As a muso it’s always an honour to have your mates ask you to join them on stage, but when your mates include the likes of BB King, Barnsey and Deep Purple, it does make life a little more interesting.
Nathan Cavaleri has been playing guitar from the time he could hold one, and it was obvious to anyone within earshot that he was a natural. At the tender age of 6 the guitar prodigy was diagnosed with Leukaemia and was granted a wish from the Starlight Foundation. As a guitar devotee his wish was to be flown to London to jam with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, who described him as "unbelievable". By the age of 10 Nathan had been signed to Jane Barnes’ label (Little Rock), released the first of two albums and spent five weeks on the road with Jimmy Barnes and Diesel on the Soul Deep Tour. Standing side of stage every night watching Australia’s best muso’s is an education that can’t be bought. It’s also where Nathan developed his love of a proper, balls-out rock show!
The following year, at just 11 years old, Nathan was asked to go to America to perform for the Guitar Player Magazine 25th Anniversary alongside performers such as John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, Jeff Baxter, the Alman Bros and Steve Morse to name a few. He received the only standing ovation for the evening and this set the pattern for his subsequent trips to America. Word of his sensational performance quickly spread across the states and he was invited to appear on CNN, Conan O’Brien, Entertainment Tonight and Good Morning America.
This kick started a line of gigs along the west coast, including a little blues bar on Pier 47 called ‘Blues at Lou’s’. This little old Italian lady (Lou) took a chance and booked Nathan a residency. Backed by San Francisco’s most authentic blues guns, these were his first headliner gigs. Every one of them had people lined up half a mile down the street and if they didn't get in, they would stand and watch from the street. Several times he would hang out the window and play to them as the traffic would begin to come to a standstill, sometimes doing two or three shows a night. Lou was so use to parents ripping off their kids that she would bypass his manager and parents and hand Nathan his night’s earnings personally! This is a part of the business he had never seen or had to worry about as he’s from such a close knit family and certainly not a pushy showbiz one. Sad to think it was such a regular thing for some.
By 1994 Nathan had three record companies in a bidding war for him - one owned by Prince, one by Madonna and one Called MJJ Records, owned by Michael Jackson. After much thought Nathan signed a worldwide recording deal with MJJ. While recording his second album with a band that featured Andrew Strong from The Commitments and Sweat Pea Atkins from Was not Was, Nathan was invited to tour with both artists through the US and Australia. This was a great chance for the label to show off their latest find and a publicity schedule was set up accordingly. This was to be Nathan’s first insight into how in this business things don’t always go according to plan, when on the first day of the tour the first of the allegations against Michael Jackson became public. To the label’s credit, they did their best to keep Nathan away from the whole mess which dramatically affected the promotional plan for both the tour and the release of the new album. The tour however went off without a hitch.
His time in the states also led him to some totally unexpected but memorable experiences. With no formal acting training, Nathan found himself with a part in a Disney movie (WTF). Camp Nowhere was being filmed in LA and although it was a relatively small part, it still secured him his own trailer (score). With 30 other kids around the same age on set and his 12 year old hormones well and truly ablaze, he did take a bit of a shine to a tall gorgeous brunette on set, who was also 12. Both sets of parents hit it off and as her part was smaller than Nathan’s and she wasn’t allocated a trailer or a dressing room, both her and her parents spent a lot of time in Nathan’s trailer and the pair hit it off. One day when people on set were making a big deal over a song that he’d recorded, the sweet little brunette came and threw her arms around young Nathan and kissed him - and not just a peck on the cheek, his first real pash! Frozen and blushing, that was the beginning and the end of Nathan’s first big love affair. The fact that the gorgeous brunette was a 12 year old Jessica Alba, just makes the story that little bit hotter or at least more impressive!
The following year was to be a massive one for Nathan. In July 1995, he flew to Zurich to perform at a three day festival called Out in the Green. This was to be his largest audience yet with a crowd of 60,000. Nathan appeared on the billing with such greats as Bo Diddley, Rod Stewart, Chuck Berry, REM, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Sheryl Crow and Elton John. For Nathan, looking back on the events of that night was also a reminder that he might have been too young to fully appreciate some of the things around him. When he left the stage after doing the set, he was approached by an older guy who said “Man that was fantastic, do you have a CD you could sign for me?”. He walked over to his parents and said “That old guy wants one of my CD’s, can you give me a hand” and then pointed at the guy. His parents took one look at the “old guy” and looked back and smiled at Nathan, in the way that only parents can, and said “Mate that’s not some old guy, that’s Jimmy Page”. That sort of thing was to happen a lot. Chuck Berry asked Nathan to have a private one-on-one lunch, an opportunity most musos would give their I teeth for, Nathan however thought that Chuck was the guy who did a version of Johnny B Goode which was originally performed by Michael J Fox at the end of Back to the Future! (don’t laugh, he was 13).
There were some experiences however that Nathan truly appreciated at the time, even at such a young age. In 1996, B.B. King asked Nathan to accompany him on tour across America to crowds numbering tens of thousands in some of the country’s best venues including Madison Square Garden. So impressed was King by Nathan that later that year, he was among a stellar handful of artists who were asked to join him at the White House while King received an award from the then-President of the United States Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary. B.B.King, Sidney Poitier, playwright Neil Simon and Marilyn Horne were all recognised for their life time of achievement that day and Nathan shared the stage with Etta James, Bonnie Rait, Steve Cropper, Dr John, and Joe Lewis Walker. With all the talent around him, he still managed to be pretty impressed that they had toilet seat warmers and a doorman in the bathroom handing out magazines.
Nathan’s years from ages 11 to 16 were a bit of a blur and it was during this time that his parents, who had always been very supportive, pulled Nathan out of the limelight purely out of concern that he was being thrown into a future that was not his choosing. Ultimately it was a good move and gave him a chance to finish school and think about what he wanted to do.
While working as a brickie’s labourer, Nathan began producing and recording local bands for free in his home studio, co-writing with artist from all over the world and spending time in front of the microphone on lead vocals and loving it. More than a little frustrated that late 90’s music frowned on lead breaks and boastful guitar playing, he decided to pick up the phone and see what might be on offer. Everyone had an opinion on the best way to go. Nathan was told to do everything from “release an instrumental blues album” to, “start doing cover gigs” (the answer to which was a respectful but a resounding F&%$ no!).
Not thrilled with any suggestions, he spent some time jamming with Col Hatchman (former Screaming Jets drummer). Things seemed to gel and out of that pure frustration came pimp-rock band Dirty Skanks. Intentionally injecting only one independent album into the rebellious teenage market, Dirty Skanks toured nationally and performed at every school, schoolies event and greasy pub that would have them. As venting goes, it was a hell of a lot of fun.
With that now out of their system Nathan and Col have now moved into their next project, which is a little closer to both their hearts. Nat Col and the Kings merges Nathan’s credible blues roots with the worldly variety of styles absorbed over the years, including the fiery rock’n’roll that was embedded into everything he has played since the Soul Deep Tour with Barnesy and Diesel.
When asked about his new project Nathan says “We've spent the last year developing under the radar. Purely to protect the creative process! We invite our friends to play with us when we want to jam. It's a great way for our guests to vent creatively but also a great way for us to keep true to ourselves. The cool thing about being in a band with that type of motivation, is that it can only evolve. It's never ending. As long as you live life and stay in touch with yourself, there will always be something to write and play about.”