GoPro: Country Star Maui’s Lily Meola at Willie Nelson’s Ranch
This year during SXSW (South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals), singer and songwriter Lily Meola invited GoPro to join her and Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) in Luck, Texas, about an hour outside of Austin proper. Luck is an old western town complete with a barbershop, post office and general store; and also happens to be the original movie set for the flick, Red Headed Stranger. It is now home to Willie’s Ranch and his SXSW event, the Luck Reunion. Lily and Lukas gave GoPro an intimate performance of their emotional and magical duet “Sound of Your Memory,” outside of the Nelsons legendary tour bus.
Born and raised on the island of Maui, Lily has been a songbird as long as she can remember, quickly replacing her bottle for a microphone at the age of 2. After securing the lead in her school play, she soon fell in love with music and performing on stage. At age 11, Meola landed her first gig at Maui Arts and Cultural Center, and frequently performed as the opener for the Maui Film Festival where her mother, Nancy Meola, worked.
Now 21, Lily has accomplished more in her career than most musicians twice her age could even dream possible in their lifetime. Lily has performed with the likes of Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, Michael McDonald, Jamey Johnson, Lee Brice and Willie Nelson. Rolling Stone named Lily as one of the, “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.”
Willie’s sons, Micah and Lukas, homeschooled with Lily’s brother Matt and Willie’s wife, Annie, was a friend of Lily’s mom. Annie would often watch her perform at weekly gigs at Café de Amis on Maui. Willie would join from time to time and even took the stage for an impromptu duet of his song “Crazy.” After one of her shows, Willie handed Lily a list of songs on a napkin, and asked her to consider recoding a song with him. Lily was ecstatic. A few years later, Willie approached Lily with an idea to collaborate on his upcoming album. She agreed. In 2013 Lily made her inaugural journey to the Nelson’s ranch in Luck, to record their duet, “Will You Remember Mine.” Lily recalls it as the experience of a lifetime:
Coming to Luck for the first time was surreal. It has the most beautiful vibe, even when its completely stripped down, not all dressed up for the South by Southwest event. It’s pretty cool to be able to walk through a town that came from an old western movie set. I’ve come back every year for what is now the Luck Reunion. After that first trip to Luck, Willie asked me to tour with him. Its been an incredible journey ever since.
Lily and Lukas first performed their duet at Casanova Restaurant in upcountry Maui, back in 2011. At the time, it was Lily’s favorite song on Lukas’ album. It spoke to her. It’s relatable to most. But they didn’t revisit the track until two years ago when Lily suggested they record it on her first-ever album, titled “They Say, which Eric Helkamp produced.
Lily started experimenting writing her own songs for her album, which resulted in “Bad Weather” and “Don’t Change.” Ever since, she’s been focused on creating new material, finding herself and working with writers who help to improve her craft. She talks about the process of songwriting and how different each session is:
I like to feed off of other writers. I sit at home and write a lot in my notebook, putting down ideas that I bring to the writing sessions. Even with the same people, you can get in a different mode. It’s magical. I actually had a song-writing lesson with Jackson Browne a few years ago. He and I had done a gig together and afterwards he said ‘I could teach you everything you need to know on the piano in one lesson’. Next time I was in LA we got together and he gave me advice and we’ve kept in touch since.
What’s next for Lily? She is currently in Nashville working on material for a new album. “I’m collaborating with as many people as I can, getting inspired and traveling as much as possible. I’m headed to LA to write for a week and then I’m headed home to Maui.”
Mahalo Lily, Lukas and the entire Nelson Family for welcoming GoPro with open arms. We look forward to following Lily’s career as she gains global recognition with her next album.
*Story credit: GoPro