his battered Martin nylon-string guitar, to Young’s manic vibrato solos on his 1953 Gibson Les Paul electric guitar known as “Old Black.”
“My dad is probably the most able-bodied almost 83-year-old that I’ve ever come across in this world,” Lukas said. “And I think Neil is the most able-bodied 70-year-old. I mean, he’s jumping up and down, playing 3½ hour sets like we play. He’s incredible.”
The Nelson brothers really try to go with the flow. That’s meant being patient with their bands, both Promise of the Real and Micah’s trippier Insects vs. Robots, as they do gigs with Young that, Lukas said, “feel like family.” In May, Promise of the Real will tour to support its new album, “Something Real,” and then it’s off to Europe with Young.
“You just do what feels right in every moment. And it feels right to play with Neil, and it feels right, every chance that I can, to play with my dad,” Lukas said.
At last year’s all-star tribute to their dad, who was the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the brothers performed “Living in the Promised Land” with him.
There was a real tenderness and sweetness there at the Library of Congress gig — up to a point.
“We just go out there and do it,” Lukas said. “Dad’s never been one for pow-wows, and neither have we. We just kind of let the spirit take us and trust that it’s gonna come out good.”
That goes for the Young concerts, which start out with Young solo on acoustic guitar for a few songs and then build from there.
But that could change.
“That’s just how it’s been. It could be completely different next time we get on the stage,” Lukas said, explaining that each night’s set is drawn from a list of about 80 songs the band had to learn. The shows run long because “it’s rock ’n’ roll,” he said.
“I love playing his music. It’s like playing my own music … because I’ve been so close to his music for so long. Playing those songs is just — there’s nothing better. It’s like playing with my dad, in a way, because I grew up with it so deeply. It’s part of this crazy dream.”
photos: Janis Tillerson
Janis Tillerson took this photo, in Luck, Texas
Micah and his big brother, at Red Rocks.
Micah Nelson: When It Comes to Willie Nelson’s Youngest Son, expect the unexpected
by Steve Uhler
Micah Nelson has been screwing with everyone’s expectations since before he was even born.
His dad originally wanted to name him Jake — a “cowboy name” — but the still-gestating prodigy had other ideas. “Apparently, when my mother was pregnant with me, she had a dream in which I came to her and said, “Hey, listen. I’m gonna be showing up soon, so I want to let you know ahead of time. My name is Micah. You can call me whatever you want, but that’s my name. Micah. OK, great — see you soon.” Then she woke up and turned to my dad and said, ‘Hey, uh… so his name is Micah, apparently.”
“That wasn’t enough convincing, however. “They settled on Jacob, Jake for short,” he continues. “But then I showed up and said my name is Micah. Only doctors and cops and people at the DMV call me Jacob.”
Anyone expecting Willie Nelson’s youngest son to reflect the spitting image of his iconic father is likely to be simultaneously disappointed and amazed. Flying in the face of preconceptions — ore -re-anything — is a lifelong motif for the 24-year-old musician. his music is as similar to his dad’s as John Cage is to Johnny Cash. Same canvas, wildly different colors. “Micah has never followed the herd in anything he odes,” says his older brother, Lukas. “To follow any formula would limit him, which he knows. He’s as unique as he is creative.”
Even as a toddler, Nelson was messing with people’s heads. “I started playing harmonica in my dad’s band when I was about three,” he recalls. “I thought I was just getting harmonica lessons. I was oblivious to the thousands of people watching. My Aunt Robyn asked me if I was nervous in front of all those people? I said, “If I don’t see them, they can’t see me.’ Eventually I got pretty decent at the harmonica, and my dad would throw me the nod to take a solo or two.”
Like his iconoclastic father, Nelson does things his own way — and he does a lot of things. In addition to being a full-time musician, both with his band, Insects vs Robots, and as a solo artist, he’s an accomplished painter, photographer, filmmaker and animator. Imagine H.R. Giger channeling John Audobon at a seance with David Lynch, and you’ll get some idea of Nelson’s vision.
As a musician, he eschews the formulaic and polished in favor of the ragged, unformed and spontaneous. As such a conduit as a creator, Nelson conjures “found sounds” into complex musical works of astonishing depth, imagery and surprising humor. An intuitive sonic forager, he finds inspiration in serendipitous places: the rhythm drip of a leaky faucet, the arthritic, groan of an old rocking chair, the distant howl of hungry coyotes in the night. “When I was in high school, every morning on Maui I’d wake up to the most psychedelic bird calls right outside my window,” he recalls. “the weirdest riffs. A human couldn’t write those melodies. I had a growing suspicion that all birds were just musical robots flying around with little tape decks built into them with old warped tapes that would loop the strangest, tweekiest sounds.”
So do inanimate objects, “I know a guy named Lewellyn with an old creaky rusty cat,” he continues. “Every time he opens his door it sings the strangest creaky melodies. I”ve ripped his car’s riffs off countless times. Sometimes I see music as this mysterious forest to be explored. Or like archeaology. You never know what treasures and artifacts you might find, but you can’t know unless you start digging.”
Nelson meticulously builds layers of tracks, weaving a tapestry of songs that are often otherworldly. Anyone expecting echoes of his dad’s distinctive voice and mainstream op sensibilities will find Nelson’s oeuvre disorienting. It’s a beguiling mash-up of traditional folk, psychedelia and world beat, peppered with guileless vocals, dissonant chordings and shifting time signatures. It’s musical Chaos Theory.
“A lot of popular music is so safe, so predictable, like it was processed in a factory,” he explains. “You can literally go in and buy it at Target next to the Tupperware. Not that there’s anything wrong with that .. except that a lot of it tends to sound like Tupperware. Some folks want ot make a pop hit that sells deodorant and plays every five minutes at Walgreens and gets them a Super Bowl halftime show. I tend to get bored with that intention. It spooks my horse.” Perhaps the closest he’s ever come to a traditional love song is “Mosquito,” his bizarre ode to the pesky insect.
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photos: Janis Tillerson
Willie Nelson performed in the Revival Tent following the Chef’s Pot Luck Banquet on Thursday night, for donors and attendees of the fundraising event to benefit Wholesome Wave, an organization that helps provide farm-fresh produce for low-income communities. Micah Nelson and his band had a show in the early evening in Austin as part of other SXSW event, but hurried back home to Luck to perform with his dad, his Aunt Bobbie and brother Lukas. He got came on stage a few songs into Willie’s set (SXSW traffic unbelievable). When Willie saw them bring his drum and snare drum onto the stage, he announced, “Oh, we got a drummer!” Micah smothered his dad and brother with giant hugs and then sat down and joined in with ‘Floodin’ Down in Texas’.
Thanks for Janis from Texas for her great photos.
photo: Janis Tillerson
And here’s one I took of the moment.
by Ian Joulain
The evening is taking shape, and upstairs in The Townhouse all the barstools are occupied. At the edge of the bar, I can faintly hear the bluesy sounds of Runson Willis coming from the Del Monte Speakeasy below.
It’s March 1 —a Tuesday. Venice locals Insects vs Robots, a Del Monte mainstay, are set to go on at 11 p.m. and most of the band is still down the street at their creative sanctuary.
The psychedelic, acid, avant-garde outfit lures audiences in with accessible melodies and familiar sounds then proceed to push the sonic conventions of taste and genre. They drift off. Hints of folk, jazz, a few seconds of punk and then extended moments of spacy, tripped out weirdness.
Tonight the five-piece celebrate the release of their “Stupid Dreams” EP and kick off a tour of the same name that will take them to Austin for South by Southwest gigs on March 19 and 20.
IVR’s Micah Nelson, who contributes charango, guitar, vocals, percussion, piano and drums, is outside. Tallish, wearing a beanie and chill, he suggests we go meet the others at what’s been the band’s home away from home lately.
Plus, he has a burrito from Tacos Por Favor waiting for him there.
During the short walk, Nelson touches on the historical aspects of the venue he and his mates are performing at tonight and has a sense of pride while pointing out other fixtures in the area that have clearly ingrained themselves into him.
“There are so many people making life here so dope … everybody [in Venice] is just unapologetically doing their thing,” says Nelson, whose brother Lukas Nelson fronts the Promise of the Real and whose father, Willie Nelson, needs no introduction. “Sometimes it can get really intense and gnarly, but it’s the people that make life fantastic.”
Upon arrival we are met by a big black gate and are buzzed in. Waiting for us at the front door is the group’s unofficial sixth member, producer and mentor — Harlan Steinberger. We’re at Hen House Studios and it’s a palace. Early ‘60s Bob Marley is playing on vinyl as members of the band and others are milling about the dining room and kitchen. The place has a very homey feeling despite the high ceilings and seemingly custom-made everything.
As Nelson sits down to lay waste to his burrito, Steinberger giddily takes me for a tour of the studio. It’s been up and running for just under a year after relocating from a smaller space where it had been since 2001. The new spot was designed by Vincent Amaury van Hauff, founder of Waterland Design, who has built over 300 studios worldwide for everyone from pop hitmaker Max Martin to the venerable Rick Rubin.
Even the bathroom has a spot to plug in.
“This tile bathroom is an echo chamber, and it’s all wired into the patch bay,” Steinberger says.
You never know when you’re going to need some reverb mid-tinkle, but music is art and to roll our collective eyes at the thought of such a gratuitous recording spot shouldn’t be knocked; it could end up being where your next favorite song is recorded.
Hen House Studio is for hire, but it is priced out of market range. If you know Steinberger though or are a friend, he’s the type that if he has time he’ll make something work. He tells me HBO rented the place once, but outside of that usage has been minimal.
Back in the living area, IVR bassist/groove provider Jeff Smith describes Steinberger’s place with a smile and an exhale: “Dreamland.” Hard to disagree with him.
“We’re one of the first bands to record here,” Smith says, but that’s not to say the recording of the new EP and a yet-to-be released full album was done in one concurrent run. Nelson and his brother Lukas went out on the road with Neil Young in support of his album “The Monsanto Years,” which the brothers also collaborated on last year.
A direct descendant of the Red Headed Stranger, Nelson has had music in the periphery his entire life. What he has now with his band and the people who comprise it though is what really puts things in perspective for the 25 year-old multi-talent.
When asked how long he’s spent at Steinberger’s Hen House the last six months, Nelson’s deadpan response: “Six months.” He laughs, but he’s likely serious. It’s outlets like these that allow Nelson to search for the next feeling or moment where “it” happens. “It energizes us to have that collective muse in each other,” Nelson says.
The “Stupid Dreams” EP features the single “Infection,” with guitarist Milo Gonzalez’s trickling guitar and ambient sounds leading the way. The other three tracks, “Star Gnoir,” “Stupid Dream” and “Beyond Measurement” are B-sides. Groovy when they want to be and other times inaccessible, it’s the byproduct of moving toward the edges of what they bring out in one another. With the music they create it’s as if they are pushing against some invisible force, never letting the listener get a grasp of what’s going to happen before moving in another far-off direction.
There was an extended hiatus five years ago where IVR needed to regroup, refuel and pursue other creative endeavors. Nelson reflects on this time and realized, as did everybody else, that the collective spirit, chemistry and camaraderie of their group — not only as musicians, but as friends and people — is something many never find let alone walk away from. In one another lies the unseen glue that holds their musical fort together so that they can continue trying to find the end of the beginning.
“We don’t think we’ll be running out of inspiration. We can’t keep up with our ideas.” Nelson says.
The most important thing is that no one is a detriment to themselves or to the group as a whole. “I think we’re all pretty good about getting out of our own way,” he says.
They view Venice as their lab, and between the characters that lie 10 feet in any given direction IVR are positioned to be as prolific as they want to be.
Nelson and company are summoned as it’s getting close to showtime. Heading out the door, the Russian born Nikita Sorokin (violin, guitar, banjo and vocals) leads us out to the street.
“It’s hard to talk about music,” he says. “It’s like dancing about architecture. It [can be] so abstract and ephemeral.”
Sorokin’s not wrong, and it’s as if he is describing what he and his tribe set off to create and the sounds they cultivate.
Before long the group is downstairs. As drummer Tony Pelusa is setting up, a big white canvas is being raised to the left of the stage. Venice street artist Jules Muck will be doing some painting during IVR’s set, and she’s brought a model to pose topless as she paints.
I ask Sorokin if this sort of thing is normal occurrence at an IVR show.
He pauses, then grins. “For sure.”
See Willie Nelson & Family, and Neil Young, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real at Whitewater Amphitheater in April 2016Sunday, March 6th, 2016
Such great music at Whitewater Amphitheater in April! Willie Nelson & Family and Merle Haggard are performing three nights on April 15, 16, 17th, and Neil Young, with Lukas and Micah Nelson are performing there on April 26, 2016! With Lucinda Williams! Wow.
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WATCH & SHARE our new video, a behind the scenes look of Neil Young+ Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real’s The Monsanto Years Tour. The album and tour shine a spotlight on the struggles American farmers are facing at the hands of agrochemical corporations.
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Lukas and Micah Nelson are sharing pictures on Facebook from Paris, where they are on tour with Neil Young and Promise of the Real.
Watch Lukas and Micah Nelson with Neil Young help honor Willie Nelson #GershwinPrizeConcert (PBS tonight)Friday, January 15th, 2016
Lukas Nelson on Facebook:
My band #promiseofthereal with #neilyoung will be on #PBS today doing a tribute to my father #willienelson for his Gershwin Award at 9/8pm central time today. Don’t miss it
Neil Young & Promise Of The Real finds the legendary rocker joined by a backing band featuring Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real. The group embarked on two legs of the Rebel Content Tour in 2015 and it appears they will hit the road once again next year.
German fan site Rusted Moon found ticketing links showing Neil Young & Promise Of The Real will play two shows in Germany next summer as part of the band’s debut European Tour. The first of the two performances will take place at Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Leipzig on July 20, while the second is set for Berlin’s Waldbühne on July 21. As for now, the two German performances are the only confirmed 2016 shows for Neil Young & Promise Of The Real but look for additional announcements soon.
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they’ve got noneStay with me…
Let’s just breathe…
Practiced are my sins, never gonna let me win, uh-huh
Under everything, just another human being, uh-huh
I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed
Stay with me
You’re all I see…
Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
As I come clean…
I wonder everyday, as I look upon your face, uh-huh
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take, oh no
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave…
Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
And I come clean, ah…
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me ’til I die
Meet you on the other side…