Nathan Cavaleri has had some amazing experiences in his 36 years, in life and in the music industry. He says the most recent lesson he has learnt from life’s vicissitudes is to be grateful. “You can kick all these goals in the world, but you have to take time to digest what you’ve done,” he says. “It’s how we react and respond. That’s how it will affect our future.”
He has been in the spotlight since age seven when he was given the chance to meet his guitar hero Mark Knofler, through the Starlight Foundation, having been diagnosed with leukaemia a year earlier. The meeting was covered by the Today show and his guitar playing won the hearts of Australia. The term child prodigy was attached to him, which he hated. “That was the biggest misconception. Ask my parents, they will tell you I was definitely not naturally musically skilled. I had a passion to play and a love of music; anybody who spends that much time doing something is going to come out with decent skills. It’s hard work.”
What followed was regular appearances on Hey, Hey it’s Saturday, and recognition by Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes. At age 10 he toured with Barnes and Diesel for five weeks, and they guested on the youngster’s debut album, along with Tommy Emmanuel.
On a world tour he met blues legend BB King who asked Cavaleri to perform with Bonnie Raitt and Etta Jones at his Presidential Award ceremony. He was 13, and playing for US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary. His first US album was on Michael Jackson’s MJJ Records label. At the ripe old age of 15 he stepped away from performing to “recalibrate” and finish school.
Gradually venturing back into the spotlight he had a craving to be on the road with mates. That led to the formation of Nat Col and the Kings in 2010. But three albums and extensive touring later, Cavaleri developed adrenal fatigue and anxiety. It was time to step away from the stage again.
He concentrated on his ‘day job’ as a composer for the screen, big and small. “I love the balance – as long as I’m doing something for my art.” One of his most memorable and gold award-winning pieces is the chorus in the Bundaberg rum commercial Men Like Us.
After four years and many conversations with artist friends who offered advice and spoke about their own fears, he realised how fortunate he had been. “I’ve met some amazing people over the years, and there probably wasn’t one artist who wasn’t doing what they wanted to do. I had to ask myself, ‘why do I want to perform?’. It needed to be a more complicated answer than ‘I love music’. I thought ‘I’ve got something to say’. The part I really love is to connect with people – in a deep way or fun way, and I love playing music really loud. Every time I’ve come to Port it’s been great.”