In some ways, the apple fell far from the tree with Lukas Nelson. While the singer-guitarist’s father happens to be reigning king of outlaw country Willie Nelson, Junior has taken a bluesier approach with his band’s debut, “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.” Yet he does share dad’s Zen-like aesthetic: He believes that a good song is out there, floating through the stratosphere. “You should allow it to come to you when it’s supposed to and not worry about it,” he says. The avid surfer hangs ten at Café Du Nord on Sunday.
Did you actually start playing guitar as a birthday present to your father? I think I was 11 or 12 when I started. But yes, the reason for starting is correct. I’d started playing drums and percussion as a kid, and I was singing by then. So I started playing on my dad’s birthday — we sat together and he showed me some chords, and then I just fell in love with the guitar after that. But I always wanted to make my dad proud, my whole life. So that was just one of those ways I could do that.
Then you joined your dad’s band, but stayed in the shadows as a backing musician? Well, I wanted to learn how to be a sideman before I was a frontman, I guess. I wanted to learn how to be in a band and play with other musicians before I decided that I was going to be the greatest thing in the world and start playing solo. I wanted to be respected by other musicians, rather than trying to be some showoff.
What lessons did you learn that way? Mickey Raphael, the harmonica player, was teaching me a lot. He was right next to me onstage, and he taught me that less is more. The less you play, the tastier you get, and the more in sync with the band you are. Plus, the less you play over everybody, the more the other musicians like you.
Are you and another famous offspring, Shooter Jennings, starting a side project? He’s busy with his baby and has a lot going on. But we have a lot of ideas about playing together, so hopefully that’ll come together and maybe we’ll even form a group. If we all get some time.
Is it true that you meditate daily? Yeah. I sit down and quiet my mind, and feelings will develop into thoughts, and sometimes the thoughts will form lyrics or melodies, or form both at the same time. And then I just write them down somehow.
IF YOU GO
Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (415) 861-5016, www.ticketweb.com