Mo' Blues

15 August 2012 | 6:00 am | Matt O'Neill

"And that’s why we kind of avoid terms like traditional... with complete respect for those sorts of artists, blues bands can often be quite conservative. Very calm and orderly. We’re a much freer band."

Sometimes, a throwaway remark says it all. Nathan Cavaleri has a more interesting musical career than most to discuss – few guitarists can lay claim to having toured with BB King at age thirteen – but it's an idle comment about a videoclip that seems to reveal the most about his work as a musician. More specifically, the surreal videoclip for his band Nat Col & The Kings' new single Coming Home.

“Well, with all due respect to bands like Nickelback and bands like that, we just didn't want Coming Home to have some power ballad video – you know, us playing our guitars in the rain or whatever,” Cavaleri laughs – the actual video revolving around a man in a furry animal suit frolicking through the Australian wilderness. “There's a director down here that we like to work with and he just pitches ideas like that at us. We couldn't resist.”

In a sentence, Cavaleri says all he needs to about his outlook as a musician. Given his background, one would be inclined to expect Cavaleri to be either a mainstream musician safely ensconced within a bubble of his own success – or a nerdish musician more concerned with flashy playing than any genuine sense of artistry. As such a reactionary outlook to videography attests; neither is the case.

Having turned to the guitar when diagnosed with leukaemia as a child, Nathan Cavaleri found considerable success as a teenage guitar prodigy. In addition to playing with BB King, he also performed at the opening ceremony of 2000's Paralympic Games and released three albums with Epic Records. Yet, he actually walked away from such success – not touching his guitar for five years and producing local acts in his garage.

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“I stepped away from the actual instrument when I was seventeen for, I don't know, maybe five years. I did some work as a labourer, I got into producing. I actually produced some local hip hop acts,” the guitarist chuckles. “You know, I just needed to know what I wanted from music. I needed to kind of figure out what I wanted to do rather than just kind of float by on autopilot.”

It's an attitude particularly reflected by his work with Nat Col & The Kings. Formed with former Screaming Jets drummer Col Hatchman, Nat Col & The Kings are ostensibly a blues-rock band – but they're not traditionalists. There's a raw, muscular, contemporary edge to Cavaleri's songwriting (the guitarist having stepped up to the mic in recent years as well) that plants them firmly in the present. At the vanguard, even.

“Yeah, with blues, I get drawn to the older stuff – but I can hear the influence of that older stuff in bands like Queens Of The Stone Age. When you listen to Jack White's stuff, you can hear that older blues stuff. And it's that sound that I love,” Cavaleri explains. “You know, because it just fucking grabs you and punches a hole straight through your heart. It hits you hard; whenever you hear it.

“And that's why we kind of avoid terms like traditional,” the guitarist laughs. “With complete respect for those sorts of artists, blues bands can often be quite conservative. Very calm and orderly. We're a much freer band. You know, in all those years between my solo work and The Kings, I was working in all different genres away from blues. And I think you can hear where we've folded all that stuff back into our version of the blues.”