At Neil Young & Promise Of The Real’s first show of 2016 back in April, the band was joined by the legendaryWillie Nelson in Texas. Last night in Rome, Willie came out towards the middle of the show to sit-in with Neil & POTR, which features his sons Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson, on two songs at Terme di Caracalla.
Willie Nelson emerged 11 songs into the set to lend a hand on “Are There Any More Real Cowboys” and then led the group through the Neil & POTR debut of The Red Headed Stranger’s “On The Road Again.” Both of Willie’s guest spots came after his son Lukas fronted the ensemble on another version of the Italian classic “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu,” aka “Volare.” There were plenty of other highlights in Rome including the year’s second “Mr. Soul,” the rare “Vampire Blues” and a jammed-out “Rockin’ In The Free World.” But the show will also be remembered for Young finally dusting off one of his most beloved songs with Promise Of The Real.
Last night’s encore in Rome was “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black).” While Neil Young has played the Rust Never Sleeps rocker over 500 times in his career, Friday marked the first time he teamed with Promise Of The Real on the song. It also was Neil’s first performance of “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” in any form since his Summer 2013 Tour with Crazy Horse. The tour continues tonight in Lucca, Italy.
Watch fan-shot footage of “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” and “On The Road Again” from Rome:
Here’s the Neil & POTR live debut of “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)”:
Lukas Nelson on guitar and vocals, Tato Melgar on percussion, Anthony Logerfo on drums, Corey McCormick, on bass.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real played at the Bluebird in Denver last night. What a fantastic show! The guys just get better and better and better and better, and they are so good already, that’s hard to believe.
The crowd was full of fans, lots of fans from Colorado, and also other Realers from California, Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond. Their fan base grows and grows and grows. It was fun to stand in the audience and listen to fans sing along with the hits.
Karlee Escobar, from Colorado, took these great photos, of Lukas and his new guitar he bought that day, and Corey on bass.
I took this one of Lukas.
The band has a new album out, and covered some of them last night. They sound great!
Set Me Down On A Cloud
Don’t Want To Fly
I’ll Make Love To You Any Ol’ Time
Everything Is Fake
They are in the middle of their POTR tour now. And bonus — on a few of the shows, Chicago and Nashville at least, his niece Raelyn Nelson and her band will be openeing for POTR. Next month, the will join up again with Neil Young for some dates on Europe. Check out their tour dates, and go see them if you can!
hearing this record, its hard not to realize that music is actually all around us all the time; one only needs to stop and listen
Young described his latest project on social media:
We made a live record and every creature on the planet seemed to show up. Suddenly all the living things of Earth were in the audience going crazy. Then they took over the stage, letting their wild sounds mingle with the Vanilla Singers perfect corporate harmony. Earth’s creatures let loose, there were Bee breakdowns, Bird breakdowns and yes, even Wall Street breakdowns, jamming with me and Promise of the Real! The show was non stop bliss for 98 minutes, no breaks. EARTH does not fit on iTunes. It breaks all their rules (and couldn’t all really be heard that way anyway) No one who was there will ever forget the love, wonder and beautiful madness of EARTH. I know I won’t. Neil
EARTH consists of recordings from Young’s tour last year with the band Promise Of The Real for his preceding album, The Monsanto Years. AlterNet described Young’s 36th studio album, as a “concept-based criticism” of Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, and also a condemnation of other multinational agriculture giants like Syngenta, Dow, Dupont and Bayer that have also, like Monsanto, “garnered control of global seed production.”
Promise Of The Real guitarist Lukas Nelson lauded the new LP. “I just listened to our new record EARTH with Neil Young … One of the single greatest audio experiences I’ve ever had,” he wrote on Instagram.
The world premiere of EARTH will be hosted by the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles on May 6. And, according to anannouncement about the event, it’s sure to be spectacular:
Against the backdrop of the Museum’s blossoming outdoor Nature Gardens, musician and icon Neil Young will present the first public playback of his upcoming release, EARTH, in its entirety in Pono high definition fidelity audio, before its June 17 release. The album features “After the Gold Rush,” “Vampire Blues,” and an explosive 29-minute version of “Love & Only Love,” and includes some unexpected accompaniment—the sounds of many different kinds of wildlife.
The Grammy Award-winning artist and environmental crusader said in a press release that EARTH “flows as a collection of 13 songs from throughout my life, songs I have written about living here on our planet together. Our animal kingdom is well represented in the audience as well, and the animals, insects, birds, and mammals actually take over the performances of the songs at times.”
Young also told Rolling Stone last year that EARTH is “like nothing that I’ve done. It’s more like a giant radio show.”
“It has no stops,” he continued. “The songs are too long for iTunes, thank God, so they won’t be on iTunes. I’m making it available in the formats that can handle it … Imagine it’s a live show where the audience is full of every living thing on Earth. And also they overtake the music once in a while and play the instruments. It’s not conventional, but it is based on live performance.”
On Tuesday, Young kicked off his 2016 world tour with Promise Of The Real in New Braunfels, Texas with guest star and legendary rocker Willie Nelson.
The tour then stopped by Nashville, Texas’s Ascend Amphitheater yesterday. The concert received rave reviews from local publication, The Tennesseean:
At 70 years old, the rock icon hasn’t lost a step. His voice is still in fine form, and the audience sang along reverently to every word of classics like “Heart of Gold” and “Long May You Run.” After an opening set from singer-songwriter Steve Earle (whose debut album “Guitar Town” turned 30 this year) and half a dozen of his own solo songs, Young brought out his backing band Promise of the Real: Five rootsy rockers including Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah Nelson—and played another 90 minutes.
Breckenridge Ski Resort continues its Spring Fever free concert series Saturday, April 16 with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. Trombone Shorty & Orlean
by: Heather Jarvis
>When Lukas Nelson was a kid, he had a dream that changed his outlook on life. He was onstage, singing in front of a large crowd and he was terrified. As he began his ballad, he started to shrink into himself, and his awareness all went into the center of his chest.
“I started to look out at the audience through my chest, instead of through my head, through my eyes,” he said from a hotel room in Springfield, Missouri, while traveling with his father. “I started to sing basically from where my heart was.”
He describes it as a metaphorical dream, where he was able to sing and see from his heart, and the crowd went wild. He wasn’t afraid anymore, and it taught him at a young age to not only sing, but to “live my life by my heart, and not by my head.”
Living by his heart is apparent in his work, and he isn’t afraid to put it all out there. And why would he be, with a famous father well known for not only his music, but also his active vocalism for legalizing marijuana back when the stigma against the plant was still in full force. He isn’t afraid to write about wealth inequality or express his passionate views against GMOs, as reflected with his work on Neil Young’s 2015 album, “The Monsanto Years.” He will eagerly express his own theory about the company and doesn’t feel like musicians should ever be afraid to write what they believe.
“I don’t care if I lose fans because I’m speaking my mind, because I don’t agree with somebody,” he said. “If they don’t want to listen to my music because of that, then that’s just their problem.”
But it isn’t all about expressing himself politically, and growing up with Willie Nelson as a dad instilled in him a deep love of music at a young age. He picked up the guitar at 10 and almost immediately began writing songs, even producing one at a young age, “You Were It,” that impressed his father enough to put it on one of his albums.
These days, he’s touring with his band, Promise of the Real, as well as backing Neil Young, and just released a third album in March. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will play a free show on Peak 8 for Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Spring Fever festival on Saturday, April 16.
Promise of the Real formed seven years ago when Lukas met the drummer, Anthony LoGerfo, at a Neil Young concert, hitting it off and putting a band together.
“We just loved Neil, so we named the band Promise of the Real after one of his songs,” he said.
Lukas had met Young as a teen through his father, and when Promise of the Real formed, Young began following their work, eventually asking the group to be his band. “The Monsanto Years” was released in 2015, followed by the launch of Neil Young + Promise of the Real’s Rebel Content Tour, which included performances at Farm Aid 30 and at the 29th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert event last year.
“So it’s kind of full circle,” Lukas said.
The Something Real tour with him and Promise of the Real has tour dates throughout May, before the band hooks up with Neil Young again for a string of dates in the summer. Promise of the Real consists of Nelson and his brother Micah Nelson on vocals and guitar, bassist/assistant engineer Corey McCormick, percussionist Tato Melgar and drummer LoGerfo.
It’s been said more than once that Lukas’ voice bears a striking resemblance to his father. He realizes that Willie Nelson has giving him a leg up in the music world and doesn’t discredit the advantages it has provided him.
“He’s my best friend, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities because I know a lot of people in the industry and in the business who have helped me,” he said. “I realize how lucky I am and try to appreciate it every day and work hard in order to take advantage of the opportunities that I’m presented with.”
“Something Real” is the band’s third album, released in March from Royal Potato Family. Describing it as “cowboy hippie surf rock,” the album was recorded two years ago at San Francisco’s William Westerfeld Mansion. Young also makes a guest vocal appearance on the track “San Francisco.” Even with Lukas’ connections, it took awhile for the record to find a label, but Lukas said he is still very happy with the songs two years later.
“I’m stoked that it came out the way it did, and I really like that it stands the test of time really, and those songs are really good,” he said. “They are good no matter what point in my career I am.”
He said the album reflects the growth of the band as musicians and songwriters. The band has been working on dozens of songs since recording “Something Real,” with about 30 songs written and 25 recorded.
“I have a lot of music right now that I really want to put out,” he said, adding that he wants to put out some songs for free download.
Lukas is also said he is in “full steam,” working with his father in the cannabis business, with the company Willie’s Reserve, and said the product is some of the best out there.
“Wait till you try it,” he said. “We’ve hand-picked our favorite people to be part of this team, and you won’t be disappointed. Nobody ever is.”
About seven years ago, Lukas Nelson went to see his hero, Neil Young play in Los Angeles. At the show, he happened to meet a drummer named Anthony LoGerfo. They took the party to a friend’s house, where they surfed and played music late into the night. Soon, they’d formed a band, Promise of the Real, their name taken from a lyric Young’s 1974 epic “Walk On:” (“Some get stoned/ some get strange/ but sooner or later, it all gets real.”)
Now, for the last two years, the “cowboy hippie surf rock” band has been Young’s band on the road and in the studio, backing him on last year’s The Monsanto Years. “You couldn’t write it in a book,” Nelson says. “The vibe is perfect, and it’s real. We’ve learned from each other, and we’ve gotten so tight. I don’t want to stop, and I don’t think Neil does either. There’s transcendental experiences on stage with Neil. Like, you’re looking down at yourself and you’ll be like, ‘Oh my God. I’m down there, and I’m up here. What’s going on?'”
For Nelson, this chapter is the culmination of years of hard work and hard touring for his band, which includes LoGerfo, bassist Corey McCormick, percussionist Tato Meglar, plus Lukas’ brother Micah on guitar and other instruments – when he’s not touring with his own project, Insects vs Robots. Lukas grew up on the island of Maui, Hawaii, a student of the island’s jam band scene and his guitar teacher, gypsy-jazz virtuoso Tom Conway. There was also his dad, Willie Nelson. By 14, Lukas was playing guitar with his father on summer school breaks, occasionally sitting in with his dad’s touring partner, Bob Dylan. Willie’s Number One rule at home while Lukas was growing up: “Don’t be an asshole.”
“My dad and I are alike in a lot of ways,” he says. “I’ve always looked up to him, and I’ve always wanted to be like him, in terms of being a human being, and also in terms of being a musician. I’m lucky to have such a great example.”
To record their new album, Something Real, Nelson and his band moved to San Francisco, living and working in a 19th-century Victorian mansion. “The vibe was so deep and heavy,” Nelson says. “It used to be a Russian embassy. It was one of the first places ever to have a radio signal come out of. It could have been the first radio signal ever to come out of a tower there, in the mansion. And I mean, it’s got old gramophones in it.” They built a studio and utilized the house’s equipment, like a century-old pump organ, which can be heard on their menacing album closer, a cover of Scott McKenzie’s 1967 classic “San Francisco,” with vocals from Young himself.
Nelson pulled from his experiences in San Francisco while writing the LP. The song “Forget About Georgia” is about a woman named Georgia he met during his time in the city. “She kind of broke my heart,” he says. “And I felt like, ‘Wow. This girl twisted me around.’ And I was in love with her.” Nelson’s heartbreak worsened when he hit the road with his father, and he had to play “Georgia on my Mind” on stage every night. “We’d play that song, and I’d be thinking about her. And I’d be like, ‘Fuck, I can’t forget about this girl. I just wanna let it go.'”
Another defining moment came one day when Nelson was walking in the Tenderloin neighborhood, and he overheard a homeless man say, “Today was an ugly color.” It inspired him to write the seven-minute ballad, “Ugly Color,” about the cruelty in the world from the perspective of the man, which peaks with a searingly melodic solo. “There was a period during that guitar solo that something else took over, and just came through the band,” Nelson says. “It was like we were channeling some deep-seated sorrow and longing, from the city of San Francisco itself.”
In June, Promise of the Real play a handful of dates with Young (including New Orleans’ Jazz Fest) before a longer run in Europe. Earlier this month, Young said he was nearly finished with his second album with the group, calling his connection with them “effortless.”
“I feel really good and amped and energized,” Young says. “And 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.”
Nelson says he’s certainly learned quite a bit from Young. “Neil is one of the sharpest tools you’ll ever meet. He’s detail-oriented. It’s cool to watch him be so involved, to tell the crew that they’ve gotta dress up and put a hazmat suit on and all that. I love watching it. I love being a part of it.”
“We’ll warm up vocally 30 minutes before every show,” says Nelson. “Doesn’t matter what show it is, doing it causes you to really lock in with your band, too. You just lock right in, and you go right out to stage. Neil, without fail, will do that every show, and I think it’s brilliant. I think it really brings people together.”
But before that, the Promise of the Real will head out in May on their biggest headlining U.S. tour yet. Nelson is looking forward to building the connection he’s forged with his audience. “I went and saw this psychic one time, and she told me that I was good at bringing people into this holographic bubble of energy,” he says. “I don’t know that a psychic is something that I would base my life decisions on, but I do think it was cool, the way she described it. It’s like you’re creating your own virtual reality area for the three hours that the music is playing, and you’re bringing all these people into this little holographic world where everybody kind of feels similar. You just get lost.”
The new album, Something Real, by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real dropped on March 11th. It showcases the “cowboy hippie surf rock” style that is interlaced around each track. The band combines the talents of Lukas Nelson on guitar and vocals, Anthony LoGerto on drums, Corey McCormick on bass, and Tato Melgar on percussion. Something Real is a tight mix of melodies that breach the edges of blues, Americana, and country styles to form a flow of tracks that beg to be played again and again.
Diving right in, “Surprise” takes listeners on a whirlwind of emotions as the energy within the song rises, bringing depth to the tune. This well placed opener sets the mood for what’s to come by grabbing your attention immediately. “Something Real” is full of crunchy guitar, pounding drums and a get up and dance your ass off vibe.
An unhurried “Set Me Down On A Cloud” is thick with energy that hits deep into one’s soul. The passion felt throughout invites the listener to turn up the volume. “Don’t Want to Fly” combines a solid rock and blues experience that ends in a teasing jam that slowly fades out. Don’t be surprised if this one fuses into an extended jam session during a live performance.
Ugly Color” breathes, and provides calm spaces in between the notes, for the duration of this chilled out, laid back song that’s perfect to listen to with the top down on a warm summer day. “I’ll Make Love to You Any Ol’ Time” is simply a good ol’ rock and roll tune with ass-kicking guitar and red-hot vocals. Switching gears, “Georgia” is a gentle tune filled with fluid lyrics that tug at the heart strings.
Shredding guitar chords roll through the first half of “Everything is Fake,” before finishing with tender tones. The album’s final track, “San Francisco,” features Neil Young on guest vocals. This powerful tune brings a fitting end to the album, as it provides a throwback to the seventies without losing the essence of being in the present. Overall, Something Real is a fluid album that features well structured melodies and tightly composed notes.
For further information regarding Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and their new album, please check out their official website. (It’s highly recommended you click on the Band link to read about the members. A good laugh is guaranteed).
Key Tracks: Surprise, Set Me Down on A cloud, Ugly Color
Check out Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real as they perform their title track, “Something Real,” on the Conan O’Brien show:
“This new album is the culmination of what the band can do together, but I’ve got to say, it is and it isn’t, because it was recorded two years ago now,” says singer, songwriter, guitarist, and bandleader Lukas Nelson, when asked about the new Promise of the Real album, Something Real (Royal Potato Family). “It really is a snapshot of us two years ago, whereas now we’ve got a whole other set of stuff that we’re doing. But I have to say that this record stands the test of time. I love listening to it—it’s a great road record.
“It’s just a good rock ’n’ roll record and I’m proud of it.”
Recorded at the Westerfield House, a Victorian mansion in San Francisco, on equipment shipped from Austin, Texas, Something Real finds Nelson maturing as a songwriter, penning tender ballads and laying down hard-rocking power-blues licks.
The album is mostly originals with the exception of a cover of J.J. Cale’s “I’ll Make Love to You Anytime” and a dark rendition of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair),” written by John Phillips, of the Mamas & the Papas, and popularized in 1967 by singer Scott McKenzie at the height of the flower-power movement. That latter song features a guest vocal by Neil Young, who also gets “big thanks” for “helping with the creative process” of the record.
These days, legendary rocker Neil Young plays a major role in Nelson’s career.
In 2014, Young had invited Nelson, who was playing with his famous father, Willie Nelson, to back him at a Keystone XL pipeline protest at the Bold Nebraska Harvest concert outside of rural Neligh, Nebraska. “We became the backing band for dad and Neil and then we just never quit after that,” Lukas explains, during a visit to the Acoustic Guitar office, his Martin 000-15M in tow.
“It was so much fun, it felt good and the vibe was there. So now we’re Neil’s band and he’s our celebrated captain.”
Sure enough, Promise of the Real backed Young last year on his eco-activist album, The Monsanto Years (Warner), and, having learned 100 of Young’s songs, went on to support the album throughout Young’s 2015 summer tour.
This spring, Promise of the Real will back Young on his upcoming European tour before returning Stateside for a series of dates that bring them in the fall to the San Francisco Bay Area for Young’s all-acoustic Bridge School benefit concerts.
Lukas, 27, had first met Young as a teen while tagging along with his father at a Farm Aid benefit concert. Since then, Lukas has maintained a connection with Young: “My drummer, Anthony LoGerfo, first met me at a Neil Young concert and we decided to start the band together,” he says.
Nelson’s band, Promise of the Real, even takes its name from a line in Young’s “Walk On” (“Sooner or later, it all gets real . . . .”).
“We’ve come full circle, because eight years later we’re playing with Neil,” Nelson observes.
“It’s kind of a dream come true.”
Watch Lukas Nelson perform two songs on an episode of Acoustic Guitar Sessions, including “Georgia,” from the Something Real album, as well as the as-yet-unreleased ballad “Just Outside of Austin.”
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Perform tonight on the Conan O’brien Show
by: Leslie Michele Derrough
Music is like color,” explained Lukas Nelson recently. “When I listen to the musicians who affected me when I was growing you, I take from the primary colors to find my foundation. Then I apply secondary colors and the music becomes more and more complex.” For Nelson, music is a whole palette of colors, each readily available to be dipped into, blended, experimented with and crazily contoured into vibrant new works of art. He may have been born into a country music household but that house was never a one trick pony.
One of Willie Nelson’s youngest offspring, Lukas took to music like it was the most natural thing to do. He had a love for guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix and started writing songs around the age of eleven. In fact, that earliest song, “You Were It,” impressed his father enough that he put it on one of his albums. “I always recognized what a good song was,” the younger Nelson said not long ago. “I’ve had a lot of inspiration in that regard, being the son of one of the greatest songwriters ever.”
For Nelson, the pursuit of his own path has kept him open to anything and everything. He can pen a mean country song but he usually sprinkles it with some of that rocky-blues he grew up on. His expansion continues with the March 11th release of Something Real by his band Promise Of The Real, where the incense of the San Francisco sound infiltrates through nine songs, culminating in a cover of Scott McKenzie’s “If You’re Going To San Francisco.” To Nelson, “San Francisco has always been home to incredible bursts of creativity and illumination followed by a complete overhaul of existing systems and subsequent revolution. It’s kind of like a rotating magnetic pole.” From the go-go boot, mini skirt shimmying of JJ Cale’s “I’ll Make Love To You Any Ol’ Time” to the frenetic title track to the hymnal-like “Set Me Down On A Cloud,” Nelson and his band have captured something very magical about a city that has given flight to such diverse bands as Jefferson Airplane, Journey, Faith No More and Night Ranger, and managed to put his own Austin, Texas-rooted spin on what came out.
“Sometimes I’ll walk into a room and a new song just pops into my head, like a thought,” Nelson explained about his songwriting. “That makes total sense to me because, really, songs are frequencies. Your brain is an antenna that picks up thoughts and energies. We receive this input from everywhere. Every place has its own sound imprint. If you’re a musician, it’s your job to write down what you hear when that happens.” And what he has heard, makes for some very interesting, thought-provoking and fun capsules of music, including the tracks on his latest album.
Although Promise Of The Real has been together less than ten years, the band has made an impression with a wide audience. Country music fans like them, rock music fans like them, Americana music fans like them. It’s clear that Nelson, bass player Corey McCormick, percussionist Tato Melgar and drummer Anthony LoGerfo have their fingers on the pulse of what music fans really want to hear and that’s not having their favorite artists doing the same song ten times on one album. “There’s an emotional complexity in simplicity,” Nelson explained. “Simplicity is never as simple as it seems. Sometimes, if you can hide the complexity inside the simplicity, you get a result that covers a lot of the spiritual spectrum.”
Neil Young certainly saw that in the band. A few years ago he invited them to play on his record The Monsanto Yearsand then join him on the tour supporting it. It was a perfect match that continues into 2016. “Playing with these guys was a gift,” Young praised through his social media following the tour. “Such positivity, pure energy and no fear.” Nelson’s youngest brother Micah, who was also part of the band, told Rolling Stone that playing with Young was “like apprenticing with a Jedi Master.”
Glide had the opportunity to speak with Nelson last week as he was headed from San Francisco down to LA to play some shows with Shooter Jennings. When I mentioned to him that I had spoken with Jennings about him only a few hours prior to our talk, Nelson joked, “Nothing is true!” After telling him that Jennings had said he was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, Nelson got quiet for a few seconds before deadpanning, “I don’t know why he’s giving me that endorsement. I wonder what he wants!” (laughs)
You’ve mentioned that the new album has a lot of the flavor of San Francisco.
It does. We recorded it in a Victorian mansion on Fulton and Scott. It’s got a lot of history there. I think the first radio signal [on the West coast] was actually created there. There’s a lot of interesting tidbits about the Westerfeld House if you want to look it up. But we shipped in some recording equipment from Austin, Texas, got our friend Steve Chadie to come out and engineer the record. But this was almost two years ago now so it’s an interesting snapshot. I’ve already got another record recorded and ready to release. That’s just the way the business goes, you know. It takes a while to get something together to put it out and sell it right.
Are you going to wait for this one to take off before you let loose on another one?
I’m hoping that we give this one a good run, and yeah, I’m going to promote the heck out of it and we’re going to have some fun. I know we’re doing Conan on March 9th. Then we’ve got Colbert in May and then we’re going to go out and sell it on the Neil Young tour. So we got a lot of push for it. I love the record. It’s got a lot of great songs on it and there’s definitely an actual San Francisco lyrical theme going on within the record. We even covered Scott McKenzie’s “If You Go To San Francisco,” which I think is a great version of that song and Neil Young is singing background on it.
Did you pick that specifically because of the theme or was that already in the works to be on there?
You know, I really wanted to record a cover of that song, even before we started recording the record, so I made it a plan to do that version and then Neil wanted to sing on it so that was good.
The song “I’ll Make Love To You Any Ol’ Time” has a fun, psychedelic feel to it.
Yeah, all the songs kind of have that vibe. That’s a JJ Cale song that we did a cover of and we just kind of made it a little more rocking. But we tried to keep like a psychedelic vibe through the album.
Which song on the record changed the most from it’s original composition to it’s final recorded version?
Oh, the first song on the record, “Surprise.” I wrote that acoustically and the band, when we got in there and worked through it, the music just evolved and became a kind of rock thing that took it’s own life. So that is probably the one that changed the most.
Which song would you say almost didn’t make it onto the record?
You know, we actually cut out a bunch so everything that is there was what we absolutely couldn’t lose, you know what I mean. We cut out like three or four songs that we had recorded. I think we recorded like fifteen or so and there’s only nine there.
I love how you describe a bad day as an ugly color
Well, that wasn’t me. That was a homeless guy that I heard screaming that out when I was walking down through the Tenderloin in San Francisco. He was saying, “Today is an ugly color,” and I thought that was kind of profound in a sad way and I had to write that into a song.
How long did it take for it to BE a song?
I wrote the song the night that I heard that phrase. I went back to my hotel room and wrote it down.
What about the song “Set Me Down On A Cloud.”
I wrote that song and it’s actually a really sad story. Somebody came to my show one time and wrote me a letter afterwards saying it was the first time they were able to really feel good after they’d had a terrible, horrible accident where they accidentally ran over and killed their child. She wrote me this very long letter, I kept the letter, and asked me to write a song for her situation, so to speak, and so I did. I sat and wrote it and “Set Me Down On A Cloud” was kind of inspired by that story. It was a lot more stripped down. There is a version on YouTube actually of that song that was recorded pretty much right when I wrote that song. That one’s changed a bit, production-wise, but hopefully it still carries a weight to it.
How do you get through a song like that, especially when you’re writing it?
You know, I try and honor the art of it. I try and do my best to channel that energy into something positive, which is art. What’s done is done, the situation is there, and she wanted it somewhat immortalized in music and in art so I try and hold my head high and perform it without breaking down. And nowadays I can. When it first happened it was a teary-eyed thing. But I’ve always been able to lose myself in the music, so to speak, when I’m playing or singing, to the point where whatever I’m singing about doesn’t really bring me down. It’s just a matter of performing it well and singing it well and bringing the emotion into it and having a balance there too.
There was the song that Dad and I did, “Just Breathe.” I was asked to play that at one of my friend’s funeral and I had to get up there. A lot of his friends and my friends were there and the guy who wrote it, Eddie Vedder, was sitting there too and I had to get through it up there on the podium, you know, to all his family and everybody and sing this song that Eddie had written that our friend was really enamored by and that I did with my dad. And it was just a moment where if I can do that and get through it without crying, I can really do anything. I felt like crying and I had to look away. I couldn’t look at anybody. I had to just close my eyes and sing the song and I guess that’s the way I do it all the time.
Have you always written personal songs?
No, sometimes I put myself in other people’s shoes. There’s a new song I wrote called “Running Shine” that’s about moonshining and there’s songs that I’ve written where I’ve put myself in somebody else’s position. In fact, that song “Ugly Color” that you mentioned earlier, is sung from the point of view of a homeless man on the streets of San Francisco. So if you look at the lyrics, put yourself in somebody like that, his shoes, then the lyrics will make even more sense to you.
Your passion really comes through in your guitar playing. When you first started learning to play guitar what was the most difficult thing to get the hang of?
I don’t remember learning the guitar. I spent so many hours just shredding and listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hendrix and all these people that I loved, that I don’t remember the period really that I wasn’t good at it. I remember the very beginning and I remember just flashes of just sitting up in my room for eight hours a day playing guitar. I don’t remember the transition, what was harder to learn or not. I just remember diving in head first and not looking back.
Do you remember your earliest composed songs?
I wrote a song when I was ten or eleven years old called “You Were It” and I thought it was a great song and Dad liked it so much he put it on his record It Always Will Be  and that was when I knew I kind of had a gift for songwriting. So I kept at it from then on out, in addition to learning the guitar which I think was my saving grace because to be able to play guitar and sing and write and play other instruments as well, I think, really lends a certain credibility to what I do, especially being, you know, Dad’s son.
I feel like I can play a guitar out there with some of the best of them, you know. Maybe some people might disagree and I’m not trying to toot my own horn necessarily but I know I can hold my own with a lot of musicians out there and it has nothing to do with who my dad is, not that I’m trying to escape that in any way. I’m proud of who my dad is. I love him very much and he’s been the best father anybody could ever hope for. He’s guided me, he’s given me my space to grow, so I never try and run away from that like maybe somebody else would who is in the same situation. I always feel very blessed that he’s my dad. But learning another instrument and learning how to sing really well and learning how to play, that just keeps growing. This record that is coming out is two years old so the next stuff that comes out, it just keeps getting better, I think, as time goes by.
What is the biggest difference between playing with your dad and playing with Neil Young?
There’s no comparison. I played “Texas Flood” up there with Dad every night and I played rhythm guitar and I sat next to Mickey Raphael [Willie’s longtime harmonica player], who has been a mentor to me musically for my whole life. He’s great and I got the best learning there is and I got to be with my father onstage. With Neil, it’s rock & roll so I get to do what I’ve grown up loving as well besides country music. I love rock & roll so there is a little more energy freedom to get loud and do that, with Neil. They’re both two sides of the same coin, which is the most amazing experience of my life to be able to play with my father, who is my hero, with Neil, who is my hero, and with my band as well and keep my band at the same time. I don’t know how I got so lucky.
Yeah, your bass player kicks ass
I will tell him you said that (laughs). I’m glad to hear it.
You are playing Jazz Fest in New Orleans on May 1st with Neil. Are you going to do more shows with him or more headlining with your band?
We’ve got a full-on tour for the release of our record starting in May. We’ve got a show March 12th in LA to release the record and then we go out to Australia to Byron Bay playing the Blues Fest to help promote our record. Then we’re going with Neil in April. I think we’ve got two Promise Of The Real shows in April, then we go out with Neil and do San Antonio and a few shows down there and then we do Jazz Fest and then we go out in May with Promise Of The Real and do LA and San Francisco, Denver, San Diego and then we go to the East Coast. Then we get ready with Neil and go out to Europe. We’re doing a two month tour in Europe with Neil starting in June, going through July and into August. After that, hopefully this fall, maybe we can look at getting another record out at the end of the year, which would be really nice.
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.