Defining Success And Playing For The Right Reasons By Nathan Cavaleri
He's just released a new single Demons, with some tour dates to boot.
Nathan Cavaleri has had a flippin' crazy career so far - by age 12 he was at the centre of a bidding war between Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna's label, toured with BB King at 16, and played with Etta James and Bonnie Raitt in front of the Clintons. He also overcame a battle with Leukaemia, before his battle with insomnia and anxiety came to a head in 2010, collapsing on stage at a music festival in front of thousands. Fast forward to now and his new single Demons finds him confronting that insane history, searching for a positive outcome to all of this.
And so he seems like someone who might know a thing or two about making your way in this crazy, at times very ridiculous, music industry. As such we're stoked to welcome a short essay from the man himself which you can check out below, along with the single and a bunch of upcoming tour dates:
“Throw away your guitar, people don’t want to hear it anymore. It’s all about urban beats and synths. Rock’n’Roll is dead!”
As far as I was concerned, industry knows best. I digested his advice when I should have thrown it up. Whilst it was the comment that put me on a path that gave me an education on songwriting, it messed with my artist compass. For years after, I heard music through the ears of the “industry” and not my own.
As a writer signed to EMI, and an artist signed to MJJ (Michael Jackson) and Mushroom, I wrote with many amazing writers and at times, got to see the inner workings of the “machine”. Back to back sessions on co-writing tours sometimes resembled speed dating. I got real good at writing to a formula. Intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, repeat, bridge, key change, final chorus. The day that a writer’s song gets picked up by an artist should be a day of celebration. I didn’t really feel that. If you achieve something that you set out to achieve and you aren’t fulfilled,
your definition of success needs work. For me, writing and playing music had become about success by definition of the industry, which was heavily and understandably driven by dollars. Money was not why I picked up the guitar.
This mindset spilled into my own work as an artist. I spent a year refining songs with my recently acquired toolbox only to receive underwhelming responses from my network. When you’re on the right track, doors open, people buzz and synchronicities appear. As a kid in music I had achieved this and reflection of this period showed me how far off the mark I was. I’d ticked all the “songwriters boxes” but I wasn’t having fun, I didn’t enjoy the process, they didn’t focus on my strengths and the songs were far from genuine. People smell ingenuity from the nosebleed section. Here are a few core principles that helped to get me back on track that I still return to today.
Identify the reasons for playing music
Reasons like “to be successful” or “to get radio play” can put you on many tracks. Radio could support you playing a song that you absolutely hate! Do you play for others? Do you play solely for yourself? Are you playing for fame and fortune? Or do you play to express and connect? Reason shows us where to go and who to work with. Personally, my favourite thing is when I can spark a feeling in someone else through my own self-expression. It’s magic when my own song strikes a chord with the masses.
Listen only to those who align with your purpose
It’s natural to guard yourself from the world’s opinions when they’re directed at your creative “babies” (songs). To broadly disregard all opinions that challenges our own, prevents us from learning about how others are receiving our work. If your goal is to express and connect, it’s important that you ensure that your music is translating. Otherwise what’s the point? Opinions are like buttholes – everyone has one. Only listen to those who truly get what you’re trying to do and try not to take feedback personally. The right people only want you to do well!
Build it and they will come
When you’ve got the above nailed and you’re putting out great songs, trust that you’ll attract like-minded listeners. If that’s not what’s on the radio at the moment, who cares! You might not even like what’s on the radio. If there was ever a time to release the music you love with the aim of attracting your tribe, it’s NOW! These days, nothing stands between artists and audience. You don’t have to impress A&R and you don’t have to impress the content director of drive time radio for people to hear your songs. Work outwards from those who “get you”.
The above anchors help me to decide when to let go and experiment, and when to stand strong. With that balance, you will always be in touch with both yourself and others.
Sat 6 Oct - Mane Events Music Festival, Geelong
Sun 7 Oct - Bar Open, Melbourne
Sat 13 Oct - 5 Church Street, Bellingen
Sun 14 Oct - Panthers, Port MacQuarie
Fri 26 Oct - Mo's Desert Clubhouse, Gold Coast
Sat 27 Oct - Lefty's Old Time Music Hall, Brisbane
Sun 28 Oct - Sol Bar, Marrochydore
Thu 1 Nov - 505, Sydney
Sat 3 Nov - Flow Bar, Old Bar
Sun 4 Nov - The Rhythm Hut, Gosford
Follow Nathan Cavaleri: FACEBOOK