Wauwatosa musician playing in Lukas Nelson's band and with Willie Nelson and Neil Young at Farm Aid
Logan Metz was offered a Fulbright Scholarship last year to teach in Spain.
He turned it down.
"It was the best decision I ever made in my life," said Metz, 32, from Wauwatosa.
Instead, Metz, who has a master's degree from the University of Chicago, decided to join a band with his college buddy.
That may sound like an early midlife crisis. But that buddy is Lukas Nelson, frontman for Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. The band has toured and recorded albums with Neil Young, and Nelson co-produced and co-wrote several songs for Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born." And, yes, he's Willie's son.
As the keyboardist and lap steel player for Promise of the Real since January 2018, Metz has performed across the country and gotten to meet "all of my heroes," including the Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, the Who, the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, the Doors' Robby Krieger and "Weird Al" Yankovic.
"It's been just embarrassingly fun," Metz told the Journal Sentinel. "I get to hang out with my best friends and roll around on a rickety old bus and exhaust ourselves doing what we love."
That bus is taking Metz back home. Promise of the Real will be performing at Farm Aid at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy Saturday — where collaborations with Willie Nelson and Young are likely — and the band is headlining its own show at Turner Hall Ballroom Tuesday.
'Super thrilled' to be playing Farm Aid
For Metz, Wisconsin is still home. Between band duties, he lives on a farm outside Oshkosh that's been in the family since the mid-to-late 1800s.
"My brother is taking on that (farming) tradition, against all odds," Metz said of the land, called Rusty Buckets Farm, which provides cabin rentals, hosts weddings and events, and grows and sells produce. "When I learned (Farm Aid) was going to be in Wisconsin, I was super thrilled. … It means so much to me that my brother will be there, hanging with other local farmers, hearing stories of the plight of our food providers. … Farmers have been the source of all life, and their stories can't be told enough."
Metz also credits his brother with getting him hooked on music when they were kids in Wauwatosa.
"My older brother and I found our parents' record collection when I was maybe 9 or 10. I got into the Beatles, Pink Floyd, all the good stuff," Metz said. "My brother played piano and I started off imitating him. I took piano lessons in third or fourth grade, but was pretty much self-taught after that. … With an eight-track tape recorder, my brother and I figured out how to do multi-tracking when I was super young."
Metz also learned trumpet, harmonica and other instruments at Wauwatosa's Longfellow Middle School. He was in the jazz band at Marquette University High School, played in some bands with friends, and did Bob Dylan covers while working at a Potbelly Sandwich Shop.
After graduating from Marquette High in 2006, Metz went to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he studied screenwriting and philosophy. Befriending Nelson there turned out to be the best development for his career.
"We had a Psych 101 class together and hit it off immediately," Metz said. "We would do open mic nights, and I had a guitar and he had one, so we'd jam and hang out."
"We were friends for a while before I knew that he was music royalty," Metz continued. "Dylan came up and Lukas said, 'Hey, you know I have actually played with him on stage.' At this point I was 18, and Dylan was my absolutely hero. So I asked, 'How did you end up doing that?' and Lukas replied, 'Do you know who Willie Nelson is? That's my dad.' "
Playing with Willie Nelson: 'Just the best'
Metz eventually got to meet Willie himself, and share a stage with him.
"Playing with Willie is just the best," Metz said. "It is the high honor of my life. He's the coolest guy on the planet."
Metz is also friends with Lukas' brother Micah, who started at Loyola Marymount a year after Lukas, and performs today behind the stage name Particle Kid. (He'll be at Farm Aid Saturday, too.) Micah played drums in Metz's band the Reflectals, including a tour in 2011.
"After that, I had to get a job," Metz said.
He taught grade school English and music, then, missing the Midwest, went to the University of Chicago for his master's degree, with an emphasis on English literature.
"I wanted to be a professor," Metz said, but after completing the program, he got burned out teaching high school English. He played piano bars in Chicago, got a cruise ship gig for six months. He landed that Fulbright scholarship, but then connected again with Lukas.
"He didn't have a keyboard player anymore and I was like, 'Hey man, I'm finally not doing anything,' " Metz said. "He was very sweet and said, 'I have been waiting 10 years for you to call me.' "
From David Letterman to the Rolling Stones
On the first day of the job, Metz was in the studio recording for the band's summer album "Turn Off the News (Build a Garden)." On the third day, he met David Letterman and Rick Rubin, for a performance filmed for Letterman's Netflix show.
He had never touched a lap steel guitar until Lukas asked him to last year; this year, he was playing the instrument on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" and in front of tens of thousands of people opening for the Who and the Rolling Stones.
During one crazy 24-hour period, Promise of the Real opened for the Stones at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, got to the hotel at 2 a.m., then went to ABC Studios in New York two hours later to perform on "Good Morning America" on no sleep.
But as exciting as his life has been lately, Metz says the best parts of his job are the headlining gigs at 1,000-seat venues like Turner Hall Ballroom this Tuesday.
"That show is going to be really special," he said. "I love it when people are there to see us and losing their minds and we only stop playing when they pull the plug."
If you go
What: Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Phillips Ave.
How much?: $30 in advance at the Pabst Theater box office (144 E. Wells St.), the Riverside Theater box office (116 W. Wisconsin Ave.), (414) 286-3663 and pabsttheater.org. $35 at the door.
Bonus Gig: Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real also will play a short set at 2:48 p.m. Saturday for Farm Aid at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, 2699 County Road D, East Troy. A limited number of tickets, priced between $59.50 and $249.50, are available at livenation.com.
RELATED:Farm Aid 2019: What you need to know before the star-studded festival at Alpine Valley Music Theatre
Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at facebook.com/PietLevyMJS.
Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.