By Marcie Camero
With a voice that is genetically Willie Nelson and guitar skills reminiscent of Stevie Vie, Lukas Nelson clearly sets himself apart from his father. In 2015, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real began backing Neil Young in studio and on tour.
I had the pleasure of watching Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real in 2018 at the Majestic Theater in Detroit, Michigan. The six-man band includes a slide guitarist, bongo player, and pianist along with a bassist and a wicked lead guitarist. This eclectic choice in instruments allows Promise of the Real to explore various styles of music and reach a similarly eclectic fan base. In all, watching Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real is more like watching a multi genre music festival: hard rock, country, reggae and folk all in one. In 2016, Bradley Cooper met Nelson during a concert festival in California. Nelson set forth on his quest to help Cooper hone his musical skills — that’s when a star was born.
As a source of inspiration and musical consultant for Cooper’s “A Star is Born,” Nelson also became an integral part of the score. His experiences with legends like Young, Tom Petty, Kris Kristofferson and his father provided knowledge and ammunition to his songwriting repertoire. Eight of the 19 songs on the soundtrack were written by, or in collaboration with, Nelson. Unfortunately, the official soundtrack did not meet release date qualifications for 2018 Grammy consideration. However, three independent songs are nominated, and the album will be eligible for 2019.
While audiences have primarily focused on the acting prowess of Lady Gaga, for me it was always Cooper as Jackson Maine. Cooper embodies on screen what I saw in Nelson that night in Detroit — a veiled sense of shyness adding to a layer of mystery along with smooth yet gritty vocals singing deep, emotional lyrics. Along with his vocal sound, Cooper was able to capture the essence of Nelson’s stage presence. They have an almost hesitant swagger, taking in every moment with each step, like they are seductively approaching a lover while they cross the stage.
Cooper continues to use what he has learned from Lukas Nelson, most recently joining Lady Gaga on stage in Las Vegas to sing their hit song “Shallow” from the film. Accolades for the 2018 remake of “A Star is Born” remain constant. Along with the SAG awards and the recent Grammy wins, the upcoming Oscars surely will not disappoint.