Breaking Big: Meet the musical children of Gloria Estefan, Willie Nelson, and other icons
From jamming with Neil Young to gigging with the Go-Go’s, the heirs of Willie Nelson, Gloria Estefan, and other legends are proving that songwriting is in their DNA. EW caught up with six artists who are making good on their family names.
Lukas & Micah Nelson
Ages: 28 & 26
Backstory: Willie Nelson’s boys grew up among their father’s famous peers, including Neil Young, who picked Lukas’ group, Promise of the Real (which featured Micah), to be his backing band in 2015. “Working with him affirmed that idea of not overthinking things,” says Micah. “Not allowing things to become contrived because you think they should be perfect.” Adds Lukas: “He’s really helped our band grow in so many ways.”
What’s next: Lukas will debut new Promise material this summer on tour. Where 2016’s Something Real was “cowboy-hippie-surf-rock at its peak,” Lukas says, the band’s next album is “more like country soul.” Micah, meanwhile, has several ongoing projects: This spring, his prog-rock act, Insects vs Robots, opens for Primus on tour, and he’ll release a new album under his alias Particle Kid. Micah’s also putting together a collection of tracks that “started out as joke songs” — with names like “Gunshow Loophole Blues” and “Everything Is Bulls—” — that he recorded in his garage armed with only an acoustic guitar.
Backstory: Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s daughter was exposed to Latin pop music as a child, but she got into jazz and Prince-style funk while studying at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. There, she cut her debut album, Take Whatever You Want, out now. “It was a lot of learning,” she says of the recording process. “My body stopped needing sleep and food.”
What’s next: Since recording Take more than three years ago, Emily has stockpiled loads of new material, including another solo LP and a project of “more experimental, soundscape-y” music she made with a college friend.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Backstory: Annabel was on tour with her dad, the Monkees’ Davy Jones, “from, like, 2 weeks old,” she says. But unlike her late dad’s cheery prefab sound, Annabel crafts cozy electro-pop — which Davy didn’t always understand. “He was an entertainer and a showman,” she says. “I remember him telling me, ‘Look at Miley Cyrus! Why aren’t you doing that?'”
What’s next: After releasing her debut EP, Libelle, last year, she’s recording another set with Jimmy Tamborello (Postal Service) and Andrew Goldstein, who has worked with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Backstory: “My family has always centered around art,” says Kaya, whose dad is Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart. “That’s how we express ourselves.” So it makes sense that she tapped her father to help produce her self-titled 2016 debut, along with Lady Gaga producer RedOne. “It’s electric, it’s soul, it’s rock,” she says. “It was me discovering myself and my sound.”
What’s next: Stewart, who opened for the Go-Go’s’ farewell tour last year, is working with Jim Jonsin (Beyoncé, Lil Wayne) and Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift) on new material centering on what she calls “that R&B and hip-hop feel with pop vocals.”
Backstory: Mellencamp grew up surrounded by music — and the looming influence of his uncle, John Cougar. He’s dabbled in everything from the trombone (in high school band class) to punk rock, but has settled on sweeping heartland rock with a modern, alt-radio sheen. “My uncle influenced the way that I put together my phrasing of words and lyrics,” he adds.
What’s next: Since releasing 2016’s Free AF EP, Mellencamp has continued to hone his craft in Southern California. “I like to travel when I write lyrics,” Mellencamp says. “It keeps the mind moving, or not stagnant. I’m just trying to get a little fresh air and sunshine while I’m hunkered at my computer with my guitar.”