Lukas Nelson ‘Keeps It Real’ With Band Promise Of The Real
"Me and [drummer] Anthony [LoGerfo] were the most hardcore fans there--we were headbanging the whole time," he explains. "That night we went on a midnight surf at the pier and I got stung by a stingray. And I was having so much fun I kept on surfing. And we kept playing music together and that's when I knew it was gonna be fun.
"I quit school a few months later and I was kinda living out of my car, and living on people's couches. We got regular gigs and that's kinda how the band started."
Surfing, touring, crashing at friends' pads, fun--all par for a young musician's course, right? Well, what makes Nelson and his band Promise of the Real different is that he's actually played with Neil Young.
And Bob Dylan. And B.B. King. He's never played with Kris Kristofferson, but counts him as a fan and supporter. And of course, he's shared the stage with none other than the great Willie Nelson.
Oh yeah--Willie just happens to be his dad. Can't forget to mention that, although it doesn't really seem to be that important in the POTR big picture. This is a band that is determined to forge its own identity.
However, that doesn't mean Nelson is bent on ignoring his heritage, either. He speaks of his famous father with a bit of respectful awe that somehow manages to not come across as disingenuous. When asked what's been the most exciting musical collaboration or experience in his life, he cites the "collective mindblowingness" of playing with his father over the years.
It's not hard to recognize Lukas Nelson as Willie's kid. To state the most obvious parallel, the two sound eerily alike--both in speaking and singing voice. They both also share an appealing "approachable outlaw" personality, with a frank and straightforward way of sharing views.
Having such a famous (and identifiable) pedigree is often a bit of a hurdle for the offspring of legends, but Nelson is charmingly--and believably--matter-of-fact about his family ties. "I don't really think about that often unless someone asks me," he says. "I've had to come up with a bunch of answers and haven't really figured out what the best answer to that question is. I love my dad; I'm very proud of him and I love his music. I listen to it all the time. And I'm really stoked because I'm able to play my own music."
Promise of the Real is indeed Nelson's own music, as he puts it. The band's on its second full-length album (the self-titled debut came out in 2010), has hit the road on a few touring treks--including one with B.B. King--and have been guests on both Jay Leno and David Letterman's shows. Fans of Willie who are expecting a country release from his son will definitely be surprised. The band's sound defies classification, with its latest album, Wasted, best described as a sort of hodgepodge of rock styles. A variety of guitar sounds (including, yes, some steel guitar) anchor the melodies, while Nelson's high-pitched, familiar voice buoys things up.
Nelson--who can play guitar, bass, drums, and "hacks around" on harmonica--isn't interested in identifying a genre for his songwriting. "The labeling just comes from people who are trying to internalize it for themselves," he says. "I say you can call it whatever you want. I'm just going to call it music. I'm more focused on the making of the music, not what people are saying about it.