Lukas Nelson Covers Tom Petty, Reunites with Emily King for Intimate Show Supporting Mental Health, Maui Efforts

Lukas Nelson covered Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ 1976 hit “American Girl” and reunited with recent collaborator Emily King during an intimate performance at The Soho Sessions in New York City on Saturday (September 30).

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The star-studded event supported the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) and its efforts to support the people impacted by the deadly wildfires in Maui this summer. The event was also live-streamed for the first time via the Veeps and FANS platforms with proceeds benefiting

Launched in 2021 by Greg Willamson and Nicole Rechter of RWE Partners, The Soho Sessions celebrated its eighth show in New York City. The event was driven by the Soho Sessions house band, led by lead guitarist and vocalist Larry Campbell—known for his work with Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, and dozens of other collaborations throughout his career—and rounded out by Saturday Night Live drummer Shawn Pelton, bassist and singer Adam Minkoff, keyboardist Eric Finland, and singer and Teresa Williams.

Emily King and Lukas Nelson performing at The Soho Sessions, September 30, 2023.

The band kept the beat going with special guests throughout the evening, including musician Joe Bonamassa, Yola, Susan Tedeschi of Tedeschi Trucks Band, Leslie Mendelson, Chrissi Poland, singer and tap dancer AC Lincoln, and frequent attendees former Late Show with David Letterman musical director Paul Shaffer and singer Teresa Williams.

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After a warm-up of a few numbers by the house band and singer-songwriter Poland, King took the stage and was later joined by Nelson. Together, the two slowly dripped through the heartrending performance of “Bad Memory,” from King’s 2023 album Special Occasion.

Their duet at The Soho Sessions marked the first time the duo has performed the song live. Nelson also covered King’s 2011 song “Georgia” on his YouTube series ThingamaJAMS in 2020. Nelson came back on to bring some honky tonk to New York City with his performance of “Sticks and Stones,” “Every Time I Drink,” “Wrong House,” “American Girl,” “Carolina,” and Find Yourself” before the night came to an end.

“This is something that is very important to me, on the verge of celebrating 10 years of being clean and sober,” said Williamson prior to the performances. “What we’re focusing on tonight is the mental health impact of the Maui fires and devastation, something that has not been talked about that much and is a huge critical issue that is going on right now and is going to be going on for a long time.”

Williamson and Rechter, along with partner Dawn Kamerling, were also celebrating the eight-show run of The Soho Sessions and its continued support of mental health awareness. The live music series has also welcomed past performers Marcus King, Ricky Lee Jones, Taj Mahal, Lisa Fischer, Tash Neal, Marc Cohn, and Larkin Poe, among others.

L to r: The Soho Sessions co-founding partner Greg Williamson, NAMI president and CEO Daniel Gillison, The Soho Sessions co-founding partner Nicole Rechter, and partner Dawn Kamerling.

Rechter and Williamson are also the masterminds behind several other nationwide charitable music events, from those centered around poverty and social injustice, veteran issues, and more, along with their annual Love Rocks concert in New York City, which benefits Gods Love We Deliver, the New York City-based organization providing nutritious meals to people who cannot go shopping or cook for themselves.

NAMI president and CEO Daniel Gillison was also on hand and shared a few words on the state of Maui prior to the event.

“The infrastructure is pretty much gone,” said Gillison on the sobering state of the island. “When a child looks out and doesn’t see their school, doesn’t see their home, and doesn’t see their family, and if you think about the teachers, the educators and every sector in Maui that has been impacted from the children to parents, it’s devastation everywhere.”

Gillison said that NAMI flew other facilitators from other islands to help gather people in Maui and address mental health issues. “We bring people together in support groups,” said Gillison. Gillison added that people can connect directly with NAMI through Siri and their direct line 800-950-6264.

“Many times we address the symptoms but we don’t get to the root cause. The root cause is the trauma. That’s what NAMI does. We provide support, education, and resources, and we advocate for changes in the mental health landscape because we recognize that one in five people experience mental illness every year.”

A final hurrah of Joe Cocker’s classic “With A Little Help From My Friends” featuring (l to r) Emily King, Leslie Mendelson, Adam Minkoff, Shawn Pelton, Chrissi Poland., Joe Bonamass, Yola, Lukas Nelson, Susan Tedeschi, Teresa Williams, and Larry Campbell.

Citing the final day of Suicide Prevention Month and the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week in October, Gillison shared what led him to NAMI. “What brought me to this work was losing my contemporary in 1986 to suicide. I saw the impact directly on our family. I saw the ripple effect, so this is an opportunity for me to give back.”

He added, “I would challenge all of us to check in our friends. And when we do check on them, when we say ‘How are you doing?’ and they give us that cosmetic answer of ‘Oh, I’m doing great,’ say ‘How are you really doing?'” Let’s get past the cover and get into the table of contents and check on each other.”

As the night closed the message of unity for the night was clear, as everyone gathered on stage for a closing ensemble performance of Joe Cocker’s 1967 classic “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

Photos: Kim Mancuso Photography / Courtesy of The Soho Sessions / Press House PR

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