“I can’t sing something I don’t believe in,” says Australian award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician Nathan Gaunt. “I wish I could – it would be so much easier because I could detach myself from it. But it’s kind of cool because it teaches me to stand by what I say. Everything I’ve ever written I’ve believed in.” He adds with a smile, “At the time.”
Growing up on a steady intake of blues, jazz and folk records, Gaunt describes his upbringing as “very nomadic.” Born in Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, his family moved to the deep desert of Alice Springs and eventually settled in Perth, Western Australia. Located on the shores of the Indian Ocean, Perth is considered to be the most isolated city in the world. In fact, it’s closer to Singapore than Sydney, but not really close to either of them. Because of this, “People from Perth have always fought to stand on their own two feet politically and artistically because we are so far from the rest of Australia,” he explains.
But there is something magical about that isolation that seems to have bred an incredible music scene. In fact, Perth is frequently referred to as “the new Seattle.” Bands like the Sleepy Jackson, Eskimo Joe and the Panda Band have already made headway into the American music scene, and Nathan Gaunt is poised to go next.
Once called “the most underrated songwriter in the country” (Rockus Magazine, Australia), Nathan Gaunt has been playing throughout Australia since he’s been old enough - or at least looked old enough - to get into clubs. As a solo musician, he says, “There’s nowhere to hide when I’m on my own. It keeps me honest.” His honesty has paid off:
“Gaunt doesn’t just perform, he puts on a show. He reaches out with his undeniable energy and enthusiasm, making it almost impossible not be infected...he combine(s) the swagger and attitude of Cash and Elvis while all the time sounding like Robert Plant’s lost son.” (X-Press, Australia)
“Nathan on his own is truly breathtaking...” (The Metior, Australia)
“...an undeniable talent for penning a tune that spans the influences of many world music genres, Gaunt cemented his place as a brilliant performer, and a conductor of musical flair and emotion.” (Hype Magazine, Australia)
His work has paid off too. “Gaunt is one of those bizarre music industry studies; an artist who has acquired a massive fan base through sheer hard work, playing nearly every night of the week...and making a fine living out of it too – contrary to popular belief, a rarity in this business.” (X-Press, Australia)
So, how did Nathan Gaunt get here? Let’s take a short trip down memory lane...
His first instrument was the piano. “Enjoyed playing; hated learning. I got whacked with a ruler on the hands constantly because I sucked at it,” he laughs. Nathan picked up his first guitar after he saw Jimi Hendrix play on late night TV. After taking three lessons, he decided to teach himself how to play. “The whole point was to play things I liked - or wrote myself - instead of doing finger exercises,” he says.
He must have been a good teacher, as he has gone on to win four WAMi Awards (the Western Australian Music Industry’s version of the Grammy) for “Best Guitarist.” Add to that a few more awards for “Best Male Vocalist,” and “Best Blues Act,” and you’ll find a mantle that seats eight prestigious awards.
Which brings us to “Headlights on the Hill,” to be released in July in the US on his own independent label, Daydreamusic. The self-produced album features Gaunt playing a great deal of the instruments himself, as well as handling all string arrangements. “A lot of things fell apart while making the album. Relationships, dreams, even ideals,” Nathan says. “Ultimately, it’s a positive record, as towards the end of making it, everything began to coalesce. I think that is the underlying theme. Things will get better, just hang on.”
The album is presented in two sides. “In the days of vinyl, you would have had to change sides on the record, which would have given you time to settle into something new,” he explains. “My favourite records are like that.” he explains. “As of track seven [the album’s first single, Houdini’s Escape], the whole feel of the album changes. It’s less rootsy, more urban.”
“Headlights on the Hill” was released in late 2006 in Australia to national radio airplay, successful tours, and critical acclaim. The Sydney Morning Herald said “Gaunt proves...that Neil Finn might have some competition when it comes to crafting sadly beautiful valentines.” X-Press Magazine has said, “Far from a standard pop songwriter, Gaunt’s ability to encompass everything from Beatles-esque British balladry to Australian and American country music idiosyncrasies, and switch from one style to another within the same riff, has gained him praise for his creativity.” Hype Magazine described “brilliant musicianship, heavenly vocals and amazing songs,” and the Western Australian praised Gaunt’s “wealth of talent.”
With that wealth of talent, his creativity constantly flows. Just this year, he was commissioned to write and record music for a runway show at New York’s infamous Fashion Week, and has just put the finishing touches on “Halcyon Dazed,” an internet-only concept album which pays homage to the great music that was released in 1997. “It gave me the outlet to work in genres that are a little foreign to me, which allowed me to say things I couldn’t say before,” he says of the experience.
Nathan Gaunt is a musician always searching for new experiences, looking for inspiration. “Music isn’t a career choice,” he explains. “It’s a life choice.” His art is continually influenced by his travels and the people he meets along the way. He’ll keep the nomadic spirit of his childhood, constantly traveling the world, performing, with his heart on his sleeve, a song in his soul and a guitar in his hand.