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Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real find satori on the road


Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real perform at The Cotillion Ballroom tonight, Friday, Nov. 5.

The group's latest LP, the critically acclaimed "A Few Stars Apart," spotlight's Nelson's attention to finely-crafted, emotionally driven songs. A few of them, especially the opening "We'll Be Alright," sound like they wouldn't be out of place on a classic album recorded by his father, Willie Nelson.

The younger Nelson grew up primarily in Hawaii, where he developed a passion for surfing that sometimes rivaled his dedication to music. He began to release recordings with Promise of the Real in 2010, gaining a wider audience with each successive release.

In addition to recording under its own name, the band has performed live and in the studio with Neil Young on recordings such as "Earth," "The Visitor," and "The Monsanto Years."

Nelson also appears on an upcoming album, "The Willie Nelson Family," alongside his father, sisters, his Aunt Bobbi and his younger brother, Micah, who records under the name Particle Kid.

Lukas Nelson recently spoke with KMUW about his band's return to the road in 2021 and its continued pursuit of the ultimate live experience.

Interview Highlights

After being away from audiences for 2020, it must be a relief for you to be back on the road and supporting this new record, "A Few Stars Apart."

It's like coming back to church, you know; it's like not being able to go to your happy place for a while. The strongest part of what I do is playing live and, and we actually did a fantastic record, I'm happy with it. But the songs really come to life, or you come and see us. So it's just a great thing to have that material to play, to have songs that will touch people and bring people in.

Was live performance something that you felt like you had to grow into or was it something you felt was there right from the start?

I grew up on the road. So it's sort of second nature to me to do that. And anytime I'm writing music, I'm always thinking, "How am I going to be able to pull this off in front of an audience?" This is where the magic happens, the live setting. There's no replacing it.

Aside from your father, Willie Nelson, who is an incredible live performer, were there people you saw and said, "Gosh, I'd really like to take that and adapt it to my own shows?"

Oh, sure. I mean, I've watched countless shows and absorbed a lot from each one of them. Jack White, Brandi Carlile, so many amazing musicians that are out there right now doing amazing things live, and it's just a matter of absorbing all these different influences and then going and doing what we do. It's a very athletic show. It's sort of a real rock 'n' roll show but the difference between us and a full-on rock and 'n' roll show is that there are peaks and valleys.

I know you're also passionate about surfing, and I wonder what you see as the connections between being out on the ocean and on the stage.

In surfing, locked into the rhythm of the ocean and when you're really surfing well you're in a sort of flow state. I think that same flow state can apply to performance. I think it can apply to sports. There are days when you're out on the stage, and it feels like a struggle. There are days when you're out in the water, and you can't catch one wave. Then there are other days when you're out there, and everything is locked in and you're not even having to think.

The Zen term for that is satori, in that flow state. Those are the moments that you strive for, to be in those places all the time. Every show that we've played on this tour, there have been moments of the show where we have been in that flow state. Every one of these shows that we've played has been fantastic.

And, you know, I'm just really stoked and that the audiences have been really excited and pumped up and that pumps us up. And so, we're so lucky to have people want to come and see us and have an experience with us.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.