Dream big. It’s a philosophy that’s driven Aussie performer Nathaniel for a great number of years. And since captivating audiences as part of the 2012 ‘X Factor’ competition, those dreams are seemingly coming true on a daily basis. There’s a debut single that’s edging towards triple platinum sales, a new track that’s barely left the iTunes top 20 since its release… and now, America is calling.
Nathaniel’s dreams started to be realised almost eight years ago when, under a flop of curly hair, he took his first tentative steps onto the stage of ‘Australian Idol’. But proved to be a massive wake up call; the singer quick to admit that he wasn’t ready.
“It was full on,” he admits. “I really hadn’t done much gigging or performing before that. I was still learning vocally. I got quite far – top 24 – but I was 20 years old – turning 21 and it was just a lot for me to handle.”
Immediate national exposure was followed by a hit of attention. But it was short lived; Nathaniel forced to go back to the drawing board soon after.
“A couple of opportunities came my way and then it just died down. It was pretty full on. It was so overwhelming and then… nothing happened and then you’re back to square one.
“You throw yourself in the deep end and challenge yourself and it didn’t really work out for me. I suffered from mild depression because it just knocked me around after the show. But I look back now eight years down the track and recognise that I wasn’t even ready to take on what I needed to take on.”
So affected was he by the ‘Idol’ experience, Nathaniel knocked back an offer to appear on the show again just two years later. But fast forward another four years and ‘X Factor’ came calling. He tells us that although he’d initially rejected the ‘X Factor’ offer too, his good friend Gary Pinto – a vocal coach on the show – persuaded him to change his mind.
“I’d written and produced a song and had sent it to Gary,” Nathaniel explains. “And I asked him to give me a call and let me know what he thought of it. Obviously he’d heard that I’d said ‘no’ to appearing on the show.
“To cut a long story short, Gary and I spoke about everything except the song that I sent him. We pretty much chatted about ‘X Factor’ for a couple of hours and he twisted my arm to do it. He opened my eyes to see things from a different perspective.
“We got back in contact with the producers. The audition process was over by that time, but I did the audition for the producers and…”
Nathaniel tells us that his appearance on ‘The X Factor’ was really his last shot at making a name for himself in the music business, with the days of labels spending years developing artists seemingly a thing of the past.
“Having a fan base is so important in today’s music business,” he admits. “You need a following to be able to sell records. These platforms like ‘Idol’, ‘X Factor’ and ‘The Voice’ are huge for people like me to go on and give it a crack and hope for the best. That’s how I looked at it.”
Ten months after ‘X Factor’, his debut single ‘You’ was released. One of the most stylish productions to emerge from the DNA studios in Sydney, ‘You’ conquered the charts, hitting the top five and notching up double platinum sales. Nathaniel had arrived.
“We came up with a whole bunch of ideas during the day and nothing sounded like a hit,” the singer admits. “We’d maybe create music and write a hook for it, but nothing was a hit and we’d move onto the next idea. So we did that all day.
“Later that night, after hours of frustration where we couldn’t get anything out, we went out for a bite to eat and were pretty much ready to call it a night and I walked out of the door and started singing that hook for ‘You’ and asked the guys ‘do you think that’s cool?’
“We thought it was a bit silly at first, but then it just worked out. One thing led to another and we finished the song the next day. That’s how ‘You’ came about.”
Topping it was – in Nathaniel’s own words – “going to be tough to beat”, but he and his team decided to stick with a familiar formula for his just-released follow-up, ‘You’re Beautiful’.
“We wanted to make sure that it was in the same realm as ‘You’, but have points of difference. We looked at Lorde and almost all of Lorde’s songs are identical or close to being the same type of sound. So we didn’t want to sway too much.
“I’ve had feedback from friends and other people who’ve said it sounds exactly the same as ‘You’. It doesn’t sound exactly the same. It’s in that same area stylistically in sound and vision terms. We wanted to follow through with that falsetto vibe, but we wanted to make it a bit edgier, a bit ballsier and with a bit more lyrical depth.”
Part of Nathaniel’s cunning plans for his solo career have been to ensure that everything about his releases looks, feels and sounds international; from the artwork for the singles, to the video treatments to the songs themselves. Nathaniel’s ambitions are grand.
“From day one, the brief I gave to Sony, my manager and even the DNA guys was that I didn’t want to get stuck in this little bubble of doing music to please this country. I want it to go overseas. And still my priority and number one plan is to go overseas and get my music out there and heard.
“If everyone else can do it then why can’t I? A lot of people are stuck in this bubble of thinking it’s too hard and there are too many people doing it. Stuff that. I’m going to go for it. I’ve always been a big dreamer and I’m always so ambitious. Everyone at the company always laughs at my emails in terms of what I want to do. But I live by a quote I saw recently that read, ‘If they don’t laugh at your goals, they’re not big enough’.”
And it seems that some very influential people overseas are indeed paying attention, with Nathaniel jetting off to the US next weekend to perform a showcase for none other than L.A. Reid, the Chairman and CEO of Epic Records.
“Yeah, poor me,” he laughs. “I’m doing a couple of showcases for a whole heap of people when I get over to America when I go there next week. But South Africa I’d like to be released, Germany and we’re looking at the UK. But America’s the biggest one. I wanna take over the world.”
At the same time as Nathaniel continues to plot his global domination, he’s also hard at work on his forthcoming debut album, which he hints we’ll see towards the middle of the year. He’ll be doing more songwriting while he’s Stateside.
“The main thing, which I said to my manager and the guys at Sony, is that I want to come back with an album that is undeniable and so good.”
And if Mister Reid decides he want to get him into a studio in the States?
“Let’s do it!” Nathaniel says. “Anything’s possible. I’m the type of dude where if it honestly came down to me needing to relocate there, I’d pick up my stuff and go. I’m trying to go for the big fish now. I’ve been trying to do this for ten years and I’m not getting any younger.”
Yes, Nathaniel might not be getting any younger. But for now it seems, his dreams only seem to be getting bigger.
Nathaniel’s new single ‘You’re Beautiful’ is available now.