Since releasing an album in 2017, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have played 200-plus shows — both on their own and with Neil Young, inspiring some of the legend’s fieriest shows in years. “They have no fear,” Young told RS. “They’re much better players than I am. Lukas is like a gunslinger.”
The band took that fire and experience into the studio for their new album, Turn Off the News (Build a Garden), out June 14th, where they double down on their psychedelic cowboy anthems, with help from friends including Sheryl Crow, Kesha and Young himself. The album features everything from soaring wall-of-sound arrangements (the Roy Orbison–inspired “Where Does Love Go”) to wildly fun country-rock throwdowns like the joyous twin-guitar jam “Civilized Hell” — a duet between Lukas and his dad Willie — and twangy road anthem “Lotta Fun,” with Margo Price. Another highlight is “Save a Little Heartache” a funky stomper with Kesha on backing vocals.
You can now hear the first single, “Bad Case.”
One of the album’s big themes is trying to find peace and happiness in a world of chaos. On title track “Turn Off the News,” Lukas details his attempt to focus on love instead of other things he can’t control: “Maybe I’ll turn off the fuckin’ news,” he sings. The song has become a new crowd favorite.
“We wanted these songs to be fun and upbeat,” Nelson said. “But we also wanted to have something to say. Rock & roll began as a countercultural movement, so in the true spirit of rock & roll, we’re trying to encourage a lifestyle where people can be active in their local communities, rather than glued to a device. We listen to so many artists — the Byrds, Tom Petty, Al Green, Neil Young, Little Feat, J.J. Cale — and this album carries forth something they all represented, the idea of turning off the news and doing something constructive. It’s a statement about how you can live your life with your heart leading the way.”
A new trailer for the album captures the spirit of the sessions, which took place at studios including Malibu’s legendary Shangri-La with producer John Alagia. We see the group smoking weed, playing ping-pong and sharing ideas — Lukas shows his bandmates the title track and asks for feedback. “I don’t even hear drums on it,” one member says. They found a compromise: The album includes both a full-band version and an acoustic version that features Neil Young on pump organ.
Other guests on the LP include Nelson’s brother Micah, Shooter Jennings, Randy Houser, Lucius, Madison Ryann Ward, Hunter Elizabeth and more. Nelson said they enlisted the album’s many collaborators with his heroes the Band in mind. “They supported so many incredible people throughout their career, but they were also focused on their own music,” he said. “We’re the same way. We want to see good music and great artists succeed, because a rising tide raises all ships. We’re cheering for our friends, just as they’re cheering for us.”
Next up for Promise of the Real is a gig opening for the Who at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on May 16th, followed by their first headlining show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The band have a packed summer planned, including shows with the Avett Brothers, Neil Young, Zac Brown Band, Steve Earle and more. See the full schedule here.