Grandma, Yoda and becoming a role model

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I had $50 to my name, a full tank of gas and a bag of organic brown rice on the back seat as I hit the road for my first ever tour as a professional musician! I’d been booked to play the 2011 White Mountain Folk Festival, in a very magical part of South Africa named the Drakensberg (Dragon’s Mountains), and a 6 week tour around that show, which was also my first ever festival booking.

AND THEN: disaster struck!

(don’t worry, it all turns out great in the end, I promise 😅)! 

I played my first show of the tour just outside of Cape Town and was told that I wasn’t going to be paid cash. This was totally my mistake; being a newcomer I had assumed I was gonna get cash in hand and had planned for that money to be there…but it wasn’t. I sat in a beautiful cabin gazing out over a lake and asking myself, “Should I give up and go home? Should I just accept that this was a mistake and I’ve bitten off more than I can chew? I have no money and no idea how to afford the fuel to drive over 1000km to the festival, am I crazy to carry on?”

Fortunately, I chose to trust in the Divine and knew that there was only one possible choice I could. I would continue!

To give you some background to this adventure, it was in 2011 that this barefoot wild child from the tip of Africa finally dedicated himself to the life of being a musician, at the ripe young age of 28. Before then I’d been too afraid of all the ways it could go wrong, certain that I wasn’t good enough, terrified of failure and shouted into silence by my own insecurities. Finally, something snapped and I made the firm decision to follow my dreams! I moved back in with my dad (thanks pops), telling him, “Papa, I’m gonna be a full-time musician!” And so began my first year as a pro, filled with triumphs and challenges. I tell you, this first tour was both. I’d committed everything I had to getting on the road, to making this tour real and to playing my first folk festival!

Now, back to the story…

I committed to the journey no matter what, not sure how I was even going to afford fuel to make it to the festival. Thankfully I had two shows booked on the way to the festival and enough people attended to make me just enough cash to pay for fuel to get there!

YES, I had made it, I was at White Mountain Folk Fest!!!

This is where it gets interesting 😅

Hear what happened next in the video below (including signing a grandma’s jeans 😍)

There are two more amazing memories from that weekend, one which is a moment I still chuckle about a lot and the other which brings me to tears…in the best of ways:

  • The day after I played I was relaxing on the grass listening to some music when someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned to see a young guy of about twenty sitting with his girlfriend, grinning at me. “We were at your show yesterday! We loved it and we’ve been talking about you. We think you’re like Yoda and you have a lot you can teach us.” I chuckled and responded, “firstly, thank you, that’s a massive compliment…And I have to tell you that everything I talk about in my songs and stories are the things I’m still trying to learn myself!” He paused, looked at me and, with timing a master comedian would be proud of, replied: “That’s just what Yoda would say.” I wish I could tell that guy how much much joy that memory has brought me since then. I’m still trying to learn the Yoda lessons in my songs, but that memory helps me to keep laughing about it, even after all these years.
  • The final thing is when I was standing at a stall filled with beautiful handmade clothing the next day, chatting with a friend, when I noticed a boy of around twelve walking past with his mom. I saw him look at me and quickly turn to say something to her. She smiled and nodded and they walked over to me. As he got closer he stretched his hand out with his arm locked straight, wanting to shake my hand and clearly very nervous, his eyes round and a star-struck look on his face to be meeting me in person. We chatted for a bit and I thanked him for listening to my music the day before. You may be thinking that this is just a simple little interaction, but I’m here trying not to cry while I write this sitting in a crowded café, because knowing that that little dude saw me in such a positive light has been an inspiration to me ever since. I wish I’d had more vulnerable and gentle men as role models when I was growing up and knowing that I could model those characteristics for this young man was a humbling moment for me. Thank you, Jayden, I will always remember you with gratitude!

Since that incredible first festival I’ve played many others, received a National Arts Festival Ovation Award and released well-received albums…and yet, time and again, I return to little magical moments like the ones in this post. They make this whole journey, all the ups and the many downs, absolutely worth it for me.

This is what it comes down to: It’s people like you, who listen to my music, join my online livestreams and attend my shows -and ask me to sign your jeans and share a hug or handshake- who make my world sparkle and shine…and I appreciate that -and you- more than I can say. Things have come so far now, I’ve just released my brand new raw and acoustic album Wild & Free, recorded live in a farm loft in South Africa, I’m supported by an world-spanning tribe of patrons (called the Nateives) and I get to share this life with Beloved Carly, our four dogs and You! Blessings on all levels! Thank you for listening to my stories and songs and for being a part of it all with me. I’m excited about our adventures ahead. You make it all matter. I hope to hear any thoughts or feelings which you have about what I’ve shared, just comment below and I’ll be so happy to read!

Yours in music (and magical hugs, of course)
Nathan (or Nate, either is fine 😁)

PS: the featured photo is from White Mountain Festival, another artist had sadly lost her voice so I offered to go up and sing a song or two with the guitarist…but that’s a story you’ll have to remind me to tell you another time 😉. My gosh I was so young then 😅

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