“That’s When I Knew”: Human Nature Discuss the Earliest Moments that Inspired Them to Be Performers
Posted by Andrew C on Monday, April 21st, 2014
Billy Joel once said that seeing the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was “the single biggest moment that I can remember being galvanized into wanting to be a musician for life.” Nancy Wilson of Heart described the very same event as “the moment Ann and I heard the call to become rock musicians.” And Tom Petty remembers that 1964 telecast as the equivalent “of going from black-and-white to color. You just knew it, sitting in your living room, that everything around you was changing.”
Now it’s certainly possible that, with the benefit of a little nostalgia and historical context, a single moment in our lives can gradually elevate into the stuff of legend—transcending whatever the original experience may have felt like. But the fact remains, when you ask most successful musicians when they first realized they wanted to pursue music as a career, almost all of them have specific, very vivid memories from childhood that spring to mind.
For the gentlemen of Human Nature, one of those moments would not include the aforementioned Beatle Invasion, considering the mop tops had already long since broken up by the time our Australian crooners were old enough to ponder career choices. Nope, to gather the musical origin stories of our lads, we’ll need to travel out of the 1960s and into the vastly eclectic sonic landscape of the 1980s—their “formative years,” as it were.
“I remember seeing Queen on TV performing at Live Aid in 1985,” says Phil Burton, who was a wide-eyed 11-year old at the time. “It was the first time I’d seen anything of that size and it blew me away that this one man, Freddie Mercury, could have 75,000 people in the stadium– and millions at home– in the palm of his hand like that. He was awesome. I don’t know if there was ever a single moment in my life where a light bulb went off and I thought, ‘I MUST be a performer,’ but that was definitely the moment where I formed a strong idea that this sort of thing could be a pretty damn cool thing to do for a living.”
Phil’s not alone, either. For a kid growing up in the ‘80s, Live Aid may have been the nearest thing to a “Beatles on Ed Sullivan” moment. The massive charity concert event was held simultaneously at London’ Wembley Stadium and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985. And while Queen’s London set is often hailed as the show’s highlight, there were also memorable performances from Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Madonna, U2, The Who, and David Bowie. Phil Collins even famously played sets in both London and Philly, taking a Concorde jet between venues.
It’s easy to understand why a young Phil Burton was captivated. That being said, having a rock n’ roll idol (or idols) is hardly a requirement for a kid to have his musical epiphany.
By definition, an epiphany is the moment “you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.” More times than not, however, our greatest “Eureka!” moments in life aren’t isolated incidents born out of the ether. Instead, they’re the culmination of boatloads of smaller experiences and influences that help direct us to a more focused perspective.
For the Tierney brothers, there’s no questioning the level of impact that listening to classic pop and doo-wop records had on their youth and their drive to be professional singers in their own right. Performing Motown songs, after all, has never just been about paying tribute to those original Detroit artists. It’s an ongoing celebration of the music that first inspired the members of Human Nature themselves.
When it comes to bridging that gap between just loving music—as most of us do—and wanting to make it their life’s work, however, both Michael and Andrew Tierney trace it back to a reflection of the environment they grew up in, rather than an earth-shattering influence from the outside world.
“The first thing that comes to mind is performing in school concerts in Australia,” Michael says, “and just loving getting out in front of people—the sense that it was something special and unique. Feeling the energy of a live audience is something you get addicted to quickly, I think.”
“Yeah, it’s hard for me to pinpoint one specific event,” adds Andrew. “But I would say everything our Mum shared with us musically really paved the way for there to be no other real option I could dream of but to sing and make music my life. She taught me piano and we always just sang. Like, I see kids now playing football in the street with their parents. Well, we were singing around the piano or listening to music — all types. I was never forced into music, it was just always there and part of who we were as a family.”
Maybe a story like that makes for less of a snazzy rock n’ roll rite of passage, but even Billy Joel would probably acknowledge that his passion for music didn’t start with watching the Beatles on television—it was merely the thing that brought his budding interests into perfect focus.
Who knows, maybe there will be a child at the next Human Nature show who has the same sort of unforgettable moment of inspiration watching a modern day Fab Four take the stage.