Aussie music champion Nathan Cavaleri stops by THEAUSSIEWORD.COM for a special interview with Brian Peel.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
I picked up the guitar – A “hands off” instrument of my dads – at 3 years old. The crying weeps of Roy Buchanan and the thick struts of Stevie Ray Vaughan moved me like nothing else. But my love for music deepened throughout my treatments for Leukaemia. I’d say that’s where I learnt how to channel emotion through my fingers. Starlight granted me a wish to meet Dire Straits Mark Knopfler and then it all took off from there where I got to play with all my idols – Jimmy and Diesel, BB King, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt. Without realising, I had found myself with a career in music and thanks to those who took me under their wing, I couldn’t be happier that music and it’s industry welcomed me!
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
Life! Feelings! Stories! When I’m creatively lost I like to ask myself, “What do I want to say??”. This question aligns me with my purpose for playing, performing and releasing. Recently, the purpose for creating has broadened to include lifestyle goals and family as well.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
I struggle with goals because the true ones have a habit of overwhelming me. For now, if I can have a nice balance where I create and release songs, sell out a purposeful amount of shows around the world, contine to evolve as a screen composer whilst having plenty of space and time with my family and friends, I’d be happy! But deep down, I want to play to massive crowds but that type of success both scares the shit out of me as well as triggers an unhelpful amount of self-doubt in it’s realism.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
I’ll be releasing a stream of singles up until the release of the album where I’ll be touring the nation whilst capturing the experience live on Twitch just as I have done for the last 2 years.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
“Cool Changes” is a surf inspired indie rock track that I co-wrote with TOMMY GUN who also plays in my band on tour. It’s lyric reminds me to adapt, flow and embrace change as it occurs and is sung at the moment where one surrenders in the midst of chaos and pressure. To ensure the performance and production aligned with the sentiment, I used imagery to anchor me to those beach bliss feelings. These flavours surface many times on the album.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
I have a full-time writing monkey with pen in hand inside my brain. Life is lived and the monkey takes notes and will alert me if something is worth putting in my idea book. Inspiration can come from reading a story, a conversation with a friend, a movie, an existing song or a dream. Whilst the initial ideas come randomly, the building of a song comes with deliberation. Flow, but deliberation much like a day job! I won’t let up until I feel that internal click that says, “that’s a song!”. THEN I’ll decide whether it’s for me or not. I try not to make those judgements throughout the process.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
For me, a cryptic song can be that for two reasons. One, because the art of “poetry” makes the song all the more powerful. Two, to protect me from getting abusive calls from those I wrote the song about.
Success, what is the secret to it?
You have to define it and it’s definition can ONLY be yours! It can’t be set by anyone else. It can’t be a template. It can’t be a default. These days I’m even believing that success simply comes from when you’re living true and are completely aligned with heart desires whatever that is. The hard part is knowing when your idea of success has been created by your ego cos that motherfucker is deceiving!
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
Two highlights. Being invited by B.B.King to play for him when he was receiving his Kennedy Award. It was in front of The Clintons and with Bonnie Raitt, Dr John, Joe Lewis Walker, Etta James and Steve Cropper (Booker-T). I was 12 and had no idea how epic that moment was until lived some more life. The other was getting back up on stage for the first time after a 4 year battle (education) with depression/anxiety that had me terrified of public spaces and the stage.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
Tommy Emmanuel, not for his amazing guitar skills but because of his determination, perseverance and unwavering dedication to his art at heart level. I also find him inspiring because he’s never followed the herd! He’s also one of the few who has re-built his career multiple times in different markets. Others I find inspiring for various reasons include Queens Of The Stoneage, Tame Impala, John Butler and Sticky Fingers. I love seeing indie bands blow up doing what they love. Trent Reznor for his courageous and out of the box approach to connecting with his audience and the unique business strategies he has adopted over the years. That guy is a real pioneer!
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
Other than building my own studio, I’m fully focused on my family and giving this album the attention it deserves in all ways. I have a few other projects up in the air which will remain a public mystery for now.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself in a few years?
See question three on biggest goals. 😉 The method in which I create, release and connect might change but the principles remain the same.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
Wearing too many hats. I’m just lucky that I enjoy the business side of music but I can’t stand the juggle. Time is one thing but to carry both the creative AND business pressures at the same time isn’t sustainable. To be honest, it’s the only challenge that would have me leave the industry.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
Tame Impala, Sloan Peterson, Taasha Coates, Teskey Brothers, Julia Jacklin, Diesel (always).
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
I fucking love it and am tired of people complaining about it. Transition comes with chaos and it takes time for things to settle and find it’s groove but we’re moving in the right direction. I was selling albums pre-internet and we had X amount of time to sell stock before we were taken off the shelves never to be heard again. We were often at the mercy of a small amount of outlets and broadcasters and geographic accessibility was directly in proportion to our popularity in said locations. Niche styles reaped niche rewards because of the geographic limitations but now with access to a world market thanks to the digital world, niche is HUGE! People are being exposed to so many different styles now because there’s no distributive limitations! Our songs are available for as long as we pay the ten bucks or so a year which is why we’re seeing songs have multiple lives! I can release direct to my community if I choose or I can partner with a suitable label and distributor. There are many ways we can connect and there’s a lot more choice in how we can find our communities. Yes it feels over-saturated but maybe it’s actually the same only the pot is bigger? People were complaining back in the 90’s, and they’re complaining now. I don’t buy into it. Music industry has always been a circus!
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
I’m just concentrating on Australia for now. That’s a question for 2024 Nathan where we plan to connect OS.
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
Not often but there may be a couple collabs on this album. Big picture, I’ve always wanted to collab with Josh Holme. Others at random, Paolu Nutini (LOVE), Julia Jacklin, Julia Stone, Teskey Brothers & Matt Corby. I’d love to try something different by pairing up with a hiphop artist like Mos-Def. That would be fun!
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t lose contact with your creative intuition because your relationship with music will be tested over and over again. The world will voluntarily and involuntarily try to influence you in many ways. Having a solid connection with your purpose, heart and creative intuition will allow you to stay open to absorb all that you need to evolve whilst discarding anything that isn’t aligned. I learnt this lesson the hard way!
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
TWITCH!!! I created my whole album live on Twitch and is one of my favourite platforms to hang and chat direct with my community. I’m on there 3-5 times per week and I wouldn’t be on there so much if it wasn’t a blast. www.twitch.tv/nathancavaleri
Any last words?
Be kind to yourself and just remember how far you’ve come.