Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real, Missoula, MT (3/12/2010)
by Justin Franz

Lukas Nelson is on one long tour.

“It’s going to go for the rest of my life,” Nelson said.

Nelson has already been on the road for six months with his new band, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, and will play to the Top Hat in downtown Missoula on Friday, March 12.

While the band is new, 21-year-old Nelson isn’t new to music; he is the son of iconic country singer Willie Nelson, who, at 76 years old, continues to tour and record.

“I grew up in a musical family,” Nelson said. “But I got my interest when I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time. He inspired me to play.”

But he doesn’t take all the credit.

“Musically, I’ve had a lot of help of people on the road of life,” he said.

Still, Nelson was terrified of singing in front of a crowd, even though he often saw his father do it. His fear didn’t subside until he was 10 years old and had a dream he was on stage before a crowd of millions; suddenly, his fear of performing before a crowd disappeared.

“Ever since that dream, I’ve never been afraid to be on stage,” he said.

His band, which was formed a year ago, has toured extensively, and has gigged at more than just bars and lounges, he said. Over the last year, they’ve opened for Dave Matthews Band, B.B. King and, of course, his dad’s group.

“It’s unheard of for a new band to grow up like this,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see it stopping any time soon.

“I see us going really fast and I want to work to see us go far,” he said.

But it may not have happened this way if Nelson hadn’t left Loyola Marymount University in southern California, where he was studying music just two years ago.

“I just wasn’t feeling it anymore,” he said. “I just stopped going to class. For me personally, what I have learned on the road is 10, 20, 30, maybe 100 times more important. I needed to get out of there.”

And it turned out to be a good decision, as he soon joined up with the musicians that would form Promise of the Real, including Anthony LoGerfo on drums, Tato Melgar with percussion and J.P. Maramba on bass.

This combination, Nelson said, has lead to great success on tour and he feels that the road is a place they will be for years to come.

“We try and rock the house everywhere we’re at,” he said.

Becca Seliskar, director of UM Productions, which is putting on the show, hopes for the same response from the crowd.

“I think Missoulians are going to love him,” she said. “He is new to our scene, but his sound is very much something Missoula can appreciate.”

And it’s not just because of his pedigree.

“Although Lukas is Willie’s son, his music appeals to a broad audience,” she said. “He has a sound that folks who love jam bands, rock, blues and yes, Willie, will enjoy.”

Nelson agreed and said while he doesn’t try to copy what his father did, the influence is there, especially in the vocals, which many believe sound similar to the elder Nelson.

But he is quick to add that what inspires him most about his father isn’t the music.

“He’s inspired me, he’s a good, humble man,” he said. “He’s humble, peaceful and relaxed — he’s been able to stay who he is.”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will play at the Top Hat on Friday, March 12. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the 21-plus show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door.

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