Lukas Nelson on Keeping Dad Willie Nelson Safe, Healthy - Rolling Stone
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Lukas Nelson on Finding Hope Under Self-Quarantine With Family Time

“My dad would never have given himself the chance to rest,” Lukas says of father Willie. “We would have never had this time together if we had not been forced”

Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson, and Micah Nelson

Willie Lukas, and Micah Nelson

Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real had a lot of touring lined up behind their new album Naked Garden (out March 27th), before our national emergency caused them to put those plans on hold. One of those shows was the Luck Reunion, a huge festival held at his dad Willie Nelson’s ranch that was supposed to take place on March 19th. Instead, Luck will be revived as a free livestream that will include Willie, Lukas and Micah Nelson, Jewel, Nathaniel Rateliff, Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, Lucinda Williams, Tre Burt, Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey, and more. Fans will have the option to donate to artists via a digital tip jar during the broadcast, which begins tonight at 6 p.m. C.T.

We couldn’t just sit around on Thursday when our event was supposed to take place, knowing that other producers and artists in our industry are also isolated and out of work,” Matt Bizer, co-founder of the Luck Reunion, says. “This is our effort to bring back a bit of the Luck spirit, and to try to raise money for the people and charities we care about so deeply.”

Here, Lukas talks about his time in self-imposed isolation with his family, which includes his dad Willie, mom Annie, and his brother Micah.

We’ve been at our place outside Austin for a while now, a couple weeks at least. The days are all blurring together. We kind of have everything we need, but I’ve been staying in pretty much, because we don’t even want to run into anybody. Sometimes my dad and I will sneak off to the golf course, but we don’t want to get recognized, because he doesn’t want to say, “I don’t want to shake your hand.” We still do the elbow bumps, but I want to make sure he doesn’t get sick, so I pretty much quarantine pretty heavily.

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I’m watching a lot of movies; I’m sitting in my room here. And I’ve got a lot of new songs that I just learned: a Nathaniel Rateliff song, a Tyler Childers song, a Paul Simon song, a Lana Del Rey song. Anything that I’m just curious about, now I have the time to learn it. My dad and Micah and I are going to start doing a lot more, and just posting it on social media. Hopefully we’ll be able to just make this quarantine sort of fun, and keep everybody posted on his condition, and ours. We might play my song “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden),” which feels appropriate right now.

 

We’re really blessed with technology now. We can do anything pretty easily to uplift each other from where we are. So this virus, in some ways, couldn’t have come at a better time, because of the interconnectedness we all have with technology. And it’s going to make us appreciate human connection even more, once we’re able to get back on the road and be more able to gather again, which could be a while.

You can look at this as a blessing in disguise in some ways. My dad would never have given himself the chance to rest, and we would have never had this time together if we had not been forced to. And he’s getting up there. The years would be going by, and we would just be grinding on the road. I think last year I had three weeks off, and the rest of the time was work. Every day has been nice, just sitting playing chess with dad, being at home, and watching the horses. We’re really really grateful that we have this; there’s a lot of musicians that are really going through a hard time right now. My band, everybody, has to really be careful financially. Everyone does; small businesses are closing. 

Luckily, right now the federal government has really stepped up and is working together bipartisanly. It’s hopeful in that regard, too. We haven’t had a situation where the entire world has had to come together in this way, I don’t think, ever. There was the Spanish Flu in 1918, but at that time we were at the end of World War I, and then World War II began not too far after that. I think it’s really important to treat each other well. It saddens me to see instances of racism; Chinese people are not to blame. I’m trying to be bipartisan in my own way, but Trump not helping in any way when he does that. The other things he’s been doing, working with the scientists, working with Congress and Mitch McConnell and everybody to stimulate the economy, I appreciate it. But I don’t think we can afford to have that type of alienating language with each other. We really have to be together no matter what anybody said about who started it. It doesn’t matter. The Chinese are our friends, the Russians need to be our friends, everybody need to be friends right now.

My dad says a lot of the same things. We’ve been discussing this, and you have to look at the positive in everything. He’s concerned for all of the people not able to work. I’m concerned about that too, and I’m hoping the government is going to do the best they can, and I think they’re doing a good job now. I think they’re going to do a good job of bailing out the working people. My dad is sort of a Taoist, as I am. The greatest thing you could read right now is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, it’s like the Western version of Taoism. He wrote these notes when he was in battle to himself, he didn’t care anything about his own ego. He was a very selfless person, so these notes were not even intended to be published, and they’re very wise, very much the way dad looks at things. 

Until they lift the gather ban, everybody is kind of between a rock and a hard place. But on the other hand, I saw images of carbon emissions all but disappearing. I saw things from Italy, saying the Venice canals are running clean for the first time in like, forever. I actually have friends in the White House as well, and I’m talking with some folks there, and they are trying to move toward renewable energies. Nobody is denying climate change anymore, only the fringe folk are doing that — which is a good thing. I went to the World Economic Forum, and I met a lot of people from all over, on different sides of the aisle, and I was able to see who is fighting for us and who isn’t, and it gave me a lot of hope.

I think the climate is the most important issue we have right now, other than the pandemic, you know. So it’s interesting to see the positive sides of all of this: Newton discovered calculus during the plague. Shakespeare wrote his greatest works during a pandemic. So you have to be able to accept what’s happening and make the best of it in any situation, no matter what. Anybody out there who’s struggling, we just need to tell them to hold strong and do the best they can and try to find silver lining, even during the darkest of times.

There’s a lot of time to get good at shit. I’m actually taking a Greek Mythology and Roman Mythology class at Penn State; there are free online classes you can take. I’m reading a flight manual, maybe learning how to fly. I’m practicing my guitar every day, and I’m writing. A lot good could come of this, although I recognize I’m in a situation that’s different than others. I’m separate from my family financially, but the fact of the matter is I’m luckier than a lot of the rest of the world, so I am grateful for that, but I am trying to make the best of my situation, just like everybody wants to make the best of theirs.

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