Must-see movie praised as possible awards contender is the fourth A Star Is Born version lighting up the screens and music charts. Just before stepping onto the Jimmy Kimmel US talk show to do a duet with his legendary father Willie Nelson, A Star Is Born songwriter/performer Lukas Nelson talked to me about the magnificent experience working on the hit musical.
Are you a fan of the movie musical?
LN – Earlier A Star Is Born films are magnificent. Love Blues Brothers, O Brother Where Art Thou, one of the greats Alison Krauss was a big part of that one.
What instruments other than guitar can you play?
LN – Bass, harmonica, I can mess around with the drums, harp, anything that makes notes except for horns. I can’t get my lips trained to do it.
Greatest thing about collaborating on a film about music?
LN – You get a song much better than expected when you collaborate, it’s the key to success in any venture. Leave your ego behind, let the music do the talking, other people’s ideas come in. Working together for a common goal. Maintain same attitude, then you create something special like A Star Is Born. I am completely proud of the work we all did on the final recordings.
Do you write differently for a movie?
LN – Not really, I write songs I relate to. The two characters in the film I relate to instinctively and Jackson maine is partly based on me so I felt like I could write for myself on it, Then collaborating with (Lady) Gaga and Bradley (Cooper), they had visions. I wasn’t even brought up to write in the first place, I was asked on as an authenticity coach in the music world. That developed. I like to write. When everybody is pulling their weight, it is better than the sum of its parts.
Did you get a script first to evolve the songs?
LN – No I wrote them for myself, how I might be feeling in forty years. Or I thought Jackson Maine is based on somebody like me who’s gone through more trouble than I have, hopefully (laughs). After sending in to the movie folks, hoping it worked for the film. Writing authentic music you have to believe.
Any thought of a musical before this, is acting or being a musician harder?
LN – I prefer being a musician at the moment but I was playing myself basically. Acting is hard for me as I am no actor really, need to brush up on those skills. I did a movie Paradox with Neil Young and dad (Willie), long hours (laughs).
Did you visit your dad on set when he acted?
LN – Sure, every once in a while back in the day. Dukes of Hazzard, fun times. If someone was to make a film about my father’s life, maybe I would play him.
Did Bradley ask you for tips to play Jackson?
LN – A few, like do the fingers look right when playing, how to naturally stand. He observed a lot through the process of hanging out, he absorbed traits. Having been on set only five or six days, he seemingly went into his character switching to director, that resonated with his cast giving solid performances.
Tell me a little about Lady Gaga on a professional, personal level?
LN – She’s fantastic on a personal level as a friend. On a professional level, one of the hardest workers I know, I’d say the same for Bradley. Hoping to work together again on another movie or anything, I love her and him quite a lot.
Did any written songs not make it into the movie?
LN – Oh yes, for every one that made it, we had two or three more that didn’t.
Shane A. Bassett