Lukas Nelson plays Ute Thursday
if You Go...
Who: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: New Ute Events Center in Rifle
How Much: $20, tickets available online at http://ticketf.ly/1IpAsA2
Lukas Nelson started touring as a guitarist with his dad, Willie Nelson, when he was 13 years old. But when he thinks back to one of his first times taking the stage as a band member, he says he didn’t feel nervous.
“I had a dream when I was 6 years old that made it so I was never nervous on stage,” he said in a phone interview. “I had a dream that I was on stage — it was just me — and I was singing, and I was terrified. In order to alleviate those fears, I shrank my consciousness and awareness into the center of my chest. It was like I was looking out at the audience through my heart, and I started to sing from there. And they started going nuts; there were millions of people — it was a dream, of course. I feel like it was a vision I was given to help me.”
That dream at 6 years old was also one of the earliest indications to Lukas Nelson that he was born to be a musician, which he’s been since he started learning guitar at about 10 years old.
Now, Nelson, who’s 26, has his own band, Promise of the Real, and they’re coming to the New Ute Events Center in Rifle on Thursday between stops in Crested Butte and Loveland.
Promise of the Real has been around since 2008, when Nelson quit school and met drummer Anthony LoGerfo at a Neil Young concert. After the show, the two went surfing in the middle of the night, and Nelson was stung by a stingray. Nelson said LoGerfo helped him get his foot in a bucket of hot water and gave him a pile of weed.
“We rolled joints and listened to Neil Young all night long, and I knew I’d found a good friend,” Nelson said.
The band has put out two full-length albums — 2010’s “Promise of the Real” and 2012’s “Wasted” — as well as a 2009 EP and a couple live recordings. They’ve just finished a new album, which they’re looking to release within the next few months.
Promise of the Real also worked as Neil Young’s backing band for his 36th studio album, “The Monsanto Years,” which came out on June 29. Nelson said he’s been friendly with Young for years; they met almost every year at Farm Aid, a Chicago music and food festival celebrating family farm-identified, local and organic farmers. Both Willie Nelson and Neil Young are members of the Farm Aid board.
Lukas Nelson and Young talked more and more in recent years, and Young started paying closer attention to Promise of the Real.
“Last year he said, ‘I’d like to jam with you guys sometime,’” Nelson said. “It really never quit. I’ve had such a blast; we just kept writing.”
Nelson said spending time in the studio with Young was a huge education in recording music.
“It was amazing, and we learned so much about recording with him,” he said. “He does it live, and we don’t practice very much. It’s all loose.”
To hear him tell the tale, Lukas Nelson was destined to be a musician. It’s in his blood; both nature and nurture pushed him forward on that path.
Nelson started learning guitar as a boy to get closer to his father.
“I knew my dad was a musician at that point, so I figured it was something that could get me closer to Dad because he left a lot back then,” Nelson said. “He was showing me some chords one day, and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said, ‘I want you to learn how to play guitar.’ As soon as I knew that was something he wanted, I made it my life’s goal to get good at it.”
Nelson’s dad played a key role in teaching him how to play, and he learned a lot of chords very quickly. He started writing his own songs right away.
The first song he wrote was “You Were It.” He was riding the bus to school when he was 11 or 12, and a song popped into his head. He realized after a moment that it was a song that hadn’t been written yet, so he wrote it down. “You Were It” ended up on Willie Nelson’s album, “It Always Will Be.”
At 13, Lukas Nelson joined his dad’s band as a guitar player, but even before learning guitar, he had a backstage pass to the music business. He grew up on the road with his dad; he would bang on percussion instruments and run around the stage with his brother like a couple of rug rats, and he said he’s never been in the same place for more than three months at a time.
Now, Nelson is spending a little bit of time in Colorado, and he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s one of my favorite places to be in the world,” he said.
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