Human Nature features four guys from Australia who love American soul music. The group is making one of its forays beyond its residency at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas this weekend, appearing Saturday at L’auberge Casino’s Event Center.
Following success with its Motown shows in Australia, Human Nature set its eyes on the world’s biggest music market.
“It’s the dream of every musician to work in the U.S.,” group member Phil Burton said from Las Vegas. “America is like mecca for musicians, because the country is so big and so musically strong.”
A trial run in early 2008 in Atlantic City helped the group secure its long-standing Imperial Palace gig. Burton, Toby Allen and brothers Andrew and Mike Tierney hope Las Vegas will be their launching pad for nationwide success.
“A lot of acts make it big in the States and then go to Vegas to live out their declining years,” Burton said with a laugh. “We’re trying it the other way around.”
Prior to Human Nature’s Atlantic City and Las Vegas engagements, the group traveled to this country for production of its third Australian album of Motown classics, Get Ready.
Human Nature recorded its own Get Ready vocals in Australia but then made a point of being physically present in various U.S. studios when the project’s American guest stars cut their parts.
Smokey Robinson and the current edition of the Temptations recorded vocals in Los Angeles. Mary Wilson, a Las Vegas resident and member of the Supremes, recorded in Vegas. Martha Reeves, of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas fame, recorded in Detroit, the city where Motown Records began.
“We didn’t want to just
send over the tracks and say, ‘Do what you do and send it back,’ ” Burton recalled. “We wanted more personal involvement than that. So we organized a trip around the sessions.”
Human Nature’s visit to Detroit for the Reeves session was its first trip to the Motor City. While in town, the guys couldn’t not visit the Motown Historical Museum. Reeves volunteered to be their very special tour guide.
“She took us through the studio where all of it happened,” Burton recalled. “It was amazing to be told these things by someone who was there.”
The group took the opportunity to sing the Robinson-penned Temptations’ hit, “My Girl,” in the modest house known in Motown Records’ glory days as Hitsville U.S.A.
“We were singing in the same spot as Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, where all these people stood when they recorded all these songs,” Burton said.
Following Robinson’s Get Ready guest spot, he became one of Human Nature’s major supporters.
“Smokey really liked our two earlier Motown records,” Burton said. “And then, when he met us, he came on board and said, ‘Look, guys, whatever else I can do to help you out, I’m glad to do.’ So we asked him to put his name as presenter on our Las Vegas show. He was happy to do that. It’s led us to so many great things.”
Human Nature’s recently released American album debut, The Motown Record, contains the quartet’s a cappella rendition of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles classic, “Ooo Baby Baby.” Burton believes that the group’s performance of the song for Robinson the day they met him in Los Angeles won him over.
“That really tipped the scales in our favor, when he heard us sing with no backing in the studio,” Burton said. “He loved what we did.”
The Australians have another first-person link to Motown via their tours with Michael Jackson. The group’s Australian and European tours in 1996 and ’97 included three appearances at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“For 40 shows we had an all access pass,” Burton said. “We watched this absolute legend from right up close, within six feet sometimes of him on stage, behind a curtain, 100,000 people on the other side of that curtain. That’s something that you’re never gonna forget.”