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Lukas Nelson sees "Stars" on new album, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, June 11, 2021

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Lukas Nelson held himself to something of a high standard during the global pandemic.

"I figured (Isaac) Newton discovered calculus during a pandemic. I better do something. I might as well write a few songs," the second youngest of Willie Nelson's seven children says by phone from Maui, where he resides.

Some of those songs will surface Friday, June 11, as the younger Nelson releases "a Few Stars Apart," the seventh studio album by his band Promise of the Real. The set, whose 11 songs were influenced by both the pandemic and Homer's "Odyssey," was recorded in just three weeks with producer Dave Cobb in Nashville, using old school analog technology. Nelson and company will be back on the road for special release shows in Nashville, Chicago, Austin, Texas and Boulder, Colo., and he's eyeballing more extensive touring later in the year...

• Nelson, 32, quarantined with his family in Texas when the pandemic hit, and he says by phone it was "a challenge" to adapt to being off the road and unable to travel or gather with other musicians. "I had to get still with myself. I had to reconcile what it meant to be still." He had started Transcendental Meditation classic shortly before the lockdown began, however, "so I was blessed with some tools that I think were really important in keeping my head clear during that time. I was able to grow, I think, from the experience and learn from it and then be better prepared for the eventually of going back on the road -- which is looming."

• He did, however, vow to make the enforced time off "as productive as possible. I was very inspired; There were a lot of quite powerful emotions and so much energy flying around with people trying to sit still with themselves, sometimes for the first time ever -- certainly in my case. I tried to channel that inspiration into something productive, like music, and I wrote a bunch of songs and felt good about 'em."

• That inspiration in turn gave Nelson's songs a kind of thematic unity that in led to a through-line running through "A Few Stars Apart." "I believe it may be the first record of mine anyone has ever said that about. All the other records are so all over the place, which I happen to like. I've never really been able to, nor have I tried to, make a record that sounds cohesive or sounds like all the songs go together. This is the first album that I Think has a little bit of that, and it just came together quite naturally."

• Nelson -- who also backs Neil Young with Promise of the Real and plays with his father -- was particularly happy to work with Cobb, who he's long admired but has never connected with for a project before. "Dave was our top pick, based on what we discovered the record to be. (The band) took about two weeks and went through the bunch of songs I'd written and even stuff I'd written before that hadn’t come out -- quite a bit of material -- and picked our favorites from there. It took on its own life in that way, and the way Dave makes records, he was the perfect guy for the job."

• Recording at RCA Records' Studio A in Nashville was a trip for Nelson as well, since his father had recorded some of his greatest hits there decades ago. "I was in RCA looking at photos of him when he was my age, recording in that very studio, so I was overcome with its spirit. I definitely don't try to sound like him, but I do it because it just sort of comes out naturally sometimes when I sing in the style of something he might sing. It's hard for me to not sound like him when I sing a country waltz -- the timbre of my voice is just genetically very similar. But I think that's a blessing. I love his voice very much, and I love him very much, so being able to honor him in that way and also have the history of that studio was a really incredible experience."

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