Fresh from getting hitched in Capetown, South Africa, Nathaniel Willemse's folks decided to honeymoon in Australia and promptly fell in love with the place. So much so that a few years later when his Dad was offered a job down under, they packed up six year old Nathaniel with the rest of the family and settled in Melbourne for good.
Nathaniel’s family didn't count on their son making an impact with Australian TV audiences, not once but twice, and ending up as this country's newest star, but you'd have to say it’s not a bad result. It helped that there was a strong musical undercurrent running through the family that nurtured and encouraged Nathaniel’s talent from a young age.
"Music was a big part of growing up," says Nathaniel. "My mum sings and my dad's brothers could all sing and play an instrument. Poor old dad was the only one who missed out on the musical skills!"
Nathaniel certainly got his fair share of the Willemse musical talent. A musician, songwriter and producer, Nathaniel grabbed the nation's attention with his soaring, soulful voice on The X Factor in 2012, just as he had a few years earlier on Australian Idol. "Being on Idol made me realise that I wasn't ready," Nathaniel reflects. "I wasn't yet a musician or songwriter, my voice was still maturing, and I hadn't worked out who I was as an artist."
One thing Nathaniel did have early on was determination. "When I was eighteen I decided that nothing was going to stop me making my way in the music industry. Everything from there was all part of the learning process."
Some solid mentoring and good times with Guy Sebastian helped that process. There was the time Guy dragged Nathaniel onstage in a bar in New York. "That was mind blowing!" says Nathaniel. "Here I was in another country, being dragged by Guy Sebastian up to sing with a band that usually plays with Alicia Keys!"
Nathaniel has now forged his own sound; a synthesis of R&B, pop, funk, and rock, with an innate sophistication and understated emotional power. His debut single 'You' is more than the sum of its parts. Mid tempo swagger, earworm hook and a falsetto made out of crystal, it serves up all of Nathaniel's strengths as a performer and writer.
'You' was borne out of the collaboration between Nathaniel and Australia’s premium songwriting and production team, David Musumeci and Anthony Egizii, aka DNA. This wasn’t your standard pop music hook up - The DNA boys saw something special in Nathaniel. So much so they signed him to DNA’s own boutique label. Nathaniel and DNA have now formed a genuine musical partnership, kindred spirits in the studio from here on in.
Despite that bond, ‘You’ almost didn't happen. Nathaniel tells the story. "We'd been in a song writing session for about eight or nine hours and nothing was working. We were getting frustrated so decided to break for dinner. As we were walking out the door of the studio I started singing, just making up stuff on the spot. The DNA guys looked at each other, looked at me and shouted, "That's it!" and rushed to the piano. Pretty soon the song was done."
You'll be pleased to know they still got dinner.
Nathaniel Willemse is a young man on the edge of something big. Energies are gathering, momentum is building and everything's going up a level. "I can't wait for people to hear my music," says Nathaniel. "I've been working hard for a lot of years to make this happen."
Nathaniel lists what he wants to achieve. "Grammy awards, number one songs ... world domination," he says with a laugh, but then turns serious. "I want to be in a position where I can help people. If I can say something with my music that makes a positive impact, then I’ll know I’ve done my job."