Lukas Nelson Interview

Photo by: Steven Alford
by Harry Sullivan

Cruising along in his tour bus, “somewhere in Montana,” Lukas Nelson from over the phone couldn’t sound more laid back or humble.

Kind of like a chip off the old block, one might suspect, given that Nelson is a son of iconic troubadour Willie Nelson.

Lukas Nelson and his band, Promise of the Real, are part of this year’s lineup at the Dutch Mason Blues Festival, where he will take the stage Friday evening.

Chatting from his tour bus earlier this week, Nelson said he was “excited” to be coming to the festival and he expects to share that excitement with his audience.

“We’ll, you know we put on a high-energy live show. And we have a lot of fun, so they can expect to have some fun,” he said, in relaxed fashion.

Nelson began travelling on his father’s tour bus, the Honeysuckle Rose, almost from the time he was born, and according to some reports, took his first steps while on board.

“I was a very small kid,” he said, of those early trips. “I was a baby when I started (on the road) and when I started playing with him I was about 14 years old.”

He first learned to strum the guitar at age 11 after his father showed him a few chords. From there, he never really looked back.

“Well, I fell in love with it so it didn’t take long to (learn)” he said. “I remember sitting in the living room and him showing me some chords. I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he wanted me to learn how to play guitar. And I said, OK, and I started to learn.”

Although Nelson doesn’t like to define his music in any particular category, others have described the band’s output as a blend of genres, from rock and blues to reggae.

“Well, I wouldn’t describe myself in any way, because I have no idea who I am or what I’m doing on this earth except for what I know how to do. So I can’t describe myself because that’s a complex thing to do,” Nelson said.

As far as where his material comes from, Nelson thinks for a moment and then offers a rather profound, introspective response.

“It comes from inspiration. You know, inspiration from whatever happens in my life, or whatever and the inspiration comes, uh, from the source where all inspiration comes from. Which is, I have no idea, but it’s a nice place I hear.”

Whatever the source, Nelson’s musical success is based on its own merits and not his last name. Besides accompanying the elder Nelson on stage at various points throughout his life, his band has also opened for the likes of such well-known artists as B.B. King and Dave Matthews and he has shared stages with Steven Tyler, Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

If his talent and music weren’t appreciated in their own right, such established artists would not be interested in working with him regardless of his lineage, Nelson believes. And, as for any pressure of living in the shadows of an entertainment giant such as Willie Nelson, that is something for others to deal with.

“It doesn’t put any pressure on me except for the pressure that other people think should be put on me,” he said. “It really doesn’t, that whole concept doesn’t exist except in the press.”

When not on stage, Nelson said he takes joy in the simple things in life, such as spending quiet time with his “road family” while moving from one concert locale to another.

“Knowing that I have a family that loves me and friends that I can trust around me, that gives me peace of mind,” he said.

“My joy is being around my friends and my family around me. I get to see my family every once in a while. My mom and dad and my brother and I have my road family out here and we get along quite well and I trust everybody. That makes the good music come out.”

As for what he may have learned from growing up around such a well-chronicled and, at times perhaps, controversial figure as his dad, Nelson pauses for a moment and offers the following:

“I’ve observed in him humility so I try and acquire that and bring that into my life.”

Seems he has mastered it rather well.

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