Q & A with Lukas Nelson

Photo by Myriam Santos

Willie Nelson’s oldest son Lukas talks about making his own music prior to performing in Milwaukee this Saturday.

Throughout his long and decorated career, country music legend Willie Nelson developed a liking to routing his tours through Milwaukee. In recent years, his older son Lukas has followed in his dad’s footsteps with several appearances of his own, including this past summer as part of the traveling Outlaw Music Festival, which stopped at the 50th edition of Summerfest.

Nelson will be back in town Saturday, Nov. 4 at The Rave with his band The Promise of the Real. The band is riding the success of their new album Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, which came out in August.

Drawing from a decade of performing, the album showcases Nelson’s tenacity and honesty as a songwriter and the band’s ability to jump effortlessly between soul, blues, country and rock and roll.

Prior to the show, we talked to Nelson about getting to play the Brew City again.

How was your experience playing Summerfest during the Outlaw tour?

Summerfest was great. I had a lot of fun. Of course, there’s so many great acts. It was cool seeing Bob [Dylan]. Jason Isbell, I’m a big fan of his. That whole tour was great. But I remember Milwaukee being great. I actually met a good friend of mine there. Afterwards everyone cleared out and me and my friend walked around near the water. It was a really nice evening.

Besides playing Summerfest, do you have any other special Milwaukee memories?

We had Farm Aid in 2010 and it was where Neil Young first saw us play. That was one of the first times he sat on the side of the stage and watched the band play. That was cool.

When I interviewed your brother Micah this summer, he said there wasn’t any pressure growing up to become a musician. What got you interested in making your own music?

It’s a passion. I fell in love with it. From a young age I started writing songs. And then I couldn’t stop. I’m addicted.

What’s the best piece of advice your dad gave you about being a musician?

Just to not give up. Persistence. Keep breathing and keep writing and work hard. All those good things a good dad would tell you.

Promise of the Real was Neil Young’s backing band a couple tours back. What was the best advice he gave you?

Neil’s given us a lot of great advice. Just to keep focused and not bow down to trends and play the music that you play. That’s what being real is all about, and that’s where the band name came from.

I imagine he’s a great example of how to be a good front man.

Yeah. He is, and my dad is. Tom Petty is a huge influence. One of the greatest front men ever. Springsteen, and the list goes on.

The band’s been playing for nearly a decade. You certainly have some good examples of longevity with your family, but what does it mean to realize that in your own music?

I plan on staying around a long time and playing music until I’m old, just like my dad. I know that I have a great band and I’ve got a great live show and good songs. I think as long as I’m healthy and I take care of myself, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t be doing it for the next 50 years or so.

I really enjoyed how at the show you explained the story behind “Forget About Georgia” about your ex-girlfriend and referencing your dad’s song “Georgia On My Mind.” Did that one come easier than others since it came from a personal place?

The thing is they all come from a personal place. I rarely write songs that I can’t relate to in any way. That one came pretty easy. “Find Yourself,” same thing. It came really easy because I really felt it.

Did it give your dad a chuckle when you heard your song?

Yeah. In fact, he’s been dedicating “Georgia On My Mind” to me. I’ll be playing up there and he’ll go “This one is for you Lukas.” And he’ll go into “Georgia.” It’s funny.

Lady Gaga sings on a couple of songs on the album. What did you like most about working with her?

She’s so sweet and real and humble. And a really amazing musician. I was just grateful to work with her. She’s a good friend and it just made me really happy that she liked my music enough to sing on it.

With the Outlaw Music Festival, I imagine it was a thrill to get to play with your dad and brother.  

Yeah. My brother has an incredible band called Particle Kid. He’s got a great sound himself. He and I just released a record with dad called “Willie [Nelson] and the Boys.” That came out well and that’s out right now.

What was your favorite moment from those sessions?

Just anytime you get to spend with your family and do what you love to do, it’s a really special thing. Every moment is truly special when it comes to that.

What was the toughest song on your album to write?

Well, see, if I song is hard for me to write I’ll stop writing. Usually a good song comes pretty freely and quickly, and I have this sort of energy and inspiration where it really doesn’t take very long to write it. If I’m starting to think too much about it or if I’m getting frustrated in any way, I’ll quit. I won’t go on with a song like that. Really none of those songs took very long or were tough at all.

What should people expect to see at the Milwaukee show?

I know that Nikki Lane and I plan on singing together a couple times. She’s a great musician. It’s going to be special for sure.

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