Archive for the ‘Micah Nelson’ Category
by: Andy Greene
Last September, just before he took the stage at Farm Aid Neil Young was hanging out on his tour bus with Willie Nelson’s sons Micah and Lukas. Out of nowhere, he asked if they wanted to come out and join him on “Rockin’ In The Free World” at the end of his set. “We were like, ‘Fuck yeah, dude,'” says Micah. “It felt great, like we’d been jamming together forever.”
Lukas and Micah both play guitar and have their own bands. Lukas, 26, fronts Promise of the Real, while Micah, 25, plays with Insects vs Robots and occasionally plays solo under the name Particle Kid. They have known Young as far back as they can remember. “He’s ‘Uncle Neil,'” Micah tells Rolling Stone. “But until a couple of Farm Aids ago, we never had a chance to just hang out and get a vibe from each other. At the same time, I feel like I’ve always known him forever through his music because it’s so honest.”
In the fall of 2007, Lukas met his future Promise of the Real bandmate Anthony Logerfo when they both caught Young’s show at Nokia Live in Los Angeles. “After the show, we went back to his place and went surfing in the night with a bunch of his buddies,” says Lukas. “I got stung by a stingray, and that night I had to sleep on his couch with my foot in a bucket of hot water to neutralize the [venom] protein. He brought me this huge pile of weed and I knew we’d be best friends after that.”
They called their new band, which features Logerfo on drums, Tato Melgar on percussion and Corey McCormick on bass, Promise of the Real after Young’s line, “Some get stoned, some get strange, but sooner or later it all gets real” from 1974’s “Walk On.” “We listened to Neil Young every day when we started the band,” says Lukas. “And ‘Walk On’ has always been one of my favorite songs.”
“Monsanto is the poster child for the problems we’re having with the corporate government,” Young recently said.
Two weeks after last year’s Farm Aid, Young and Nelson headlined the Harvest the Hope concert in Neligh, Nebraska to protest the proposed Keystone Pipeline. “We were playing as my father’s band that night,” says Lukas. “And Neil called us onto his bus and worked out a few songs he wanted to play with us. All of us just had a blast.”
The Bridge School Benefit came about weeks later, and once again Young called out Micah, Lukas and Promise of the Real to back him on a few songs. “We didn’t know that was going to happen,” says Lukas. “But we brought our instruments just in case he wanted us to join him. It went really well, but after that we didn’t talk for a while.”
Sometime in December, an e-mail arrived from Young. “He was like, ‘Hey, I wrote a bunch of new songs,” says Micah. “I want you guys to come do the record with me. Love, Neil.” They were stunned beyond belief. “I was so stoked,” says Lukas. “I can’t even describe how elated I was.”
The weeks passed and no plans came into place, but on January 7th, Rolling Stone asked Young about his next album at the International Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “‘I’m working on another album now that I’m going to be doing with Willie Nelson’s sons,” he said. It’s called The Monsanto Years. It’s an upbeat review of the situation.” The album is set for release in June, but at the time, this was news to more people than just Young fans. “That’s how we knew it was real,” says Micah. “With Neil, we’ve learned not to expect anything until it’s actually happening. Once it’s in print in the press and he said it, that was the moment where we knew it was for real.”
photos: Janis Tillerson
Janis Tillerson took this photo, in Luck, Texas
Janis took this picture of 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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by: Matt Fountain and Sarah Linn
Legendary folk rocker Neil Young stopped Thursday in San Luis Obispo for a secret show.
The Grammy Award winner took the stage at SLO Brewing Co. at 9 p.m., backed by rock band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and played until midnight.
The spur-of-the-moment concert was presented by Good Medicine Presents and Numbskull Productions. Good Medicine co-owner Todd Newman said he and his wife, Korie, have been working with Nelson, son of country star Willie Nelson, since 2007.
“Lukas contacted us last week and asked to work on a secret show,” Todd Newman wrote in an email. “He didn’t offer many details. He simply said, ‘Let’s plan for a concert Thursday and we are going to bring something special to Good Medicine and SLO.’
”It wasn’t until shortly before the show that we found that Neil was the special surprise.”
San Luis Obispo resident Jason Hill was sipping a beer at McCarthy’s Irish Pub at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday when a friend sent him a text message about the Neil Young concert.
“I dropped my beer, ran to the show and got right in line. And then I realized I had no cash,” said Hill, who borrowed enough money to purchase pre-sale tickets for himself, his friend and their fathers.
“It was the best show in San Luis Obispo at SLO Brew,” Hill said. “Because it was a total surprise — and it was Neil Young.”
When Mike Johnson, who lives a few blocks from downtown San Luis Obispo, heard about the show after work, he, too, raced to SLO Brewing Co.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Johnson said. “Seeing Willie Nelson’s son’s band play backup for Neil Young in a tiny venue at the spur of the moment? It was one of the more entertaining things I’ve ever experienced.”
Concertgoers paid just $10 to hear Young play two sets that included a nearly 10-minute long version of “Down By the River” as well as favorites such as “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and “Ordinary People.” The energetic crowd that packed SLO Brewing Co., which has a capacity of 457 people, ranged from college students to older folks.
Young announced in January that he is working on a new album with Lukas Nelson and his brother, Micah Nelson.
Known for a long string of hit songs that includes “Harvest Moon,” “Old Man” and “For What It’s Worth,” Young helped shaped the sound of the 1960s and ’70s as a member of two bands — Buffalo Springfield and rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He’s also enjoyed a successful, decades-spanning career as a solo artist.
Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo musician in 1995 and as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.
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Thank John Herring for all his great videos from the Heartbreaker Banquet, like this one of Tom Conway, Lily Meola and Micah Nelson, performing, “Bad Boys.”
photo: Theo Jemison
Dave’s Picks 2015 Artist-in-Residence Micah Nelson gives us a little insight into his unconventional upbring (yes, the one and only Willie is his dad) and into how he juggles his time between painting, animating, and playing in not one, not two, but three bands(!) in this edition of All In The Family. Find out what the multi-talented and very busy artist is up to here.
A multi-hyphenate and a member of the well-respected Nelson tribe, give us a little background on your upbringing and your earliest exposure to art/music/creativity…
I’ve been doing creative things for as long as I can remember. I never stopped creating stuff and eventually my creations were paying my rent. It’s great! I hope to continue this lifestyle as long as possible. It’s amazing that you can actually be rewarded for doing what you love. I don’t take it for granted for a second.
In terms of the visual world, you are an illustrator, a painter — a live painter – and an animator. You’re also a part of 3 bands – the psych-punk-orchestra Insects vs. Robots, neo-psych-folk-rock band Pårticle Kid, and POTR, a collaborative project with your brother Lukas Nelson. How do you find the time?
I was very scattered around for a while, experimenting, playing in a million bands, saying yes to everything. Eventually I began to feel thin, like butter scraped over too much bread. The only choice was to focus on the things that really mattered to me and not take on more projects than I could count on one hand. That step was life-changing in a great way, but even now I pretty frequently am up all night working on various things, sleeping at odd hours. That’s ok. Life is really all one long day depending on where you are in the multiverse right..?..your birthday!
If you had to pick just one…
Probably The Empire Strikes Back… yeah, definitely. No question.
How do each of these art forms appeal to you? Do you find they work hand-in-hand?
They are very symbiotic. I rarely have an idea for a song without seeing a video or album concept or animation behind it. If I am painting something I usually hear music in my head to accompany it or vice versa. The aural and visual inform each other. I seem to understand music the most in visual, or even tactile terms. It’s what makes the most sense to me. I’d love to learn to read and write music better though. I suspect I have a mild case of synesthesia, I’m not sure… maybe not so mild. I am grateful for the life-saving ability to make tangible sense of it all through my art and music. I remember getting very frustrated as a kid when I couldn’t express what was in my head, when it wouldn’t come out on the page the way I saw it in my mind. I think this whole sanity thing is just an endurance test. If you keep trying it eventually gets easier, or you at least get better at making it seem easier.
Any formal training in music or art?
Up until I went to art college for a few years, I mostly just either figured things out trial and error style or learned from elder artists or musicians I was lucky to be surrounded with growing up. Nothing really formal. I’m very grateful to have had some fine art education later on though; I gained a lot from the experience. I am a firm believer in knowing the rules well before effectively breaking them. I think it’s important to be open to learning new things constantly. I could never learn it all. The more I learn, the more humbled I am by my lack of knowledge. I know nothing.
Is it more challenging to create commissioned works? What makes it interesting?
I guess it really depends on the piece and the work involved. Sometimes having a specific request for something can be easier than pulling something out of the air, y’know, making something from nothing… but really it’s all very interesting and inspiring. Depends on how you choose to look at it. I’m so fortunate to even have problems like these. Once, a few years ago, I was asked to carve a liking of a grieving woman’s son into a marble headstone… on paper that might sound like a bit of a morbid gig, but it was a profoundly humbling experience and it taught me so much. I had never carved anything into marble before, let alone something as important as the portrait of someone’s deceased son, so I knew I had to focus. There’s no undo button with marble. I could not fuck this up. I put everything into it and am actually very, very proud of the piece… It has become a shrine for the mother and she still writes to me all the time that seeing it brings her inner peace every day. Thank you for that experience, Mary!
I am a super grateful person to make art and music for a living! That’s all I can say at the end of the day.
Let’s get into your connection with the Grateful Dead…
When I was 13, I roadied for my uncle Dahr’s band ‘Titty Bingo’ at my father’s 4th of July picnic which was in Austin that year. Both Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the Dead headlined that year. I was right there on side stage breathing it all in the whole time. There was no filter, no screen to look through except my own mind. I can still smell the rain approaching. The Dead jammed for what seemed like hours. Mickey had his massive wall of drums. I remember distinctly Phil’s warm smile when he shook my hand. All the Heads and hippies and rednecks dancing in the mud. An epic musical journey unfolded that seemed to be laughing at time itself, or maybe laughing with it. The overall vibe somehow felt so familiar, almost nostalgic. Everyone was there, riding it. It definitely influenced me.
How does their iconic imagery appeal to you?
I’ve always felt that we are just passing through, that we don’t own this place or this skin, or anything really. You never see a hearse with a luggage rack, someone once said. I appreciate how the imagery of the Dead often presents a profound reverence and respect for death while simultaneously celebrating life. A light-hearted lesson in the temporality of everything. I dig that.
Given that the Dead do have a very specific aesthetic, what were some of the challenges (and rewards!) of creating the artwork for the 2015 Dave’s Picks series?
I love the cultural mythology of the Dead. My artwork tends to be very layered and multidimensional, and often pretty obscure so I appreciate the symbology of the whole Dead legacy. The history is epic and vast, like Lord of the Rings or something. I also like to use muted Earth tones in my work a lot, sometimes coffee or tea stains, etc, but this project demanded bright bold colors, which is something I’m not quite used to. Still, I’m loving the challenge. I like for my comfort zones to be tested and stretched. It keeps it real and fresh.
What else is on your agenda for 2015?
I am currently making a record with Neil Young and will be collaborating with my friend, the great Gary Burden, on the album art as well! What an honor to call these folks my good friends and be a part of their life stories. We have been having a super great time hanging out and working with Neil – what an inspiring force to be around. I have nothing but respect for Neil. He also happens to be one of the funniest people alive and has basically adopted me and my brother and POTR as his band. What a trip! I’ve also been writing a new album with Insects vs Robots. We plan to record sometime this spring as well as well as play some shows at SXSW in Austin and possibly some shows opening for the band Tinariwen sometime this summer.If we get time, it would be great to make a music video too – we’ve got a million ideas and talented superfriends, but haven’t quite found the time to make it happen yet. I also plan to tour a bit with my father more this year playing in the family band. We did get to do one show with him a couple weeks ago while he was in town, which was wicked fun. I have been working on several a/v projects with my friend David Wexler aka ‘Strangeloop’ (Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu) and the whole Teaching Machine crew which I look forward to sharing with everyone. I’d like to find some time to make another Particle Kid record this year too, hopefully finish a record I started last year with Christy Smith and also finish the Lily Meola record that I’m producing. And then take a power nap.