Music

Lukas Nelson on the Underlying Messages Behind ‘Naked Garden’ and ‘Turn Off the News’

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Lukas Nelson is in self-imposed isolation on his family’s ranch outside Austin, Tex. But that doesn’t mean the singer-songwriter, who inherited his guitar chops and unmistakable vocals from dad, country legend Willie Nelson, is resting on his laurels.

In between playing in live-streaming shows (including a recent acoustic performance alongside his father and brother Micah for ‘Til Further Notice’ — a star-studded online fundraiser in lieu of the annual Luck Reunion held on the Nelson grounds), Nelson and his longtime band, Promise of the Real, are gearing up for the release of their new LP, “Naked Garden.” Out March 27, the 15-track collection comes on the heels of last year’s album, “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden),” and Nelson’s Grammy win for his work on the soundtrack for “A Star Is Born.”

Why did you decide to release “Naked Garden” so closely behind your last LP?

When we finished “Turn Off the News,” I was hoping we would put out a double record. Turns out it didn’t make sense to put out everything all at once, and it also was a great thing, because now we’ve got this other record.

Five of the songs — including the tracks “Civilized Hell” and “Bad Case” — are versions of songs that appeared on the prior album. Why revisit them?

We all kind of talked as a band, and we had alternate takes on some of the songs. We just picked the songs that had taken a longer journey to get where they were, and some of our favorites from the [earlier] record.

“Naked Garden” sounds more raw, by comparison.

By the time [“Turn Off the News”] came out, we had done a lot of production on it and cleaned everything up really nice. It still felt loose and live. But this stuff feels to me [like] a lot more instruments in a room — here we are, these are the takes, we didn’t do anything to them. We just left them the way they were.

Last year, you and the band launched “Good News Garden,” a video series dedicated to sharing fans’ stories of positivity, activism and gardening. Why was that important to you?

When I wrote “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden),” I just realized, while it’s important to stay informed, there’s only so much news you can fill in a day. They know that negativity keeps you gripped and keeps you watching, and it’s a psychological ploy they use to keep viewers. I just don’t trust news channels not to sensationalize things. Now this is a different time; we need to keep informed and stay informed, and listen to the messages put out by the CDC and WHO, but I think to sit and watch a talking head, all these pundits freaking out, it’s not good for you.

Is there a message to be found in “Naked Garden”?

“Turn Off the News” just happened to resonate with so many people, I thought, ‘Oh, that would be a good title track.’ And yes, it is something good for people to do now and then, just shut off the devices and everything. But I think that I’ve learned a lesson that it’s important for an artist to focus on the music — which is a track on my new record — and let the message speak for itself.

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