Stay focused, never give up: Nathan Foley’s life on the road
For a man who spends a lot of time on planes and cruise ships, Nathan Foley’s feet are planted firmly on the ground.
Nathan’s day job is to sing his heart out and tour the world as a guest entertainer for some of the major cruise liners. With an international professional career spanning 26 years, Nathan has a lot of wisdom to impart on those dreaming of success in the performing arts. If anyone knows what it’s like to live out of a suitcase, it’s Nathan. He has been travelling the world since he was 19 and takes beautiful pictures documenting his adventures.
As a member of the original 5-time ARIA award-winning Hi-5, he spent a decade touring, recording, and performing with the group. He diversified into musical theatre on shows such as Mamma Mia, and Jerry Springer The Opera, and in 2016, he won the prestigious accolade of Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year.
It’s hard to keep up with the many talents he has and while his versatility certainly has contributed to his success, he says he’s still striving to improve. This down-to-earth Aussie has skills in singing, dancing, acting, songwriting, playing the piano and guitar, and photography. With the belief that an entertainer’s longevity is dependent on their voice and health, he never tours without his humidifier, and he makes sure to look after his body by eating and sleeping well.
Through our conversation I sense a kindred soul who is dedicated to the craft of singing. Nathan emphasised that a singer’s job is to be a storyteller and encourages singers to think about the lyrics of the story that they are telling. When a performer focuses on communication and portraying themselves, he believes that the voice and emotions flow. Furthermore, he advises to “never think of face and hand gestures, that will come. It’s all about being that storyteller and finding natural vulnerability.”
I caught up with him during his break from touring, to gauge some advice for performers seeking longevity in the entertainment industry. He spoke with sincerity and an evident passion for his art. For someone so successful, he was very gracious and generous with his time.
“I don’t get much of a break these days, 2 ½ weeks has been my biggest break in 2 years.”
A quick chat with Nathan:
How did winning the “Entertainer of the Year” title in 2016 change your life?
It hasn’t changed my life, it has made me want to work harder. Accolades are good but a lot of people stop there and think they know it all. I’m still trying to improve my voice, and give my audience more of what they want and love. I haven’t stopped, I’m trying to get the best show possible. I’m putting two more shows together. It’s given me a kick up the butt to improve more. Because of the win, I get to choose where I want to be and where I want to go and when but it’s harder to have time off.
How did the award come about?
There are 2000 guest entertainers for Princess Cruises, and 800 were considered to pick the top 4 nominees. The awards are judged by the people so that was really good. The passengers were able to rate their experience of food, crew, and entertainment, and they gave me good ratings. Americans had no idea about my show but they loved it and a nomination came up. I think it was unexpected. I’d spent 5 years on and off, cruising around Australia and by my 3rd year I wanted to go overseas. American companies don’t usually send Aussies to their cruises, they tend to keep locals. I was asking for a while and eventually got a 6-week gig on an Alaskan trip.
What’s your philosophy?
My biggest philosophy is to respect the people you work with and appreciate every job you do. You gotta have a good attitude, respect everyone you work with. Ego can cause problems so be the best you can be. Longevity was summed up well in an interview featuring Clint Eastwood. He said, “you can have all talent in the world but 90% of success is luck.” I truly believe that. Just think of how many talentless people you see on top of charts, and yet there are talented people who don’t get the same opportunities. Stay focused. Never give up.
Since you currently have the best job in the world, what is the worst job you ever had to do?
I haven’t put my hand up for the worst job ever but some are less attractive than others. I’ve been working since I was 10 doing club and corporate work and I spent my schooling years in corporate shows. After my Hi-5 contract, it was difficult to find work that would support me for a little while. Australia is a small community for entertainment compared to the U.S and U.K. I had an agent who got me into Music Theatre where I performed in Jerry Springer the Opera, Grease on the Beach, and Mamma Mia.
It’s called show business for a reason. We like the show part, but it is a business and it needs to pay the bills. Some gigs pay hardly anything to cover your petrol. I treated them as learning experiences. Sometimes I worked a room with 20 people, and other times I’d perform to 25,000 people. I never looked at it differently. I don’t compare, I just went out there and did the best I could, that what my folks taught me.
What is your next big adventure?
Family is very important to me. I’d love to eventually settle one day. I still have dreams to make a mark in music, television, or acting. I don’t want to get to 60 and say I never tried. I honestly don’t care about fame and money, I just want to be happy.
Nathan Foley facts for your next trivia night
- 3 Logies
- 5 Aria awards
- Helpmann award
- MO Award – Best Young Entertainer
- A.C.E Award – Best Young Entertainer
- Variety Humanitarian Award – Best Young Artist of the year
- Logie nomination – Best Up and Coming Television Presenter
- Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year