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A Place To Share My Music, My Experiences And What I’ve Learned Along The Way

The last couple of years touring with my band at the time, Nat Col & the Kings, were tough. Anxiety started to appear in unpredictable places - before a gig, after a day in the studio, in bed or even at a BBQ with friends or family. One minute life was awesome, and in a split second it felt like someone had spiked my drink. The world around me became skewed and surreal, and my mind started second guessing every little thing. I remember one morning waking up so anxious that I couldn’t decide whether to brush my teeth before or after having a fucking shower! ha! It’s funny now, but I honestly thought I was housing bats in the belfry. I soldiered on.

This anxiety particularly showed itself during a run of Nat Col & the Kings gigs in Victoria. By this time, every day was a wrestle with emotion. I’d been struggling with insomnia for almost a year by now. I’d be awake for a good three to four hours most nights. My body felt faint on the tour bus and anxiety was intermittently washing over me. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Just before stepping on stage, I felt a wave of fatigue and my blood sugar felt low. The world around me twisted itself into a horror movie. We had no tour manager to call on for help and a festival crowd waiting. I sucked it up, launched myself on stage and busted out a high energy blues rock set that made Nat Col & the Kings so much fun.

I had never, ever had to worry about my mental health on stage. It had always been a place where I felt untouchable. The first few years of my career had me performing whilst going through chemo, so I was used to leaving my problems off stage. But on this particular occasion, they followed me. I felt pins and needles take over my body, and gravity brought me to my knees. The band continued but sounded like they were in another room. I didn’t know what I was playing, or what to sing. I looked up at the thousand odd blurred faces, and freaked. “I can’t finish the set. I want out!”. I took a moment side of stage while the band continued and found some courage to get the job done.

I passed out afterwards just for long enough to remember that I had to cart all our gear over to main stage and bust out another 90 minute set in 2 hours time. No food. No drinks. No peace away from festival madness. That’s the first time I ever had a full blown anxiety attack!

Before I experienced it myself, I could never understand people who complained about anxiety. Even in times of self-doubt, my emotions had always been manageable, mainly because I could always see a way. But the extremities of these physical and mental sensations were a shock. All I saw was black with no way out, hence the panic.

A week later, we played a gig with Rose Tattoo. The Insomnia I experienced in the lead up to the gig was crazy. When it came to the day of the gig, I could not stop sleeping. I felt drugged. When I was awake, I was in a state of panic because I didn’t know what was going on. Courage and the fear of shame that comes with cancelling a gig were the only reasons I pushed through. Funnily enough, it was a great gig but I knew then that my freedom on stage had vanished. I was cautiously trying to keep my mind steady. The music was secondary.

I was flying blind. Every single commitment in my daily life became an emotional gauntlet. I did two big tours in that state before I decided to pull the plug and work out what the fuck was going on.

Now, three and a half years later, I look back on that period with gratitude. Major lessons have been learned. There’s no mystery as to why my mind and body caved. The most challenging part was taking the first steps, mainly because of the lack of “success stories”. It would have been so helpful to hear how my favourite artists overcame similar challenges, but I couldn’t find anything. It was easy to find people who solved their problems with medication but that’s a path I didn’t want to take straight away. My question was always, “I haven’t always been like this. Why am I like this now?” I’m glad I stuck to my guns.

This website is the first step out of my healing cave. It’ll be an open workspace where I’ll be sharing anything from the tools I learned during my recovery of chronic fatigue/anxiety/depression (whatever you want to call it) to my experiences growing up on the road. I’ll share my favourite writing and production techniques, my philosophies on the music industry as well as my journey back to the stage. Oh, and maybe a few guitar licks!

I’m not sure what the future holds and just like the rest of us, I’m a work in progress. Us musicians tend to wait until we’re feeling perfect before we launch ourselves out into the world. I suppose this is my way of flipping that on its head!

 

70 Comments

  1. Malcolm Gully17/10/2016

    Well that’s a fine start to the site. Reads well. I’m stuffed if I know what to say right now but bravo! I won’t say ” I had one but the wheels fell off, type thing”. Thanks Nathan looking forward to more.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      haha!!! Why thank you Malcolm!

      Reply
  2. Bev17/10/2016

    Thanks for sharing this Nath. Like anything that people suffer… sharing your own experiences helps those in the same situation to feel less isolated and helpless… whilst those who do not suffer from it can understand what others might be going through.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      That’s my motivation. I’m glad it resonated. Always good to hear from you Bev.

      Reply
  3. Crispian17/10/2016

    Nice blog Nathan. Good on you for coming out. It’s the first step to healing. I suffered depression & anxiety although I no longer suffer depression I still deal with minor anxiety. It takes work but now you are aware of it, now it becomes easier to manage. Trust me you will get your life back. Your already starting.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      With all the knowledge in the world, reassurance is always needed. So thank you very much for that. Means a lot.

      Reply
  4. Alex Black17/10/2016

    Wow! thank you for sharing part of your journey fighting anxiety. I too have had attacks where everything becomes so overwhelming you feel like your ghosting! Everyday still is a fight to stay above it all. It’s always nice to hear how other people experience and overcome their demons. Awareness is the biggest cure of all. Looking forward to reading more.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      Yo Alex!!! Any way I can help, let me know. You are right. Awareness is where it’s at. Another commonly missed ingredient is “acceptance”. This can be so tough because it means we have to welcome our fears in their entirety. But anixety/fear cannot existence without resistance. It’s amazing how quickly an emotion passes when we accept it fully. Take a look at happiness. ha! Love to ya xx

      Reply
  5. Damien17/10/2016

    Thanks for opening up mate,I know all too well what it can be like.
    I went through the same sort of thing after I was diagnosed with heart failure at 30 years old.
    It felt like the world was closing in on me and I was being swallowed up at times.
    I’m ok now but sometimes feel it creeping up again.
    Just gotta stay positive,and it does help to talk about it and open up hey.
    All the best mate and take care.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      I’m sorry to hear of your challenge and I’m also glad that my article resonated. It is true. Staying positive and focused on what we want/ what we have rather than what we don’t is an empowering habit to get into. Acceptance is another one. As challenging as it is. Emotions come and go so quickly when we welcome them with love. It sounds a bit “woo woo” but there’s so much truth in it. All the best as well.

      Reply
  6. Shane Stewart17/10/2016

    Awesome blog Nathan, honest, we( musicians/artists) are wired different then most .. People in the spot light have to always be on form…. The more success the more scrutinised …. I don’t know how true this is its just my opinion.. The emotions are left best for song writing.. really putting ones emotions on for display… In the songwriting process…Right… So its okay to have a shithouse day and make a song about that…. But if we have a shithouse day on stage… All sorts of ramifications happen…. Its emotion sometimes it can’t be controlled… Medicate or not to medicate …. I was on pills(for depression) but became numb mentally non creative.. I gave it shot and didn’t take my pills anymore I feel emotion… The good and the bad… More good then bad….maybe with age come maturity… This could help or be pure dribble …. I don’t know but just putting it out there….. Peace

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      Hell yeah! The best songs in the world have come from a place of suffering! It’s a great way to look at it.
      I see your pickle. I suppose maturity is as a result of experience and knowledge and finding that balance. There’s always a way. Keep the courage and surround yourself with those who you look up to and are more or less where you want to be. Keep putting it out there bruz!!

      Reply
  7. greg17/10/2016

    This is a great but true story I was the same if many ways but I am glad you got through it hope your feeling a lot better, also hope to see you playing again I like your music it was happy and friendly I write to poems and short stories I am keen to read more of you stuff it is hard to be brave but you do it good on you thanks you.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      THanks Greg! I’m glad it resonated. Writing is a special thing huh?! No doubt, playing is on the cards.

      Reply
  8. Brendan Robb17/10/2016

    This is important, for a lot of reasons Nathan. Congratulations and I’ll look forward to more!

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri18/10/2016

      Thanks Brendan. I’m happy that it translated.

      Reply
  9. Mick18/10/2016

    And that’s the way to do it…been there, done that. First of all you are brave, you have stepped out of the shadow of the brown dog long enough to do something good for yourself. It’s funny but like long and loving yourself is a big big step and you have started with this giant leap of faith. Faith I and all your mates here hope to pay back.
    Well done you ?

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri19/10/2016

      Hey Mick! A very warming message. Even though I’ve learnt a tonne, and faith in myself and the world is returning, reassurance from those who have walked a similar path is a massive help. Thanks a bunch for the message.

      Reply
  10. Malcolm Gully18/10/2016

    What a privilege, all individual replies! Seems we’ve all shared this anxiety thing in different ways and you’ve brought us together. What an opportunity. I suppose id better out mine…. Gold card carrying ex veteran with a type of anxiety disorder plus all the broken bits…..anyway it’s always been the music that heals. With permission I can describe how hypnotism helped. Anyway thanks for treating us so personally ☺️

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/10/2016

      Hey Malcolm. I do my best and enjoy the connection. That’s part of the point. ha! Feel free to share how hypnotism helped!

      Reply
  11. Troy Healey19/10/2016

    Your an Inspiration mate.Been watching you since the early 90’s when you burst onto the scene,You are one of the reasons I started playing myself.Great to see you dealing with stuff & still kicking it my friend!

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/10/2016

      Hey Troy!

      I’m so happy to hear that the music translates! Well, dealing with stuff is the only real option huh?! All we can do is our best. It’s a process. Thanks for the vibes!

      Reply
  12. Anna19/10/2016

    Nothing but respect and integrity for you…well done for soldiering on, living with daily challenges and rising above it all. I did miss Nat Col & The Kings and understand why there was an absence at the time. I know now, greater things are in-store for you. Congratulations on your blog and sharing it with us all…you’re an inspiration, not just musically.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/10/2016

      Too kind Anna. I had an absolute blast with NCK. It was a great band. Guess the world has other plans and I had to listen. Who knows, the future my bring us together for a re-union. ha! Till then, I’ll be running solo. x

      Reply
  13. Andrew20/10/2016

    As long as your fans, including me, are there for you, everything will be alright for you

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri24/10/2016

      Thank you so much Andrew! I appreciate it.

      Reply
  14. Andrew Tierney20/10/2016

    You are one true hero
    Tell us who are all of your influences?
    How did you get chosen to perform for the Sydney 2000 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, and what was to like to perform in that all star cast, describing each and everyone who was there that night?

    Reply
  15. Andrew Tierney21/10/2016

    Nathan, I’ve been playing and practicing Bass Guitar for 5 years now, what advice would you give to me on how to play?

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri24/10/2016

      hey Andrew! Thanks for your comments…. Everyone has a different approach but for me, I worked backwards from learning the solo’s and parts of my favourite songs at the time. Well, the ones that were realistic. The theory and understanding came later. Recording yourself, and listening back helps a tonne! It makes you aware of the finer details and definitely get out there and jam with as many people as possible. One performance is worth 10 practice sessions! You probably know this but practice, practice, practice… or if you prefer, play play play! 😉

      Reply
      1. Andrew Tierney25/10/2016

        Thanks for the advice Nathan, I’ll do all of that and soon I’ll know how to play, and someday I’ll jam with you.

        Reply
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  17. Trish25/10/2016

    Nathan, I think you are wonderful for doing this. My son is only 17 and as I read your story I feel like I am reading about my son. He is a musician as well and trying to find his way in life but unfortunately has been affected by anxiety and depression. He won’t talk about it instead choosing to keep it all inside and fight it on his own. Like you he is choosing not to take medication. Being so young we are hopeful that he will grown out of this dreaded illness. Music is what he loves and I guess it is his medicine. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is very helpful to me and many others I would imagine. Wishing you every happiness and success.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri25/10/2016

      Hey Trish!

      I’m sorry to hear that your son is going through challenging times. Reflecting on my own experiences between the ages of 13-17, I see that I definitely struggled with my emotions at times. Being on acne meds didn’t help haha! They were later found out to be linked to teenage depression. Aside from that, it’s a tough age especially if you are creative and sensitive. A wise person told me, “You can’t be a creative soul and not expect to feel anything”. Further, many don’t see it as illness but more indicators. I know personally, when I started to see it that way, I was able to work through each challenge, one at a time rather than thinking that there was something wrong with me. I by all means have not figure it all out, and still have things to deal with (and probably will for the rest of my life like many), but hopefully my posts will help however. Sending you love right back!

      Reply
      1. Trish26/10/2016

        Xox

        Reply
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  34. Brett Jack08/03/2017

    The first step is always the hardest to take and I’m guessing that starting this blog and airing your issues, while being that hard step, has been cathartic for you. I’m sure it’ll get easier and easier the further down the road you go, and the bonus will be that you’ll help others who have suffered the same demons to master them. Good on you mate – I hear a good heart in this message. I know your family will be rightly proud. You should be too. Cheers and good luck.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri09/03/2017

      Hey Brett!!!! Representing Camden. wooooo! That’s reassuring. Even though I’ve absorbed a lot of useful knowledge, it’s still new. Thanks so much again for the kind words mate! Hope you’re well.

      Reply
  35. Didi10/03/2017

    Willpower creates miracles, which optimism can’t reach. Be yourself, don’t be afraid of what you became or of people’s look. You’re the only one master of your destiny your life is in your hands. Look by the window the outside world’s waiting for you since a long time now. It’s time to act now. Get out and go ahead life’s waiting for you. Without your website I will never have that thought and will still in this b!ulshit so deep thanx from my heart.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri14/03/2017

      There’s so much truth to what you are saying. The rest is all in the head! It’s amazing how we get in the way of ourselves! At some point you realise that it’s not just about evolving through bettering yourself and learning but you also have to be comfortable walking with flaws/vulnerabilities and all. I friend of mine years ago said, “You don’t get rid of fear, you learn to walk with it.” I didn’t understand it then. I do now! and once you understand it, the rest is putting the knowledge to test until it becomes a default belief. I’m not quite there yet hahaha… But definitely putting it to the test! I’m glad you are getting something out of the blog. I’m making some pretty special connections through it!

      Reply
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