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LUKAS NELSON

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

"I always think about finding the space and playing just what needs to be played"

(Matt Parker interview) - Guitarworld.com

There comes a time when every son wants to be his father and this chapter really takes that ole story home. Well, I say home, home is a very personal preference and not always a singular place but more of a feeling or emotional sanctuary. This type of deep and meaningful thought and perception on the human condition leads effortlessly into this editions player spotlight.

A spirited player with an old school and heritage approach to everything guitar and all things songwriting. A genuine soul that transposes his feelings into the instrument, a player of great expression and technique drawing from incredible experience of being able to sit in with his icons and absorb the mysteries of Rock ’n’ Roll on the frontline.

A young player who's carved his own legacy hailing from musical royalty, he’s an open book with hidden scripture, the promise is real and the player is Mr. Lukas Nelson 🎩

Photography Credit - gibson.com

✌️2nd Generation Troubadour 🎼 

It roots back to Christmas Day, 1988. Lukas was born in Austin, Texas but was soon whisked away and spent his formative years growing up on the North Shore of Maui Hawaii.

An incredible place to grow up, in a quiet town called Paia this paradise location Lukas’ father had purchased specifically on the beach front that was a place of solitude and escapism.

The thinking behind this was more in-depth than it first may appear. Lukas' mother was keen to move away from Austin as her husband (Lukas’ father) was easily recognisable around the area and many people treated him like a king - his mother did not want him growing up thinking he was a Prince. 👑 This is something he is very thankful for as it gave him a much better perspective on life and a more wholesome view on the world and its humanity. ✌️

Lukas Nelson (as you may have worked out by the name) is of course the son of the great country legend Willie Nelson. Although, as much as he was born into a rock 'n' roll bloodline he has crafted himself a great legacy already as a young musician and player. Music was always going to be in his life and he took to it very young age of course, 

Photo courtesy of Lukas Nelson - Instagram

As a musician in the current day he is a very expressive and freely-based artist that is not a afraid to cross genres treading the cautious ground of connecting country and rock 'n' roll along with some psychedelia and Americana; as a musician he comes across as fearless with a great sense of creative freedom.

His now signature raspy voice and natural charisma is closely identifiable to his fathers of course, as an artist and player he carries his own individualism.

Where it all began for him as a younger man was really quite interesting, he does state in many interviews that one of the core reasons he picked up the guitar was an attempt to connect better with his father who was continually engrossed in long tours meaning he was away from home for extended periods of time.

When did you start playing the guitar?

When I was 10 or 11 years old. Dad and mom never really forced it on me. They just had ’em lying around the house. It was something I could do to get closer to my dad actually, because he was gone all the time. I thought, “If I start playing guitar, maybe that’s something we can talk about.”

I listened to lots of records and I’d spend 8 to 10 hours a day playing. I took a few lessons here and there. My dad taught me the country chords. I even learned some Gypsy jazz playing from my friend Tom Conway in Maui. My friend Donnie Smith taught me about the jam-band world—the Grateful Dead and just going off and being able to improvise. I was pretty well rounded and I had some great teachers, but I just did a lot of [wood]shedding on my own.  

Lukas Nelson - premierguitar.com

New Age Hippie 🎸

Once Lukas had invested himself whole heartedly into guitar playing there was really no other alternative in his mind's eye 👁

You could say it was inevitable really, he had been around rockstar royalty his entire life: he was surrounded by his father's friends and associates including Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Neil Young, and countless other artists and household names.

Lukas swiftly became a guitarist and gifted musician, in many interviews he confesses he had little interest in school in education and transfixed himself on guitar.

“ According to Lukas, he did not have a life when he was in high school. “I didn’t try to go to parties. I never even drank until college. I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 17. I was really a late bloomer,” he said, adding that he would practice the guitar for up to eight hours every day.”

Quote via countrydaily.com

Photo Credit - thecurrent.com

A key moment occurred in 2004 when the legend that is Bob Dylan (or to Lukas and family just another of dad’s friends 😉) asked him if he wanted to join his band and offering him a job on the road! Alas, his mother declined and said she wanted him to finish his studies… Wow, thanks mum!!! 😮

The offer came due to the fact Lukas had been a part of his father's band since he was 13-years-old. Playing with the guitar and learning the ropes from a young age he had his stagecraft down more than many musicians twice his age. 🤘

2007 was the second calling and this is where the road took Lukas and never looked back. He attended Loyola Marymount University then soon dropped out when he met fellow musician drummer Anthony LoGerfo at a Neil Young concert. This would progress to his current band and ongoing creative band of brothers.

Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real ☮️ 

Photography - Joey Martinez
lukanelson.com

Something that really stands out in this week's Player Spotlight is Lukas’ admiration for the guitar and spiritual approach to creativity and musicianship. It's definitely something lost or put on the back-burner in today's current musical standings.

He has a heritage and romantic approach to music that is so infectious and awe-inspirin, it just tops off his incredible character and personality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dK4pHHLfXpk

On the subject of his character and personality it's something he pours into the guitar and is part of his expression, he is very much a feel player, again I think this is also a lost art. Much of this comes from inspiration and heroes, most notably Neil Young.

Upon the formation of “Promise Of The Real” it was clear the inspirations heavily paid homage to in the form of respective nods to the late great Jimi Hendrix and of course Neil Young, along with an entire historical catalogue of Lukas & Co’s record collections.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXUDaNpcMQo

The minute you hear this band it takes you back to a time and a place: flower power, love, and peace. It just has the sounds, the vibes, and the groove.

Incredibly open and expressive guitar style that has a real melodic push to it, one thing you can't go away from is the absolutely incredible sound Lukas get from his guitar; it really is phenomenal tone!!!

The band quickly moved from strength to strength with great help from their hero and somewhat mentor Neil Young who recruited the band and took them on tour in 2010 as his backing band. Really the stuff of dreams are made of, especially for Lukas.

With some really critically acclaimed album releases under their belt Lukas pushed further into the industry when he liaised with the Hollywood production of “A Star Is Born" and co-wrote the music for the film, the band also appeared in the film as Bradley Cooper's backing band. 🎸

An incredible achievement and a killer soundtrack to a really hard-hitting beautifully shot film. 🎥 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ7izevtcZc

The band continue to move forwards with great creativity and direction and new releases are on the way, with everything Lukas does his integrity expands as does his creativity but he always has time for family and family music ✌️

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPrPtDoaB3s

The Promise of Real Strings 🎼

Image via - the current.com

With everything he does Lukas Nelson always has his eye on the detail, his mind on the reason, and his focus on the purpose.

His approach to strings is no different. See below for some comments on his string choices and his relationship with strings over the years as a player - he also conveys the reasoning for string choice and gauge.

Do you do that for your vocals or for the tone on your guitar?
I started doing it a long time ago when I was using heavy, heavy strings. I was using .012s and .013s for a while, and then I went back down to .011s. I guess I just got used to singing in that key. But sometimes I go back to normal. I think the next batch of stuff we’re doing is back in regular tuning.

What made you decide to use .013 string sets—Stevie Ray?
Yeah, I was listening to Stevie Ray and I wanted to get as close to him as I could for a long time—like a lot of guitar players do. It must’ve been hard on the hands using those thick strings.I think it worked them out good. Made them stronger.

Lukas Nelson for premierguitar.com

We also see this similar theory conveyed on his Rig Rundown. The theory is: 'the thicker the string, the better the tone' but as we know from past experience this isn't really the case.

This is definitely why we do this, to understand and dissect different players, different strings, different gauges and the tones achieved the playability desired. 🤘 At present Lukas is a long-standing DR Handmade user and puts his faith in the following sets:

DR Pure Blues™
Pure Nickel Round Core Electric Guitar Strings
Model: PHR-11

DR Veritas™
Quantum Nickel Round Core Reinforced with Accurated Core Technology™ and Xenon™ Power-Plains™ Electric Guitar Strings
Model: VTE-11

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut200DEQgH4

As we can see, Lukas is 100% a player to keep your eye on; he's a phenomenal songwriter and all-round musician but his guitar playing is really tasteful and has that real freedom of expression much like his hero Neil Young.

“Tone is in your fingers"

Lukas Nelson (Magnatone)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Folw9-NUvz4

With his own Gibson signature model available this tells you he's been recognised and appreciated as the great guitarist he is in his own right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5q6iSMFlMA

* * * * *
REFERENCES

https://www.drstrings.com/product-page/lukas-nelson-promise-of-the-real
https://www.countrythangdaily.com/willie-nelson-son/
https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2020/03/31/lukas-nelson-on-staying-home-and-focusing-on-the-music
https://www.premierguitar.com/artists/lukas-nelson-the-genuine-article
https://lukasnelson.com/gallery/turn-off-the-news-build-a-garden/
https://www.allmusic.com/artist/promise-of-the-real-mn0002885776
drstrings.com
lukasnelson.com

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