Interview: Nathan Cavaleri On New Single, New Album, Australian Story + His Amazing Musical Career


Interview/Words by Brett Ensbey – {Freakshow Nightmare}


Nathan Cavaleri is a name synonymous with guitaring. One of the world’s greatest blues musicians by the age of 12, he has had a career that most artists could only dream of. From working with some of the biggest names in the world of music, to starring in movies, there isn’t a lot this guy hasn’t done.

2020 sees the music veteran returning with his latest album, an Australian tour, an episode of Australian Story and plenty more.

I recently had the chance to catch up with the man himself and have a chat about his upcoming album, ‘Demons’, his recently released single Before You Check Out and life in general.

You’ve had an amazing career spanning from the 90s to now. You’ve accomplished some pretty remarkable things during that time, and you’re also keeping yourself pretty busy lately. The new album ‘Demons’ is coming out on the 6th of August and you’ve just released the video for the first single Before You Check Out.

Before You Check Out is obviously a pretty personal song to you and it was written after the loss of your cousin who had struggled with some mental health issues, with that in mind did it make the choice to release that song first an easy one?

“Well, when I originally wrote the song I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to release it because it was so confronting, but, you know, because it had ultimately a positive message and I’m really passionate about sharing any type of wisdom or stories that can hopefully inspire those who are a little low on hope. And that’s kind of what made me decide to release it and it felt appropriate to be introducing the album with a song like that.”



The new single definitely has a sort of folk singer/songwriter sound, opposed to the blues music that you were known for in your earlier career. Is that a good indication of what we can expect from the rest of the album?

“That’s a part of what you can you can expect. I do have songs like Before You Check Out similar to that might be Demons, and Hug is more of a psychedelic sort of folky rock ballad, but there are definitely some crossover blues pop, country blues pop bangers in there, but yeah, it’s definitely evolved quite a lot since the traditional blues that I used to play.”

So a little bit of everything going on?

“Yeah, growing up on blues and then experiencing life since then and being subjected to lots of different styles of music that I really love, it’s hard to not put something together that isn’t subconsciously influenced by people like Lana Del Rey and even Mos Def and David Bowie, it’s all over the shop but one thing that ties it all together in some way, I suppose, is the blues.”

And where will people be able to find the album when it’s released?

“All of the major streaming services and I think if there’s a demand for it, which it seems like there might be, I’ll be pressing some vinyl as well which I imagine you’d be able to get through my website.”

You’re doing a live stream album launch for ‘Demons’ on the 4th of August over Twitch. Having entered the spotlight in the early 90’s, technology wasn’t quite where it’s at now and the whole process for releasing music has changed a lot over the years, you’ve been doing a lot of blogging and vlogging recently, how have you personally found the online world in relation to the music industry now?

“I love it, I really really love it and I don’t share the opinions of lot of my other musician friends who feel like it’s ruined music. I can definitely see that there are some challenges that will hopefully be rectified with time but as a communicator I really love being able to deal direct with my fans and my audience. I love that I don’t really have to include a middleman to get my music out there, which allows the creation process to be less corrupted by controlling influences so I love it, and even from a non-musical point of view, to be able to release blogs or write blogs and now my latest is working on Twitch which I only knew as a game streaming platform, that has been such an awesome addition to my  weekly schedule and it is growing like I’ve never experienced anything grow before and it seems like a platform that’s really fit for me because I find myself creating right in front of my audience. I jump on the drums, I play a riff, I put together a song right in front of them and I’m getting a lot of good positive feedback and I also like how the audience can actually financially support the creator, they’re set up in that way to do that, so I reckon it’s great, I reckon technology’s great, we’ve just gotta iron out a few crinkles.”

Now I’m going to assume that anyone who reads this interview is a lot better with technology than I am, but just for the sake of people like me, can you tell us how we can go about accessing the live stream?

“Well I’ll be plugging it all over my social media, Instagram, Facebook and I’m actually just in the middle of redoing my website so I’ve got to make sure that the Twitch channel is there, but you don’t have to be a member of Twitch, so you would just literally go to my Twitch channel which is twitch.tv/nathancavaleri and at the time that I publicise I’ll be live and you’ll be able to hang with me.”  

Awesome, nice and easy, even I can do that. Now apart from the album launch that you’ll be doing via Twitch, you’ve got a national tour coming up in October and November this year and you’re set to do Bluesfest 2021, what can people expect from your live shows? Is it strictly new material or are we still going to hear some hits from ‘Jamming With the Cats’ and ‘Nathan’?

 “It is all new material for this tour, it’s gonna be pretty raw, the dynamics of the show are definitely going to mirror probably the ups and downs of my life’s journey and I do string all my songs together with stories of what it was like to grow up, my battles with leukaemia and the things I learned through dealing with mental health dramas that took me out of music for about four five years, and there’s some pretty funny stories in there as well. When I was a kid, I was just comfortable playing but now I’ve got things that I really want to say and it feels good to be out there telling stories as well as playing music.”

 On that topic, as you just mentioned, as a child you fought an beat leukaemia and as an adult you’ve been pretty open about your struggles with anxiety, mental health, and things like that, so there’s obviously people that will take a lot of inspiration from this and your openness could be a life changing catalyst for others which is awesome, do you feel though that sharing your story with others has also had a positive impact on your own life?

 “Yeah it has because, you know, we’re sort of creatures of habit and we feel how we feel quite often because we are in the habit of feeling that way and when we get taught something or we’ve  come across, say, new knowledge that we need to apply and when we’re trying to retrain ourselves it actually really does help to, like for me personally, when I am telling those stories it’s re-ingraining into my mind just much healthier patterns, so it’s quite cathartic for me to get up on stage and tell those stories, and it also reminds me of where I’ve come from and what adversities I have dealt with in the past, what ones I’m stealing still dealing with and how I’m going about dealing with them, and to connect in that way with others and to have others come up to me and go dude I went through the same thing or I’m going through it now. Alienation is a really really big problem, when you feel like you’re alone and that you’re the one who’s, you know, struggling or going insane and that’s what kind of draws out the whole process, but to have other people around you that are giving you love or acknowledging it really does help.”

That’s awesome. Now as I said, this is been a pretty big, busy year for you, you’ve also just finished filming an episode of Australian Story which I believe is set to air in early August?

“Yep, August 3 actually, we just scored a date a couple days ago.”

Well there you go everyone, August 3. This show, Australian Story, has been around since the mid 90’s and featured so many Australian icons and significant figures, what was it like filming that? Is it pretty surreal that now you’re going to be one of those people featured?

“Yeah totally surreal, and I mean, for one it was quite difficult to put together a mini docco like that during pandemic, *laughs*. But aside from all that, we were looking for a platform, a media to be able to share some of my life stories, and  particularly the deeper sides, and the only way we were gonna be comfortable doing that was to team up with a production that we trusted and so it was suggested that Australian Story might be a good match and fortunately the Australian Story team thought the same thing. I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years but  every now and then I’d go wow this is like, it’s not just an interview, this is like a mini docco, they’re involving my parents, involving my wife, they’re involving some of my artist friends that I look up to like Diesel and Ash Grunwald, and my old manager, and lots of, you know the head of the Starlight Foundation, and my oncologist. So I did have those sort of moments where it’s like OK this is pretty big, this is pretty epic, but I didn’t expect to get an education from it. During that three to four hour long interview that they then cut down into little bits that go within the half an hour that form the narrative, I didn’t expect to learn so much about myself, cause they were asking some pretty tough questions and I had to kind of dig around in the past and dig up things that I buried a long time ago, and I’m glad I did because I’ve learned a few things about myself.”

Well I’m looking forward to seeing it, there’s so much to cover, because, and this isn’t even going to cover half of it, but over your career you released your debut album at 11, you starred in the same movie that launched Jessica Alba’s career, you were called the future of blues by B.B. King, worked with Jimmy Barnes, Diesel, Tommy Emmanuel, jammed with Mark Knopfler, been endorsed by Peavey, performed the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000, you’ve performed for Bill Clinton, shared a talk show spot with Dr Dre, been in a band with Cole Hatchman who holds the Guinness World Record for loudest drummer, and you signed to Michael Jackson’s record label after being scouted by Madonna and Prince.  I guess the next question is, is there actually anything that you haven’t done?

“Well yeah there’s plenty, well for one, when you say that now I now understand why I was so tired for a few years. *laughs* You know when I look back to those times it really does feel like somebody else had lived it, my reality now is so different and my connection with music has evolved into something. It’s sort of the same as what it was when I was a kid but it’s also different because I’ve lived so much life. I think I’m looking forward to, you know, when I played on those stages it’s kinda like there was a good part of me on there but not all of me because I walked onstage with very green confidence, you know, cause I was so young. I didn’t really know what rock bottom feels like, I mean, there’s always further down than what you’ve been, but over the past 10 or so years when I’ve hit those dark places, to come back from that and then get up onstage again, it’s like you really are bringing your fears onto the stage, you’re bringing all your vulnerabilities onto the stage, and then to open up in a way that’s confident, it feels so different. So yeah, it feels like another life, another career I suppose, and I’m a little bit more in touch with why I do what I do. Before, I just used to do it.”

 It was just that thing you did every day.

“Well yeah it was, and I did learn a lot from going back. I used to just bury the past because for a long time I was kind of ashamed of it strangely, but I think during that sort of three or four years when I wasn’t intending to return to music, this was like a few years ago, I found myself reconnecting with music like I had done when I was a kid, because when I was a kid I wasn’t thinking career or ‘how to,’ you know, get a hit song or anything I was just like, get into the garage and play music, music that moves me and then that was it. So I kind of got back to that place recently, and then it’s just grown since then.”



As I stated earlier, you kicked off your career in the 90’s as a solo blues musician, then in the early 2000’s you kind of moved towards more of a rock style when you were fronting bands like Dirty Skanks and Nat Cole and the Kings, now these days you’re back to being a solo artist. How has your creative process changed throughout the years and through your musical evolution, is it still roughly the same or do you sort of come at it completely differently these days?

“It is a bit different, I mean, well, definitely the type of songs I’m releasing are different. Say for example, lyrics were always 2nd to me, it was just like I’m going to come up with a riff, or the chord progression, or the melody and then, you know, alright now last thing we’re going to do is let’s get some lyrics into this, bang bang bang bang and I wouldn’t put too much thought in, particularly evident with my first punk rock band *laughs*. It was also a bit production driven, you know, I’d often write my music in the studio. But over the last five years, and this probably goes back to me collaborating with Don Walker from Cold Chisel, and he would write all of his songs just him, his voice and a piano, that’s it. I’ve always believed, even though I haven’t always applied it, that a song, if you can play it just bare bones guitar, voice or piano, voice, whatever and it resonates then that’s a strong song. You shouldn’t need any of these other fancy productions and stuff like that, you know, you can make the song cool, but the strongest songs will always be… Ed Sheeran is a prime example of that, he can get up on stage 95,000 people him and a guitar, that’s it.  That’s because he’s a really good songwriter, so I just made a point of writing my songs like that over the last five years. I would deliberately stay right away from the studio and just my voice, lyrics with melodies, my guitar and that’s it, and then once it could stand by itself in that situation, then I’ll take it to the studio and start thinking production. So that’s the creative process now.”

Now final question, as we’ve covered you’ve done a hell of a lot in your life so far, and being in the spotlight I guess it’s easy for people to slap a label on you or put you in the box that they want you to fit in. When people hear the name Nathan Cavaleri what do you want them to think? Is he the young guitar prodigy, is he the rock and roll front man, is he all of the above or something different entirely?

“Ohhh, *laughs* yeah save the big one for last. Yeah well, I mean, I’ve always hated that name, guitar prodigy, I hated it, and I say that lightheartedly, because I’ve never, even though it may seem like it, I’ve never really thought of myself as a guitarist. I’ve always tried to, like when I spend my time learning it’s to be an artist as a whole, I really want to communicate, that’s the important thing for me. I have two primary goals, they’re equally as important. One is to start from a place of self-expression, ‘what do I want to express?’ and then the second which is equally as important is, ‘is this song gonna resonate with people?’. Not just with your guitar enthusiasts or whatever, but just with people, it has to be relatable so I suppose I use music as a form of communication and connection, and if people feel that and see it like that, then I think I’m on the I’m on the right track.”

If you get the chance, make sure to check out Nathan Cavaleri during his Australian tour. Dates below:

DEMONS NATIONAL TOUR

Nathan and his team are working with all venues in line with government regulations in each state and territory, and will proceed only in accordance with safe social distancing and COVID-19 safety procedures on a show by show basis.

FRI 2 OCT | THE RHYTHM HUT, GOSFORD, NSW | ALL AGES – UNDER 18’s MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY PARENT/GUARDIAN
Tickets available from www.humantix.com.au | 02 4322 5971| Venue Outlet
SAT 3 OCT | STAG & HUNTER, NEWCASTLE, NSW | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets
FRI 9 OCT | BRASS MONKEY, CRONULLA, NSW | 18+
Tickets available from https://brassmonkey.oztix.com.au/outlet/event/18d325c7-57f4-43f7-9779-069c5f32ad7d
FRI 16 OCT | THE PEPPER TREE, ALDINGA, SA | 18+
Tickets available from www.trybooking.com | 0400 144 467 | All Trybooking Outlets
SAT 17 OCT | THE WHEATSHEAF HOTEL, ADELAIDE, SA| 18+
Tickets available from https://tickets.oztix.com.au/outlet/event/6b22d472-26f5-44bb-924d-064150dd769c?utm_source=Oztix&utm_medium=Website&utm_content=EventGuide
FRI 30 OCT | CAMELOT LOUNGE, SYDNEY, NSW | ALL AGES – UNDER 18’s MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY PARENT/GUARDIAN
Tickets available from www.stickytickets.com.au | 02 9550 3777 | Venue Outlet
SAT 31 OCT | SMITHS ALTERNATIVE, CANBERRA, ACT | ALL AGES – UNDER 18’s MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY PARENT/GUARDIAN
Tickets on-sale soon
SUN 1 NOV | HERITAGE HOTEL, BULLI, NSW | 18+
Tickets available from https://codeone.oztix.com.au/outlet/event/a929a516-f7cd-4ab7-abab-fa2e8df6c7ea
THU 12 NOV | SOOKI LOUNGE, BELGRAVE VIC | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets
FR 13 NOV | THE CATFISH, FITZROY, VIC | 18+
Tickets available from www.trybooking.com | 0426 892 044 | All Trybooking Outlets
SAT 14 NOV | LIVE AT THE BUNDY, BUNDALAGUAH, VIC | ALL AGES – UNDER 18’s MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY PARENT/GUARDIAN
Tickets available from www.trybooking.com| 0429 352 373 | All Trybooking Outlets
FRI 27 NOV | THE BAROQUE ROOM, KATOOMBA, NSW | 18+
Tickets available from www.trybooking.com| 0426 892 044 | All Trybooking Outlets
FRI 11 DEC | IMPERIAL HOTEL, EUMUNDI, QLD | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets
SAT 12 DEC | THE FOUNDRY, BRISBANE, QLD | 18+
Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets
SUN 13 DEC | MO’S DESERT CLUBHOUSE, BURLEIGH HEADS, QLD | 18+ (Afternoon/early evening show)
Tickets available from www.mosdesertclubhouse.com | Venue Outlet
SAT 3 APR, 2021 | BLUESFEST, NSW | AA
Tickets available from www.bluesfest.com.au
SUN 4 APR, 2021 | BLUESFEST, NSW | AA
Tickets available from www.bluesfest.com.au


Find Nathan online on Facebook, Instagram or nathancavaleri.com and be sure to check out his album launch at twich.tv/nathancavaleri



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With thanks to On The Map PR

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