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Lukas Nelson on working hard and staying humble

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Nelson to co-headline concert with Robert Earl Keen at MSU Aug. 10

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

Like Robert Earl Keen, Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real are on a tour that never seems to end. “It’s just constant,” Nelson said during a July 23 interview with EBS. “For 10 years now … I’m always traveling [and] if I have any time when I’m not playing shows, I’m working on a movie project or recording [in Austin, Texas, or Los Angeles]. But for Nelson, the lifestyle fits.

EBS caught up with the musician while he was in the Hamptons in between a string of shows on the East Coast.

Explore Big Sky: What kind of conditions do you find most conducive to making music?

Lukas Nelson: I really like being on the road traveling—there’s a lot of time to write when we’re driving down the road.

EBS: The Aug. 10 Wildlands Festival in Bozeman is a celebration of Montana’s wild and open spaces, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit three nonprofits that work to protect them. What is your favorite wild and open space?

L.N.: Montana is a great wild and open space, that’s for sure. Big Sky is one of my favorite places. Alta and Jackson, [Wyoming]; Canada—there’s a lot of great space out there that I love.

EBS: What role do you think music plays in effecting social change?

L.N.: I think music can really inspire people, even in very subtle ways, and when people are inspired they make changes in their lives and in other people’s lives. Because music has the power to inspire, it also has the power to create change.

EBS.: What do you hope your music inspires in listeners?

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real consists of Nelson on guitar and vocals, percussionist Tato Melgar, drummer Anthony LoGerfo, Corey McCormick on bass and vocals, Jesse Siebenberg on steel guitars, Farfisa organ, and vocals; and pianist Alberto Bof.

L.N.: The other night somebody came up to me and said they lost their whole family in a tragic [incident] and they were feeling super numb, and my music was the only thing that made them feel anything in the last year. Even if [my music] just inspires people to keep going, that’s enough for me.

EBS: Between Hollywood projects with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, touring with Neil Young, and a slew of high-profile press, critics are saying that 2018 is your year. Do you feel like you and your band Promise of the Real have crested some tipping point? If so, what do you attribute it to?

L.N.: I think that you just keep working hard and practicing. The main issue is just not being afraid of putting in as much effort as an Olympian puts into practicing their sport. As long as you do that, I think everything turns out OK—you may not be super famous but you’ll be able to make a living.

EBS: How do you keep your promise to “the real” in the face of rock ‘n’ roll fame?

L.N.: It’s nice to have your band name as “Promise of the Real” because it reminds you to do just that—stay real, keep your integrity, and try not to bow down to the pressures the industry might bring to you.

EBS: In a recent interview with Robert Earl Keen, he told EBS that one of most memorable moments of his career was sharing a stage with your father, his hero, Willie Nelson. How does it feel to hear those words and to be soon sharing a stage with the man who said them?

L.N.: I have a lot of respect for Robert Earl Keen, and I feel grateful that he has those feelings toward me and my family. I look forward to playing with him.

EBS: You have been performing regularly in Big Sky for more than half a decade, and now, in Bozeman. Is there something you look forward to, or something special about playing in Montana specifically?

L.N.: It’s a great community of people. Everybody is really into live music and the outdoors which I appreciate. We seem to connect and I’m looking forward to coming out.

EBS: If you had to distill it down, what words do you strive to live by?

L.N.: Stay humble and breathe.

Wildlands Festival, featuring Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and Robert Earl Keen will take place on Aug. 10 at Montana State University’s Romney Oval. Visit for tickets and more information.

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