While the famous last name has already opened big doors for Lukas, he continues to pay his dues in small town venues like Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton, where CBS 11′s Carol Cavazos caught up with him.
Lukas Nelson and his band “Promise of the Real” brought the “real deal” to New York, when they appeared on Letterman.
It was electrifying. Lukas can not only sing, he can play – hard. At one point, he shook his head so hard, his glasses flung to the stage. He even played his electric guitar with his teeth. The crowd loved it.
One year later, in January of this year, he appeared at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton with a new, clean-shaven look. The long hair and glasses were gone. But, 22-year-old Lukas Nelson was still singing his heart out.
We talked in his tour bus about music, styles and influences. Lukas names his biggest influences as Neil Young, who’s become a mentor. There’s also Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, B.B. King and, of course, his dad, Willie Nelson.
Asked if anyone thought he sounded like his dad, Lukas said, “A lot of times people say I sound like him.”
You can compare the two on a YouTube video where Willie and Lukas are singing a duet on the song, “Texas Flood.”
But then again, Lukas said some people also tell him, he doesn’t sound like or even look like his 78-year-old father at all.
Lukas says his band’s style of music is everything and anything.
“Sometimes it might sound rock-n-roll. Sometimes it might sound country. Whatever it might sound like, that’s what we’re feeling. And, we like all styles of music,” he said.
“We love The Roots, The Fugees, and Hip Hop,” he said. Right now, Lukas said he’s listening to Cuban music.
While the famous name is an obvious door opener, Lukas Nelson’s obvious talent keeps it from slamming shut.
“I think that you can have all the opportunities in the world. But if you’re not good, it doesn’t matter, you know? You just fade away,” he said.
Lukas didn’t always know he’d end up following in his father’s footsteps.
“First thing I ever wanted to do was be an Olympic swimmer,” he said.
Lukas, who grew up in Hawaii, was member of the Hawaii Swim Club. He says he was fast. But he grew tired of the sport. “I started skateboarding. I wanted to be a professional skate boarder for a while,” he said.
“Playing guitar was what really grabbed me. It just appealed to every sense I had,” he said.
First, he had to overcome stage fright. He says a dream, at the age of ten, helped him get over it.
“I was singing on stage and I felt very scared. There were millions of people out there. In a dream, there can be millions of people,” Lukas said.
“It felt like the future and it felt like I was there, doing what I was supposed to do. And, I was singing but I was so afraid,” he said.
“And I was looking out from my chest cavity. I could see everybody from my chest cavity and my head was above me,” he said.
“I was just kind of tucked away in my heart. It felt safe there. Ever since then, I never was afraid to be up on stage really,” He said.
But he sometimes has to fight off colds before a big performance. He said he felt sick the night of his big Letterman appearance. He prepared for his appearance that night drinking hot tea with lemon.
“Every time we’re about to do a big television special, I get sick. And, I don’t know if it’s a mental thing,” he said.
“But, I’m not really all that nervous. I just think I’m thinking, ‘Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick. And then, my thoughts are making me sick or something,” he said.
But once he and his band is on the stage, they obviously have a good time.
Drummer Anthony LoGerfo is always there with a ready smile. Nelson and LoGerfo met through a mutual friend at a Neil Young show.
LoGerfo said, “We started hanging out, surfing, playing music together. A year after that, Lukas gave me a ring and said, ‘I’m going to start a band, ya know?”
That was three years ago.
Now, “Promise of the Real” is booked with 250 gigs for 2012. But they don’t come off as “rich” or “having made it big.”
They are comfortable though, having upgraded from an R-V they traveled in for 18 months, to Willie Nelson’s old tour bus. Lukas took over the payments.
“It’s got a great vibe. I mean, I used to sleep back here with my family,” Nelson said.
Lukas was only about 7-years-old then. His mother, Annie D’Angelo, is Willie Nelson’s fourth wife. They were married in 1991.
Lukas said he developed his love for rock-n-roll from his mother.
Lukas was born in Austin. But he and his younger brother, Micah, grew up in Hawaii and Southern California. Micah is an artist and musician and often travels with Lukas.
Lukas jokes about sleeping in the R-V when they couldn’t afford hotels. One time, they parked at a golf course and plugged into the club’s power supply.
His frugality extends to himself. Even Lukas chipped his tooth, playing guitar, he hasn’t had it fixed yet.
“No, that’s expensive!” he said. Maybe he’s just keeping it real. A promise he and his band say they intend to keep.
Lukas and “Promise of the Real” are playing in Hawaii this weekend.