Being the son of legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson wasn't always the easiest road to hoe. After leaving the family home in Hawaii and heading to California, Lukas Nelson found himself living out of his car, playing music just for a place to sleep. Thankfully, his living conditions and musical aspirations have greatly improved.
At 22, Lukas is an accomplished songwriter in his own right, albeit playing rock and roll instead of country like his old man. His band, Promise of the Real, is a four-piece that finds inspiration in the blues/rock of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but don't mind throwing in a cool Willie cover as well.
Speaking from Austin in anticipation of tonight's show at Dan's Silverleaf, Lukas Nelson spoke with DC9 about growing up in his dad's shadow and how father and son have managed to stay close through music.
Are you living in Austin now? Part of the time, yeah.
Why don't you play Dallas more often? Well, we've played Denton a couple of times. I think we've played Dallas a few times.
What impressions do you have of Dallas? I've always had a good time there.
You call your backing band Promise of the Real, but it's more than just a name. Can you explain the concept of "Promise of the Real"? It's a reminder to the band to stay real and have integrity as you go through life. It's right out there in the open in the name. It's a reminder of the promise we have made to each other.
Is such a thing an anachronism in the rock and roll world where so much is based on commercial success? I don't know. Maybe. I don't think so. I hate to think about it, but I guess it could be.
Do you have regular contact with your father? Yes, I do. I grew up playing with my dad. We did an album recently together. I've just been on tour with him. We are going to be playing a show with my band and his band in New Orleans very soon. We are always playing together.
Is it strange to have such a famous father, especially in the same industry? I don't really know. That is a hard question to answer. I don't think it is odd.
Those are some pretty big footsteps to follow. Only to the media.
Being his son, is there anything besides music that you could have done? Yes, I could have done anything. Being from any family, you can do anything you want as long as you have the right determination and a little bit of luck. I decided to play music and that's what I do. I could have been a writer. I was on the swim team as I was a good swimmer as a kid. I surf. I could have just been happy being a surfer. Of course, that doesn't really pay very well unless you're very good.
Wasn't there a time where you were living out of your car? Yeah, for a minute, I was. It was my own choice.
Were you playing the local clubs? Usually I was singing for a place to sleep.
Hopefully you are in a better spot these days. I'm alright. I wouldn't call it a bad spot before either. I still had a lot of friends. I was able to play music and eat. Living in my car was due to the fact that I didn't have a house. I still slept alright. It was in Venice Beach, California and the weather was nice.
You moved to California from Hawaii. Why? I went to college at Loyola Marymount, but dropped out after a year and a half.
You specifically left Hawaii to attend that particular university? Yeah. I couldn't think of any other reason why I would get out of Hawaii. I grew up there. I went back and forth between Austin and Hawaii.
Would you consider yourself a spiritual person? Yes, I am spiritual, but not religious.
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Are you interested in politics? Yes.
Who do you think is going to win the Republican nomination? I think Romney will, but he won't be the President. Honestly, at this point, I think it's just a game. Whoever is elected into office isn't running the show. I was a supporter of President Obama and I hope in his second term that he can do more of what he set out to do. When he doesn't have to worry about getting reelected, maybe he can be a little more radical. I think he wanted to do more after getting elected, but he got a gun held to his head. But you never really know what's going on. Sometimes, the biggest change you can make is right at home.
You met your drummer, Anthony LoGerfo, at a Neil Young show. Is there a better place to meet a bandmate? I don't think there is a better place than a Neil Young show. That was 2007.
You've made appearances on Letterman and Leno. Were you nervous? It was great because both of them were great people. It's nice to know that they are there and that they like the music.