Singer/songwriter/guitarist Lukas Nelson has been writing and performing music nearly all of his life. Perhaps it was easier for him to aspire to such a lifestyle. His father, Willie Nelson, forged that trail with about as much success as an artist can hope to find.
Of course, the elder Nelson casts a mighty shadow, but the younger hasn't let that keep the sun from bronzing his own shoulders. With his tough and tender sophomore CD, "Wasted," which came out in March, Nelson will surely put to rest any ideas that he and his band, Promise of the Real, are mere dilettantes coasting on coattails.
The music, which runs the gamut from longing ballads to electric Texas blues, proves Nelson and his boys (Anthony LoGerfo, drums; Tato Melgar, percussion; and Corey McCormick, bass) are ready for the big time. They are bringing the proof to a show at Kamikazes in Ogden on Thursday, Aug. 2.
The songs on "Wasted" came out of a writing jag that hit Nelson, then 22, during a brutal 15-week tour in the summer of 2011.
"This album was written on the road, and that is what came out of me at the time," said Nelson, calling between flights at the airport in San Francisco. He laughed. "I was either drunk -- or whatever -- most of that whole tour, and just thinking of stuff to write, whether it was on a napkin in some diner, or on the bus."
In many ways, "Wasted" is about being high in all manner of fashions, Nelson said, but also reflects on things wasted, such as time, relationships, creativity and opportunities.
"What I was writing, it wasn't really deliberate in any way. But when I had all these songs together, I looked back, and said, 'Man, that was a really identifiable chapter in my life. I could wrap it up in a bubble, and send it away.' So, in a sense, that's what I did."
One day, 41 songs
Many, perhaps even most, songwriters don't do much penning on the road. There are too many distractions and too many obligations. But Nelson seems to take it all in stride, and gets songs done whenever and wherever.
"There is no usual for me, when it comes to songwriting," he said. "I just write whenever I feel like it."
Nelson apparently feels like it a whole lot. The day before this interview, he'd spent at Bob Weir's (Grateful Dead, Ratdog) TRI Studios, recording with his acoustic guitar 41 new songs that he has created since finishing "Wasted."
To record 41 takes of a single song in one day would be noteworthy enough. But to lay down even 41 demo takes in a single session is all but unheard of, whether for promotion, official release or video.
Nelson said to look for all of the above to come out of the marathon TRI session.
"We didn't just record it, we filmed it, high-quality," he said. "I was wearing a suit, sitting down on a yoga pillow. I had candles there, and incense burning. It looked cool, and it came out really good, though my voice has been really bad lately."
Like so many others, Nelson has been fighting a bronchial virus that has lingered in his vocal cords.
"So I wasn't singing quite my best, and I don't know if all of it will be release-able, but some of it will be."
Live and kickin'
Though Nelson has a songwriter's spirit, he said the chance to play live with Promise of the Real is the best reward for his labors.
"The band is great, and it is really just serendipitous the way it came together," he said. "It was like we were meant to be, and I am very humbled to work with them. The live shows ... that is where we really get to enjoy the music, too. It just makes us so happy to be able to go out and play for these people who enjoy it."
Nelson said he is getting tremendous audience response to the new material, including the title song "Wasted," and "The Joint," which are both as much about reflections on life and loss as they are about getting addled.
He also points out a crunchy Texas blues song, 'Don't Take Me Back," as being a popular one with the fans. That song showcases a guitar solo by Nelson, an instrument he took up at age 11, after asking his father what he wanted for his birthday. Willie asked his son to learn to play guitar. And by the time he was in his early teens, the younger Nelson was performing with his dad's band.
"You know, playing it comes pretty naturally to me, but what I am really working at now is playing kind of different styles of guitar," Nelson said. "I have really, really gotten into Radiohead lately, Johnny's (Greenwood) guitar playing especially. I am really stoked about all the different nuances of his playing.
"He is writing film scores, too, including 'There Will Be Blood.' I would love to do something like that someday. Radiohead's been around a while, but I think they are still pushing the limits. And I think that is very cool."