Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

We talk with Lukas Nelson about his band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and the release of their upcoming self-titled album, out August 25.

Country artist Lukas Nelson has had a massively successful year. From working in Hollywood on the highly anticipated upcoming remake of A Star Is Born (starring Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, and Sam Elliott) to releasing a new album with his band, Promise of the Real, Nelson is following in the footsteps of his father, Willie, and on the verge of a major breakthrough.

Breaking genre expectations, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have created an album they describe as cosmic-country-soul, a mix of sounds that are a combination of Nelson’s upbringing and the many influences of talented band members who hail from different backgrounds. With songs that range from the groovy “Follow Yourself” to the sad and soulful “Forget About Georgia” to the gospel-backed “Set Me Down on a Cloud,” Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real’s new album has something for everyone.

Recently, C&I talked with Nelson about his upcoming album, movie project, and what’s next for the band.

Cowboys & Indians: We’re really excited about the August 25 release of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real’s new album on Fantasy Records. What excites you most about the release and what are you excited for fans to find out about you musically?
Lukas Nelson: I just think that it’s some of the best songs in my whole career that I’ve ever written. I’m really proud of them and I’m proud of the way they’re recorded and the production values that we got out of the Village Recorder Studios and John Alagia and just the way that they sound is very cinematic and it’s got a weight to it. I think that has a lot to do with many things, but I’m really excited to show the record.

C&I: You all classify your sound as “cosmic-country-soul” on your website and every member of the band is so talented and has such a wide range of experience and backgrounds. How did that translate into your distinctive sound?
Nelson: I’m so glad you said that. … You know, I find myself to be the least interesting member of this band. I mean, really it’s just every one of my band members has such an incredible story, especially the original four. And we’ve got two new members, two that I’m just getting to know really well. Tato [Melgar] and Corey [McCormick] and Anthony [Logerfo] are just incredible people and they have so much to tell. They’ve come from incredible places and had such a rich history, so all of their influences combined with mine make for a really cool vibe and an eclectic energy when we’re on stage.

Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff/album cover

C&I: It’s really interesting sounds. I love the reggae factor in your music. How did that come about?
Nelson: I was born in Austin, Texas, but I grew up on Maui [Hawaii] a lot because my dad had a home there. I went to high school in Maui and spent a lot of my formative years in Maui, so my first band was a reggae band and I love reggae music.

C&I: It’s such a separation from your dad’s sound. Can you share how your dad’s sound and signature voice influenced your own?
Definitely. I grew up listening to him and then also Clapton, the Beatles, and Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so all of that mixed together with the reggae and the blues and the jam-band stuff and the classical music. It all combines to the formula that is what we are now.

C&I: With all of your different backgrounds, was it hard to come up with a sound that you all liked and agreed upon?
Nelson: No. I write the music, so when these guys started with me I already had a bunch of songs written and I had already been playing with Tato for 20 years. Tato and I grew up together. His kids are on the road right now and they’re out with us, so it’s like family. Anthony joined me right around when I was in college in 2007. Corey joined me a little later, and so I had already had a trajectory and a career or an idea direction before, and they just helped really make the dream come true. Without them I’d be nowhere, of course, because I was meant to meet these friends and characters along the way. And together we make up the dream.

C&I: You have a lot of collaborations on the album that are distinctive and provide such interesting sounds – mostly notably from Lady Gaga on tracks like “Find Yourself” and Lucius on the gospel track “Set Me Down on a Cloud” and many more. How did working with these talented artists who come from such different styles influence your music and the songs that you worked on and the album as a whole?
Nelson: It’s funny because we met Lucius when we played Desert Trip with Neil [Young] and that was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I became really good friends with Jess [Wolfe] and Holly [Laessig] from Lucius — the band did. One of the most memorable things from that trip was watching Roger Waters play and watching them just blow everybody’s minds with their talent, so it was really an honor to get them to play on the record. It brought, sort of, that energy to the record.

Then, of course, we’d been working on [A Star Is Born] with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper and I’d been writing with Lady Gaga and she’s become a really good friend. It was kind of a nice thing. She came to one of my shows in San Francisco with me. We drove up together, just hanging out, and she really loved the song “Find Yourself.” It had already been written a couple years ago and I decided to rerecord it for this record because it didn’t really get released very well last time and didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved. So I tried it again and I asked her if she wanted to just sing on it because she loved it so much and she said yes. So she’s just very kind in that way and it was a nice collaboration.

C&I: You also co-wrote Lady Gaga’s new song “The Cure,” which she released after her Coachella performance this past year, and you’re going to be featured [on the soundtrack and performing on screen] in A Star Is Born with Gaga, Cooper, and Sam Elliott.
Nelson: Yeah, the whole band will be.

Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

C&I: What was that experience like to bring your music to a feature film?
Nelson: It was nice. I produced a lot of the songs in the movie and it was a beautiful collaborative effort and I loved working with those guys. It was special. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

C&I: Any plans on doing any more movie collaborations, if the chance comes up?
Yeah, sure. If it comes up, we’ll try something.

C&I: Are you going to do a big tour for the album?
Nelson: Yeah, I think we’ll do some kind of tour for the record. I mean, we’re already on tour right now. We’ve got a lot of tour dates booked, up until December and early next year. We’ll have a lot of touring going on for this record, I can promise you.

C&I: Are there any locations that you’re most excited to play in or places that you would like to play in?
Nelson: Well, it’ll be nice to go to Europe. This will be the first time Promise of the Real’s been to Europe on its own. Last time we were there, we were with Neil. Other than that, I mean, we just have so many favorite places it’s too hard to say. It’s just beautiful. I love being on the road.

C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make the cut on this album that we can expect sometime in the future?
Nelson: Yes, yes. We recorded about 35 songs for these sessions over the last 18 months, so we have a bunch of music pretty close to ready to release. And then I’m writing new ones all the time, so there will be new material for years to come.

C&I: When are you all going to start working on the next album?
Nelson: Oh, it’s already in the works. It’s already happening. I’m constantly working on new music, so it’s never too far behind.

For more information on Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and to preorder the new album, visit their website.