DECEMBER 2, 2011

BLUES SINGER/­SONGWRITER/­GUITARIST LUKAS NELSON, the 22-year-old son of Willie Nelson, had , been up all night with his brother, Micah, when I spoke to him the other day by phone from his home in Austin, Texas. He hadn’t been partying. He gave that up when he nearly drank himself to death last sum­mer. He’d been up until 5 a.m. in an impas­sioned debate with Micah, 16 months younger, who schooled him on progressive politics, the Occupy movement, and the need for people to take their money out of big banks and put it in local credit unions. Micah went on to explain permaculture, the im­portance of buying locally grown organic food, and the responsi­bility artists have to use their stage to send that message.

“I fought against it for a very long time,” Lukas confessed. “I released an album (“Lukas Nel­son and Promise of the Real”), and did 250 days on the road this year. I just wanted to focus on my music. I didn’t want to get involved. But I had this heated debate with my brother, and he convinced me it’s time to forget about my selfish musical ambi­tions and start using my posi­tion as a way to let people know how they can get our economy and our world back together. I wasn’t paying attention before, and he kind of opened my eyes. And now it’s my turn to start opening eyes.”

Lukas and Micah, the youngest of Nelson’s seven children, are from their father’s fourth and cur­rent marriage. They have a home in Austin, but grew up primarily in Maui, Ha­waii, in a largely sustain­able community of solar-powered homes. Kris Kristofferson, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson are neighbors.

Lukas admits that his family is part of the one percent richest Americans, but that hasn’t stopped his dad from speaking out on myriad causes, from legal­izing marijuana to Farm Aid. So it shouldn’t dis­qualify him from speaking the truth about income in­equality and the economic erosion of the middle class. “We need to get our middle class stronger and stop fighting against each other,” he said. With this new-found fer­vor, though, I wondered if he’s at all worried that he may turn his fans off, that he may be running the risk of sounding preachy.

“I don’t want to be one of those guys who cares what people think to the point where I don’t make a difference when I have a chance to,” he shot back. “People like John Lennon, like Martin Luther King, like Joan of Ark, they were all burned at the stake. At this point, I don’t care if I’m burned at the stake. There are some things that are bigger than me. And my brother helped me realize that.”

Lukas may be preach­ing to the choir when he makes his Marin County debut Dec. 8 in a concert at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley with Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride and local stars Bob Weir, Jay Lane, Dan Hicks, and Rob and Sara Wasserman. But it will be an opportunity for him to do some thing for a cause that’s bigger than he is or any of us, The show’s a benefit for “Casa de Milagros” (House of Miracles), an 18th-cen­tury hacienda in Peru that has been transformed into a home for abandoned and orphaned children.

The show will be a per­fect setting for him to sing “Peaceful Solution,” which he wrote, and his favorite, “Don’t Lose Your Mind,” a socially conscious song written by his famous fa­ther and his sister, Amy. “Those are songs that spread a message of being aware and conscious of what’s going on,” he said.

Not that long ago, Lukas admits, he was unconscious most of the time, a black­out drunk who reformed after seeing God one night, or at least an angel. “I was drinking a lot this summer and got re­ally sick,” he confided. “I got wasted, basically. And I was wasting my talent and a lot of what I have because I was drinking so much. I woke up in a pool of my own vomit one night. I had been choking on it, and I was gonna die, but somebody turned me over. I had blacked out and didn’t know what had happened. After I woke up I had this vision of this lady who put this bubble of protection around me. I believe it was an angel. Basically, I had a religious experience. I realized that if there are people looking out for me like that, then I must have something to do on this Earth and I need to take care of myself and do what I came here to do and not waste it.”

Sobered up, he began writing and recording songs for an upcoming album; the aptly titled “Wasted.” “It marks a time in my life when I was wasting a lot,” he explained. “It’s more of a personal journey. I feel it’s our truest album as a band. The perfor­mances are really good, and the songs are some of the best I’ve done.”

2009 Promise of the Real (I)
2010 Promise of the Real (II)