Interview: Lukas Nelson On 'Naked Garden' And Staying Home With Willie Nelson NPR's David Greene talks to Lukas Nelson about a new album, hunkering down with family, silver linings and focusing on what's important in life.
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Lukas Nelson On Staying Home And Focusing On The Music

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Lukas Nelson On Staying Home And Focusing On The Music

Lukas Nelson On Staying Home And Focusing On The Music

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So if you're stressed out, trapped at home, wishing for somewhere safe to be, here's a song that you might relate to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ENTIRELY DIFFERENT STARS")

LUKAS NELSON AND PROMISE OF THE REAL: (Singing) Going to take a ride, the good kind of ride, the want-to-get-lost-in-space kind of ride. The sun and the moon and the evening tide will disappear below.

GREENE: It's a fantasy about grabbing someone special and blasting off to a less-troubled planet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ENTIRELY DIFFERENT STARS")

LUKAS NELSON AND PROMISE OF THE REAL: (Singing) I'll buy us a nice little farm a thousand light-years south of Mars. I'll give you loving underneath entirely different stars, entirely different stars.

GREENE: The singer here is Lukas Nelson. He is a powerhouse musician in his own right. He co-wrote with Lady Gaga for the movie "A Star Is Born." His band, Promise of the Real, often plays with Neil Young. And that song you heard is from the band's new album. Lukas Nelson also happens to be Willie Nelson's son. They even sound alike. And somehow talking to him was reassuring. Lukas was supposed to be on tour. Instead, he is hunkered down with his family on their ranch outside Austin, Texas. His dad, Willie, is almost 87. He has kept touring despite some health scares. Lukas says it's not so bad seeing his dad taking a break.

LUKAS NELSON: Yeah. I mean, he's doing incredibly right now. It's kind of crazy. He may be getting the most rest he's gotten in a long time, which is great. You know, we're very, very grateful to be so lucky.

GREENE: Well, tell me more about your dad. I mean, you say he's getting more rest than ever. What does he spend his day doing, and what are you guys doing together?

NELSON: Well, we're all just hanging out. We're playing a lot of chess. We're playing a lot of dominoes. We're staying informed but not getting too bogged down with the news. And we're writing music.

GREENE: Writing music and even putting on a music festival. Willie Nelson hosts the festival every year around this time. This year they had to do it online. The Nelson family and other artists were all livestreaming their performances from their separate studios and homes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NELSON: (Singing) I think I fell in love with you again.

Take one, Dad.

GREENE: How different was it to do something that is supposed to be a big live festival all online?

NELSON: Well, it was obviously different, and nothing will ever substitute for genuine human connection. There is a symbiosis between the musicians and the crowd; it's irreplaceable. There's an energy transfer that happens when you're out there playing. And good lord, do I long for the time - "On The Road Again" has never been more poignant.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: I imagine.

NELSON: It takes on a whole new meaning, that song, now when we can't get on the road.

GREENE: Well, I know you and Promise of the Real have a new album, and we'd be normally talking about just that. But there's at least one song on there, probably more, that really felt appropriate for this moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOCUS ON THE MUSIC")

LUKAS NELSON AND PROMISE OF THE REAL: (Singing) I got to focus on the music. Focus on the harder things, focus on the peace that music brings.

GREENE: There's something really meditative about that. Like, I almost needed it. I mean, I have this image of you sitting there trying to lock stuff out for a few minutes. Does music help you do that right now?

NELSON: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I've never felt so inspired to just sit and practice. I mean, I've sat and learned an entire classical piece. I had never had the time to really sit and learn it before. I was always on the go so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOCUS ON THE MUSIC")

LUKAS NELSON AND PROMISE OF THE REAL: (Singing) Let the music carry me merrily and gently down the stream.

NELSON: Life has forced me to sit with myself. And I've actually been practicing transcendental meditation every day, and it's really been - the only thing you can do in this time is make the best of what you have and in any time, really, and that's what I'm trying to do.

GREENE: Well, you've been trying to connect with people, uploading these songs onto YouTube, you know, from your home.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SOUND OF SILENCE")

NELSON: (Singing) Hello, darkness, my old friend.

GREENE: What do you feel like you're trying to do when you do that, when we see that?

NELSON: Well, first of all, it's for my own sanity. I'm a performer. This is what I do. This is what I believe I was meant to do. And our only avenue to do that now - because that beautiful connection of live music has been temporarily stalled, now we have the gift of technology, and we have ways to connect with people all over the world. And people are all in the same boat. They're all just sitting in their homes. And what can they do? They watch movies. They listen to music. And so this is my job. This is what I do. This is my calling.

GREENE: And so in that spirit, we asked Lukas to play for us. It's a song from his last album that feels relevant. It's about tuning out the noise, even for just a minute or two. It's called "Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)." And do you have your guitar there?

NELSON: Sure. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN OFF THE NEWS (BUILD A GARDEN)")

NELSON: (Singing) I believe that every heart is kind. Some are just a little underused. Hatred is a symptom of the times, lost in these uneducated blues. And I just want to love you while I can. All these other thoughts have me confused. And I don't need to try and understand. Maybe I'll get up, turn off the news. Turn off the news and build a garden, just my neighborhood and me. We might feel a bit less hardened. We might feel a bit more free. Turn off the news and raise the kids. Give them something to believe in. Teach them how to be good people. Give them hope that they can see, hope that they can see. Turn off the news and build a garden with me.

GREENE: Lukas, that was wonderful. I think we all needed that. Thank you.

NELSON: Great.

GREENE: Hey, all the best to you and your dad and the whole family.

NELSON: Hey, all the best to you. Thanks for calling. And anything you need, I'm here. I'll be right here (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKAS NELSON AND PROMISE OF THE REAL SONG, "FOCUS ON THE MUSIC")

GREENE: Lukas Nelson there. His band Promise of the Real is out with a new album.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKAS NELSON AND PROMISE OF THE REAL SONG, "FOCUS ON THE MUSIC")

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