Willie Nelson Protégée Lily Meola Readies Debut Album - Rolling Stone
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Willie Nelson Protégée Lily Meola Readies Debut Album

Project features duets with Kris Kristofferson and the Red Headed Stranger himself

Lily MeolaLily Meola

Lily Meola, who is readying her debut album, performs at the Heartbreaker Banquet during SXSW in March.

Gary Miller/GettyImages

Singer-songwriter Lily Meola may not be a household name — yet — but the fact that she has already toured and performed with Willie Nelson, and also sung with Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson is impressive. Even more so when you consider that Meola is just 20 years old.

The Hawaiian-born Meola, who is currently wrapping up work on her debut album, has appeared onstage at the past three Farm Aid concerts, and in 2013 was among the female artists to share vocals with Nelson on his To All the Girls… duets LP. Nelson’s wife, Annie, was responsible for bringing the young singer to her husband’s attention, taking him to one of her weekly gigs at Café des Amis in Paia, Maui, where the iconic songwriter sat in with her on his classic Patsy Cline hit “Crazy.” Meola’s brother, pro surfer Matt Meola, was in a home-schooling program with Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah, which led to friendship between the two families.

“Willie and his whole family have just been incredible,” she says in a statement. “I can’t even believe how much they’ve taken me under their wing and helped me out and inspired me.”

In 2014, Meola shared vocals with Johnson on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for his EP, The Christmas Song. Her debut disc will feature a duet with Kristofferson on the songwriter’s legendary “Me and Bobby McGee.”

“Normally, I would never touch that song; it’s Janis Joplin, nobody can top that,” she says of the version that ascended the charts in 1971. “But it’s a duet with Kris Kristofferson, so I feel like, ‘Yeah, I can put that out because he wrote it.'”

Meola’s singing career began at 11 years old, in a school production of Man of La Mancha, after which her mother began booking gigs for her all over Maui. A close friend of the daughters of producer Bob Rock, she is heavily influenced by one of Rock’s artists, Michael Bublé, who calls her “a force of nature.”

Earlier this year, Meola shared the stage with Lee Brice when the country singer performed in Maui. The two performed the duet “Somebody’s Been Drinking.”

Although Micah Nelson produced much of her upcoming LP, he and his brother, Lukas, were called away to join Neil Young on tour, leaving producer Eric Helmkamp to take over the project. After seeing her on YouTube, Meola was invited to Nashville by music publisher Leslie DiPiero, who is the wife of acclaimed songwriter Bob DiPiero. Just as her myriad influences suggest, Meola’s co-writing sessions covered several genres.

“I wrote everything from a country song to really extreme pop,” she says. “It’s been cool for me to experiment. I have so many styles that I’m inspired by and want to draw from.”

The upcoming album, for which a release date has yet to be announced, will contain at least two of Meola’s own compositions.

In This Article: Lily Meola, Willie Nelson


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