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Interview: Lukas Nelson talks new album ‘Sticks and Stones’, UK tour and working with Lainey Wilson

Since the release of their debut album ‘Promise of the Real’ back in 2010, Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real have been wowing audiences on both sides of the pond with their incredible live shows and experimental sound blending country and classic rock. They’ve played to packed shows all over the UK – including a set at the legendary Glastonbury festival in 2019 – as well as appearing as Bradley Cooper’s band in the 2018 remake of ‘A Star Is Born’ (which Lukas also wrote and produced the music for), and now they’re heading back over here later this month for the first time in four years.

Ahead of the band’s latest trip to the UK, I spoke to Lukas about what to expect from the shows, the band’s new album ‘Sticks and Stones’ (due for release next month), current single ‘Alcohallelujah’, working with Lainey Wilson on ‘More Than Friends’ and more. You can win tickets to see Lukas and POTR on any UK show of your choice AND a meet & greet with him via a competition we are running now till Thursday 8th June.

We last spoke two years ago before the release of ‘A Few Stars Apart’ – what’s been going on for you since then?

Well, so after ‘A Few Stars Apart’ came out, we went on the road, which was the first time we’d been on the road since the pandemic had ended, effectively, at least in the sense that we could get back out. And I was playing a lot of those songs live, and I realised that people wanted to dance and have fun and just forget about all of that. So I had written all these reflective songs during the pandemic, which were appropriate for the time, but getting out and playing, I ended up having to play a lot of my older stuff, and only throw one or two of those songs in there, because I felt like the audience really just wanted to have a good time, you know, connect again to people and be close to people and have that human connection and dance. So I wrote an album while I was on the road, all geared towards creating that live experience. And having the sing alongs and having the sort of the jubilance of human connection and being out and having a good time. And having fun. So I wrote a record, it’s the most fun record I’ve ever written. And it’s called ‘Sticks and Stones’, and it comes out July 14.

Your current single is ‘Alcohallelujah’. Can you tell us a bit more about that song and how it came about?

Yeah, so ‘Alcohallelujah’. You know, it’s a cautionary tale. But it’s also a fun song. I mean, if you listen to the lyrics, it’s a little more of a warning, I suppose, about where you can go. When I wrote it, I wrote it about… so the whole album goes, sort of autobiographically, if you will. It starts off in my defiant sort of party days, and then it sort of ends off in my clarity and groundedness. And so it sort of shows the trajectory of where I’ve been until now. I don’t think you’ve had a chance to listen to the album yet in its entirety?

No, not yet…

So it’s just a bunch of fun songs, but it really starts off in a party mood, and then sort of gets more in a psychedelic groove. And ends in a sort of a clear headed, driven, but still fun. And so ‘Alcohallelujah’ is the second song on the album, I think, or the third. And it’s sort of really rooted in that time in my life, when I was just exercising abandon, if you will. [chuckles]

With the structure of the album that you’ve mentioned, was that something you consciously wanted to do going into this record? Or did it evolve that way as you were putting it together?

It definitely evolved. I mean, I just was writing for the purpose of having a great live show. And I was writing all these songs that came to me, and lyrically, I didn’t change anything, but rhythmically, I was geared towards, “okay, I want it to be an upbeat song with these lyrics, I want it to be something that I can get people singing along to and singing on the chorus”. And so, you know, that part of it was what I was most focused on when it was coming to the lyrics or to the melody in the beat. But as far as the lyrics go, I was just writing what came to me as I always do, and it just evolved into this sort of autobiographical thing, you know?

I also wanted to ask about ‘More Than Friends’ which is your duet with Lainey Wilson that’s on this album. Can you tell us more about that and how it was working with her on it?

Oh, well, first of all, I’m really proud of that collaboration. I’m a huge fan of hers. She’s a real talent and deserves everything she’s getting. I mean, not only is she talented, she’s very kind and the salt of the earth and a good human being and I’m proud to call her a friend. And so, you know, I got lucky because I called her right before she blew up. And I said, “I got this song, and I’d love to have you on it”. And then she was gracious enough to be on it. And I think, well, it’s doing really well on Texas radio right now. I think it’s climbing the charts up into the top 20. And it’ll probably get up pretty high as far as that goes. But But yeah, I mean, we’re playing that one. I mean, I’d love to play it with her. I think I get a chance to play with her soon live. But she’s so busy. We’ve both been busy. So we haven’t been able to connect. But that’ll be a good moment when we get to see her.

Was there anything you learned from the process of making this particular record compared to your previous ones?

Well, I really learned, I think, what my favourite process is, when making an album. I learned first of all, I learned to trust my instincts as a producer. You know, I’ve produced a lot of music. With ‘A Star Is Born’, we did that soundtrack. And that was great. That was obviously well received. And so I know I’ve got the right instincts, production wise. And so does the rest of my band, really, they’re all great ears for music. And so we collaborate really well. And we did this on our own. And I think we realised that it came out as successfully as it would if we had hired somebody else. So really, I’m happy to know that we’ve got good instincts with that. And that we can actually do a lot of our work in house, which gives us a little more freedom.

You’re coming over to the UK on tour later this month. What can people expect from those shows?

Well, I mean, we’re gonna be playing a lot of these new songs live. And I think since 6’Alcohallelujah’ is out that you guys may get the debut of ‘Alcohallelujah’ live, which will be great. That’s gonna be a fun time. For sure. I’m really looking forward to it. I mean, I think last time I came there, we had a great show at Shepherds Bush Empire – it was a sold out show and the crowd was amazing. It was really great. And so you know, I’m looking forward to going back. I really liked the the crowds out there, it was a good time.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing whilst you’re here?

Well we’re playing in Oxford, we’re playing all over. I think we’re going to be in England, or mostly the UK. We’re going to be in England, and then we’re in Ireland and Scotland. And then afterwards, I’m going to I’m going to pop down to France for a little bit just for a friend of mine who has a wedding down there. But you know, we’ll have a couple of weeks there in that area. And you know, unfortunately we couldn’t get to more places logistically because funny enough, everybody’s out right now and all the tour buses are booked. So we couldn’t get ourselves a tour bus for cheap enough. Sorry, there were no buses available, I would have paid for it [laughs]. But there were none available ’cause everybody’s playing out there. And country music is really big out there now and you know, it’s a big scene, so we couldn’t get ourselves effectively around Europe. Otherwise, we would have gone up, you know, to different countries in Europe and gone all around, but we’ll get out there again. You know, we like going out there. Oh, yeah.

You’ve also got a show at Black Deer Festival whilst you’re here. Do you feel like it’s different playing a festival compared to your own shows?

You know, I love festivals because you get a lot of new fans, people that aren’t necessarily there to hear you but that would would and wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to you. If people come and they listen and and you know they’re there, so they come for the whole weekend and they happen to see you. And then you know, that’s always nice, you get to capture new hearts. But then when you’re playing your own show, those people are dedicated and come for you and know all your words to your songs and everything and that’s always a good time to so it’s, you know, there’s there’s good things about both.

I know you recently played at the Hollywood Bowl for your dad’s [country music legend Willie Nelson] 90th birthday show. How was that?

Oh, that was great. That was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been a part of, to be honest. I mean, everybody there celebrating Dad. And it was really run smoothly, which was quite incredible. I mean, there were about 35 artists on a bill and they kept it smooth, and it ran under three hours and everything, you know. I mean, so many amazing moments. And everybody there to celebrate Dad, it was a really special evening.

And then lastly, what is the rest of this year looking like?

Yeah, well, the album comes out July 14, and we’re gonna be out on the road, supporting that, you know, we’re going to be out quite a bit. So we’re looking forward to just kind of putting the pedal to the metal and going out and bringing this music out to as many people as possible. Because I gotta say, I’ve done a lot of records. This is the most fun I’ve ever had. This is I think the most well rounded album I’ve made. Every song on this album I love. And I’m not saying that I don’t on the other albums, but I just I think I’ve finally finally found a balance and what works. I’ll just say this. It’s just the most fun I’ve ever had on an album and the most fun I’ve ever had playing an album live too. So it’s not often you get that combo, and it’s good.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real’s new album, ‘Sticks and Stones’, will be released on 14 July 2023 via 6 Ace Records/Thirty Tigers. Their latest single, ‘Alcohallelujah’, is out now.

See Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real live in the UK and Ireland this June:

13 June – O2 Academy, Oxford
14 June – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
15 June – O2 Kentish Town Forum, London
16 June – Black Deer Festival, Tunbridge Wells
17 June – SWX, Bristol
19 June – O2 Academy 2, Manchester
20 June – City Halls & Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
22 June – Ulster Hall, Belfast
23 June – The Academy, Dublin

Laura Cooney
Laura Cooney
Laura has been writing for Entertainment Focus since 2016, mainly covering music (particularly country and pop) and television, and is based in South West London.

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