FREDERICK, Md. — It’s before 10 a.m. in Hawaii when Lukas Nelson answers the phone for his interview.
It’s early for the 22-year-old who has been criss-crossing the United States as Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.
But this stop in Hawaii isn’t for business — it’s for pleasure.
“I’m here for my mom’s birthday,” Nelson said in between yawns during a phone interview. Mom is Annie D’Angelo, the fourth wife to country music legend Willie Nelson.
He’ll be back on the mainland soon. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real stops Monday, Sept. 5, at Crumland Farms Festival Grounds in Frederick, Md., for Rest Fest.
“It’s a real high-energy rock ’n’ roll music,” Nelson said of the band’s set list.
The festival will also features Blind Melon and Pat McGee.
Before Nelson hit puberty, he already knew that music was his path.
“It was always part of my life,” he said. “I knew I would always do it somehow.”
And just like his father, he had a gift for writing music.
“The first song I wrote was ‘You Are It’ when I was about 11 years old,” he said. “My dad recorded it and put it on one of his records.”
About a year later, Lukas Nelson picked up the guitar. (He occasionally plays the harmonica, piano and bass).
“It felt right,” he said of the guitar. “I just kept on playing it over and over again. I think the first song I learned was ‘Come As You Are.’”
Since then, Nelson has made a point to hone his craft. He has been a prolific songwriter, cranking out tunes that might have to wait to see the light of a recording studio.
“I have a bunch of songs I’ve not released yet, they’re still in the archives,” he said. “I have about 100 or more songs I need to put down still. I’ve just been collecting them through the years.”
He and the band recorded 21 songs for the album, cutting it down to just 12 — the “ones most relevant, I guess, of the 21.”
But if anyone thinks that having a famous dad somehow anointed Nelson and his band to automatically have a record deal, Nelson said that’s not true.
Yes, he said, it helped prepare them. The band was also able to make connections easier and it helped them get a foot in the door. But it was Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real playing those early gigs, without the Red-Headed Stranger in sight.
“We knew who could help us if we kind of rose to the occasion,” he said. “We got ourselves a good agent that started booking us places, and we got started getting invited to the places because we were good. That was nice to have that first opportunity.”
Nelson’s music is different from his father’s — more Bob Dylan meets Waylon Jennings with a rock edge thrown in. And that’s just the way he and the rest of the band — Anthony LoGerfo, Tato Melgar, Corey McCormick and John Aliva — like it.
It’s also why they’re called Promise of the Real.
“Because it’s a reminder to ourselves to keep our intigrity as musicians and not to give in to anything anyone would want to change,” Nelson said. “We’re just playin’ to play.”
His father went through the you-got-to-fit-the-format pressure more than 50 years ago when he first started in the business. Lukas Nelson said he and his bandmates resist the same pressure, just like Willie did.
“They’re just more ‘You should play more like this so it can be formatted to fit the radio,’” he said.” (They tell us) we’re missing that and that and that. And I just don’t care, you know. People like our music because it’s unique.”
If you go ...
WHAT: Rest Fest featuring Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Blind Melon and Pat McGee
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5
WHERE: Crumland Farms Festival Grounds, 7612 Willow Road, Frederick, Md.
COST: Advanced tickets cost $10 or $20; free for ages 6 and younger. VIP tickets are $50.
CONTACT: Purchase tickets at www.tix.com. Go to morningtown-music.com.
MORE: Food and beverage vendors. Children’s activities.