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Lukas Nelson is on the road these days playing with his band and his father, music icon Willie Nelson. Friday night, they'll perform in Roanoke.
Courtesy of Steve Sherman
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: Corey McCormick (from left), Tato Melgar, Lukas Nelson and Anthony LoGerfo
Courtesy of David McClister
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
It should shock no one that a son of American music icon Willie Nelson likes being on the road. Lukas Nelson even travels in his dad's old tour bus.
These days, the road is also where the pair typically get to hang out, said the younger Nelson, who opens for his father on Friday at Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre. After a set with his own band, Promise of the Real, he'll join Willie Nelson & Family onstage for the headlining show.
His half sister, Amy, and brother, Micah, have been known to sit in with their father, too, Lukas Nelson said.
"We all get out there with each other, you know," he said. "Part of being a family is trying to find time to spend [together]. The road is when you can do it."
But the 24-year-old also earned his right to be there. He's a blistering blues-rock player who wrote or co-wrote three songs on his father's 2012 album, "Heroes," and lent his guitar chops and spookily similar voice throughout.
Father and son shared a song that Lukas co-wrote, "Sound Of Your Memory." Most recently it was part of the "Heroes" record, but the number debuted on Lukas Nelson's 2010 album, "Promise of the Real." Together, they bring classic family harmony.
"I see it as a blessing, you know, because I love my dad's voice, and I love how he sounds," Lukas Nelson said in a phone call in August. "I happen to sound similar, but I've got my own style, and I've got my own music. I'm proud to have that part of him with me, because that's one of my favorite parts of him."
Living by example
Lukas Nelson was 11, fooling around aimlessly with a guitar at his family's home in Austin, Texas, when he asked Willie Nelson what he wanted for his birthday. His father's reply: "I'd like you to learn to play guitar. That would make me so happy," Lukas remembered.
"I took it to heart, and then I learned that I actually loved it, a lot," Lukas Nelson said. "I kind of obsessed over it. But I'm convinced that obsession is not a bad thing when focused right."
Following the family business meant a lot of time on the elder Nelson's tour bus, which is what Lukas Nelson still uses. "Honeysuckle Rose III" was built in 1996.
"It's a great bus, man," he said. "I really love it. It's beautiful. It runs well, still. It's probably got a million miles on it now. It's just a workhorse. It's my home."
And with those miles came lots of time around his father. Lukas Nelson has said that he is grateful to have come along during his father's older, wiser years (he is a child of the 80-year-old Nelson's fourth marriage, to Annie D'Angelo).
Asked to elaborate, Lukas Nelson said that it was always more about actions than words with his father.
"I think it's better to teach somebody by example than to teach them by words, because a lot of times you can say something and then do another," Lukas Nelson said. "Then you lose all your credibility . ...
" He was a great father because he treated people well, and he treated people with respect and kindness. And I learned from watching, rather than him saying, well, you need to treat people with respect and kindness and then going and being an a------. He never did that.
"I could see that he lived everything that he stood for and stands for. I see the results of that. I see the admiration people have for him, and it makes me want to emulate that, because that just seems like a natural way of living."
He feels equally about D'Angelo.
"My mom's incredible," he said. "She's sweet. She's nice. She's kind. People love her. She's one of those women that could have run a country, probably. But she just loves my dad and takes care of him. And that just makes me love her even more."
For someone raised in musical royalty and whose close friends include the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir - Nelson spoke for this interview from Weir's home at Stinson Beach, Calif. - he does not come across as entitled.
His band built up a nice following with the "Promise of the Real" album, but seemed to stall a bit with its follow-up, "Wasted." Looking back, Lukas Nelson said that he doesn't like what that sophomore release represents for him.
The title song, which he wrote after reading Keith Richards' memoir, "Life," was a cautionary tale, but with a rock 'n' roll party vibe that Nelson now believes was misleading.
"It almost seems hypocritical now, to me, to make a party-sounding song and make it against partying," he said. "It didn't go like I wanted it to. ... Partying is fine. Excessive partying is not. And I feel like there's a lot of that in the world, and I don't need to be adding to it, is all."
He wishes now that he had used one of the song's key lines, "don't make the same mistake I made when I was your age," in a more dominant way.
"But to be honest, I was so wasted, I just wrote the song, went in there, did three takes of it and we were done," he said.
A new record is forthcoming, and he says it will be both positive and introspective.
"It's the same kind of depth, but it's got a more worldly and positive spin to it," he said, "because I'm in a way better place right now than I was back then."
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