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The Full Nelson

By Chad Swiatecki

Photography by Rebecca Stumpf

10.24.17

With his new record and ACL Fest, Austin’s favorite son, singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson, is in the zone.

WHEN YOU'RE A Texas singer-songwriter with the last name Nelson, it’s almost expected that you would paint a word picture when talking about creative inspiration. Lukas Nelson, son of country music legend Willie Nelson, does not disappoint.

“Dad told me once that writing—it’s like a well: Sometimes it’s dry and you have to wait for it to rain,” Nelson, 28, recalls while grabbing shade under a Spanish oak tree in West Austin recently. “I’ve not had a lot of dry periods because I have inspiration, and that’s like my rain. Lately, I’ve been very inspired.”

That inspiration has resulted in a flood of music, most notably the new, self-titled album for his band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, on which he comfortably bridges styles from exploratory Southern rock and soul to country and pop. Willie and “Aunt Bobbie” Nelson drop in for a cameo on the sentimental “Just Outside of Austin,” and Lady Gaga appears on the vampy “Carolina” as well as the anthemic “Find Yourself.”

The pop sensation met Nelson while they were writing music and consulting for the remake of A Star Is Born, the directorial debut from Gaga’s co-star, Bradley Cooper. Says Nelson: “Stefani [Gaga] came to a show and liked ‘Find Yourself’… then she gave me the lyrics she wrote, so I asked if she’d sing backup on it. She took the reins and was a total queen in charge.”

Also on the horizon: a 2018 “Willie and the Boys” collaboration record and a just-finished album with Neil Young, who recruited Nelson and his band as his backing combo three years ago. Nelson already wants to let loose with another record of his own. “This being the debut Fantasy Records album, I know they’ll want to take some time, but I’ve got 50 songs in the can that I haven’t released, and I’m writing more all the time.” Clearly, this songwriter’s well is overflowing.