See Micah Nelson Particle Kid in Toledo tonight

Micah Nelson, son of Willie Nelson, plays tonight
by:  Geoff Burns

An overcast afternoon in the Glass City finds musician Micah Nelson arriving to Toledo after driving more than three hours from Cincinnati.

“We just basically drove across Ohio today,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve never played in Toledo before, at least not solo or with any of my projects. I might have played with my dad sometime down the road, but this is my first actual show here.”

Micah, son of iconic American superstar Willie Nelson, brings his experimental folk pop rock solo project Particle Kid Thursday night at the Ottawa Tavern, 1817 Adams St. in Toledo.

The 27-year-old musician found himself interested in film making and wanting to be a director at a young age, until he started experimenting with synthesizers and guitars.

“Anything that was around I wanted to explore and experiment with it,” he said. “I’ve always been curious about everything.”

Eventually he decided to pursue music.

Growing up in a family of musicians, it wasn’t until Micah was introduced to Beck and The Flaming Lips that his interest in writing and performing it himself was piqued. That inspiration continued into film soundtracks such as those composed by Danny Elfman and James Newton Howard, as well as punk rock bands like The Stooges and Weezer. The list goes on.

“All different influences over time helped push me in the direction of feeling like I could write my own songs,” he said. “I think every genre of music has something in it that is authentic and has resonated with me enough to bring something of that into what I’m doing.”

When he’s not spending his time on other projects, like his experimental band Insects Vs. Robots, or playing next to his brother, Lukas, in the band Promise of the Real, Micah focuses on his solo performances as the Particle Kid.

Originally created on an acoustic guitar, Nelson released a self-titled album in April, which blends folk, rock, pop, punk and jazz. He plans to perform a stripped-down solo acoustic set of the album Thursday in Toledo.

Constant lyrical references to dreaming and the ocean permeate the album.

“I realized there was this underlying theme of I was singing to something or someone,” he said. “It’s hard to say if it’s a romantic person, a girl or something, or if it’s the universe, the cosmos’ existence itself. A lot of those themes involve natural elements. There wasn’t any sort of deliberate conscious effort to have an interconnected theme with anything. Most of these songs are coming from a pretty subconscious place where there’s little rationality involved until it’s pieced together into an arrangement.”

Nelson said he’s drawn inspiration from various musicians throughout his life, speaking highly of Neil Young several times during the 35-minute phone call.

“My family is musicians, and experiencing all different kinds of music and the essence of what that music is has given me these different musical personas that I try to channel these different things into Particle Kid,” he told The Blade. “Because I’ve been able to experience these different music cultures and see how they’re interconnected has allowed me to have this pallet to draw from with whatever project I’m involved in.”

Then there’s his dad’s influence.

He said his father has always been encouraging and supportive of his work.

“I think he’s proud of me for doing it my way because he always did it his way,” he said.

In fact, it was his father who came up with the name, “Particle Kid,” when Micah was 15 years old after he returned home from a trip.

He laughs as he remembers the story.

“I was playing Mario Kart 64 and he comes in [from his room] and I could smell him when he walked in,” he said. “He was so stoned and reeked so much and I turned around and he had this big grin on his face and his eyes were all red and squinty. He was all like, ‘Welcome home, Particle Kid,’ and just walked out. I thought it was the funniest thing ever, I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Years later I asked him [about it] and he said he remembers he wanted to say, ‘Welcome home, Prodigal Son,’ but he was so stoned that it came out as Particle Kid. It just sort of stuck.”

Ultimately, the younger Nelson said, he inherited his passion for music from his father.

“Just being a fearless artist and expressing yourself and doing it in a way that connects with people and makes people feel something is an achievement,” he said. “It’s something [my father] really mastered. We’ve really gotten closer because of it and I’m happy for that.”

Tickets cost $10 at the door. Special guests include Ben Stalets, Jake Pavlica, and A.S. Coomer. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Contact Geoff Burns at or 419-724-6054.

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