Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real in Chicago (Nov. 1, 2017) with Nikki Lane
by: Chrissie Dickinson

“Dad is 84 years old and still rocking and rolling every night,” he says. “He plays 150 shows a year and is doing great.”

Juggling multiple projects of his own, the younger Nelson has been a busy man. On the family front, he and his brother Micah Nelson joined forces with their father for the new Legacy Recordings collaboration, “Willie Nelson and the Boys (Willie’s Stash, Vol. 2).”

His new album, “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real” (Fantasy Records), showcases a heartfelt tunesmith and vocalist and a group of musicians skillful at mixing strands of soul, blues, country and rock and roll.

The band performs at Park West on Wednesday.

Next year is already packed with projects. Promise of the Real has recorded and toured with Neil Young in the last couple of years and will do so again in 2018. Nelson and band also have an on-screen role in the movie remake “A Star Is Born,” starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper and set for a May release. In addition, Nelson acted as a consultant on the film and wrote a number of the songs.

Nelson recently called from Austin, Texas, to discuss what he’s learned from his friend and mentor Young and the importance of playing music from the heart. This is an edited transcript.

Q: Your new album includes the song “Forget About Georgia.” It’s a touching story-song sung in the first person. Is it fact or fiction?

A: It’s a true story about me and a girl I went out with for awhile. Her name was Georgia. When we stopped seeing each other, I was heartbroken about it. At the time, I was playing shows with my father and I had to go out every night and play “Georgia On My Mind” (a No. 1 country hit for Willie Nelson in 1978). Playing that song every show made it impossible for me to forget about this girl. That’s why I wrote “Forget About Georgia.”

Q: Your song “If I Started Over” is a bittersweet waltz that has a mystical mood. What inspired the tune?

A: The lyrics are about the concept of endless repetition of waking into life and being reborn again and again. I’m fine with that concept — as long as I get to find that person I love every time.

Q: Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) sings on two songs on your new album. What was it like working with her?

A: She is without a doubt one of the most amazing talents I’ve ever met. She deserves all the success that she’s had. That’s the bottom line.

Q: How did you two meet?

A: I met Stefani in pre-production for “A Star Is Born.” I wrote a bunch of songs with her for the movie and we became really good friends. She does an amazing job in the film. Stefani is an incredible vocalist and the comparisons to Barbra Streisand (who starred in the 1976 version of the film) are striking. Gaga herself is a big Streisand fan and she plays the part perfectly.

Q: Promise of the Real recorded with Neil Young on his 2015 album “The Monsanto Years.” Then you went on to tour with Neil as his backing band. What has impressed you the most about working with him?

A: Neil has an intense level of focus and attention to detail concerning both the music and business aspects of his career. He’s very involved in running things on the road and keeping it smooth so he can focus on music. He takes care of himself — that’s important too. He does Pilates every day. We do vocal warm-ups before every show. We have just gotten better and better working with Neil. He told me some great things. He said there’s the music and there’s the business, and it’s all this game you play. Life is that. You have to be good at both and put your efforts into both.

Q: When you were growing up, did you have any light-bulb moments when you realized your father was a genuine legend?

A: My dad’s birthday parties have always been incredible. I remember when I was around 14 years old and he celebrated his 70th birthday. All these incredible legends were there to perform with him at the Beacon Theatre in New York — Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Leon Russell, Paul Simon. I remember going to meet President Jimmy Carter when Carter got the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Dad was one of the performers there. I also remember going to the Kennedy Center Honors when Dad got his (award). Those things happened one after another and are just a few examples of when I realized (how famous he was).

Q: When did you first start playing music yourself?

A: I started singing when I was a really young kid. I remember a dream I had where I was singing in front of all these people and I was terrified. Something told me to just shrink all my conscious awareness into my chest and look out at the audience through my chest. When I did that, the audience went wild. After that dream, I was never afraid to be on stage again. I didn’t realize until much later that metaphor meant living without fear and the importance of coming from the heart all the time. It’s a very vulnerable place to be, but it’s also the most powerful place.

Q: Last year, Promise of the Real played the classic rock music festival the Desert Trip in California. How was your experience there?

A: It was one of the highlights of my life. Me and my band were with Neil Young and we were opening for Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and The Who were there. It was incredible. I’ve got the best rock and roll band in the world, and I’m not just saying that. We were up there with the heaviest hitters in rock and roll and we held our own. I feel very lucky.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.

Tickets: $22; 773-929-1322 or

Chrissie Dickinson is a freelance writer.

Twitter @chitribent

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