A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Costner, Paula Nelson to play
Willie Nelson’s daughter to open actor/singer’s show
Paula Nelson isn’t sure how she was cast to open three dates for Kevin Costner & Modern West, but she’s grateful for the exposure the high-profile supporting role will generate for her band.
“I don’t know how we got that gig, but it’s pretty cool to open for Kevin Costner,” said Nelson, who will open the first of three shows for Costner and Co. Tuesday at the Wormy Dog Saloon. “I’m a fan. He’s awesome. It’s a nice little addition to the tour.”
Despite her love for the movie “Dances with Wolves,” it’s doubtful the bluesy-voiced Southern rock singer-songwriter will be star-struck in the presence of Costner, who is best known as an Oscar-winning actor/director but lately has been focusing on fronting his country-rock band.
“I think that movie was awesome. Yeah, it’s cool, but I think I pretty much try to respect celebrities ‘cause I know they get bugged all the time, so I’m like I’ll just try to thank him … other than that, I’ll probably just let him be,” Nelson said in a smoky voice reminiscent of her father’s, living country legend Willie Nelson.
Nelson, 39, spent much of her childhood riding her famous father’s tour bus, learning piano, guitar and songwriting along the way.
And while she hasn’t heard Costner’s music – “I just found out that he had a band,” she admitted – their music careers share a few similarities.
For instance, Costner’s country-rock crooner aspirations have been backburnered for the past two decades in favor of his wide-ranging film career. Although he and bandmate John Coinman have been making music together since the ‘80s, Modern West just released its debut album, “Untold Truths,” last year.
Nelson has been making music under the mainstream radar for about 13 years, but her life has taken many different paths, from drug-addict-turned-drug counselor to massage therapist. The lure of her musical heritage proved undeniable: For the past three and a half years, the Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter has been making music steadily with her “third or fourth band,” releasing the album “Lucky 13″ in 2008. Her father and brother Luke appear on her album on the ballad “Day to Day Love.”
Having a famous father has made her music path both smoother and rockier. Nelson knows that curiosity about Willie’s daughter draws many people to her shows, which she and her band travel to in one of her dad’s old tour buses.
“In the beginning, when I was a little nervous about going out and doing it, it made it harder. But the older I get the wiser I am, and it’s gotten a little bit easier,” said Nelson in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where she was enjoying a rare night off before a pair of shows. “And of course, he’s helped us out a lot, so it has opened a lot of doors. But I think once they see the show, they’ll walk away knowing the Paula Nelson Band rather than just the Willie connection.”
The band’s music mixes rock, blues and old-school country, and Nelson’s influences, along with her dad, include the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Charley Pride and Ray Charles. Her band will play an acoustic set at Tuesday’s Modern West show.
Another parallel with Costner: Nelson will appear this year in a film, the thriller “Conflict of Interest.”
But after years of making music an off-and-on endeavor, she is now comfortable as a singer-songwriter, just like her dad. Nelson already has written 10 songs for a new album, though the band has been too busy touring them to record them.
“I’m a terrible waitress,” she said with a laugh. “And this is my life. I love doing this.”
Kevin Costner & Modern West with the Paula Nelson Band
When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. (Feb. 3) Doors open at 6.
Where: Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan in Bricktown.
Information: 601-6276 or www.wormydog.com.