The Journey of Singer/Songwriter Nathan Tasker
Home. It’s a bittersweet word for singer/songwriter Nathan Tasker. As Australia’s preeminent male Christian recording artist, with three best-selling albums, a string of #1 singles and numerous accolades to his credit, Nathan was on top of the world Down Under. But when that undeniable still small voice began stirring in his soul, he knew it would ultimately mean leaving home.
Packing their bags at the end of 2006, Nathan and his wife Cassie walked away from his success in Australia to embark upon a new journey in America. But as difficult as saying goodbye to family and friends proved to be, there was no doubt this adventure was ordained.
“I had a real sense that I wanted to be among other artists who were also believers," Nathan recalls. “I felt a longing to do what I do better. And I realized that where I was, I didn’t have those influences around me, either older full-time musicians or fellow writers. And so we decided to pack up and start over. There are times I feel like that was foolish—we had created something unique and special in Australia—but I don’t think I would have grown as much as an artist or in my faith if we hadn’t moved here.”
Settling in Nashville, Nathan finally had the opportunity to nurture relationships with the very mentors and peers he longed to know. Although he had worked with legendary artist, author, songwriter and producer Charlie Peacock while still living in Australia, now residing in the same city as such an influential name in Christian music was a dream come true.
“Charlie was the first person who got me to think about not only the chords I play on my guitar or the melodies I create, but also the philosophy behind why I do what I do, Nathan shares. “He has a heart for Christian music, obviously, and he also really wants to do things that benefit the Church. That is very much my heart as well; I want to learn how to do that faithfully.”
“He's a man among men and the kind of creative, loving, whimsical person the world needs more of,” Charlie in turn says of his friend and protégé. Their relationship has been pivotal in Nathan’s journey, as he now finds himself among a community of like-minded, creative and passionate individuals seeking excellence in the arts.
Exceeding any preconceived expectations, the process of making his stateside debut has been nothing short of cathartic for Nathan. In addition to Charlie and Nathan, top producers Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp helm the project, and contributions from such respected songwriters as Jason Ingram, Ian Eskelin, Paul Moak and Jeff Pardo lay the solid foundation for a 11-song set that is fittingly titled Home.
Whether it’s defining his earthly home and purpose therein, longing for eternity in Heaven, or grappling with the issues that make life so fragile—like the recent diagnosis of his father-in-law’s inoperable brain tumor. Home navigates the waters of vulnerability, encapsulating a series of life-changing events for Nathan. “Each of the songs deal with the idea that this life is fleeting and short compared to what is to come,” Nathan explains. “In the culture we live in here in America, and also in Australia, we’re taught that this moment is the most important moment. Get what you can, make life as comfortable and as happy a place right now as possible. I really think those ideas prevent us from longing for our true home, and often it takes tragedy or suffering to snap us out of that place to realize there’s more.”
Ironically the title-cut is the only song on the project not written or co-penned by Nathan, but its sentiment of heavenly yearning has become especially personal to him. “After my father-in-law’s diagnosis, everything that this record is about came to a sharp point,” Nathan says. “To think that I’d created a batch of songs that had so much to do with the idea of home—that even though there is suffering in this world right now, when we get Home there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more mourning—it felt as though these songs were even more valid. “A number of these songs are the most personal ones I have ever written, and the conversations I’m having after my shows are remarkable. People have a desire to share their stories, and their lives are often filled with so many trials, and so much pain. Through the vulnerability of the music, other people are sharing honestly about their journey, and I think the Church benefits from that kind of honesty. That’s how we grow together; that’s how we bond.”
While Home is about place, it’s also about purpose, something Nathan continually examines in his own life. The album opener, “Love Is the Compass,” penned by Nathan and Jason, sets to music some of the best advice Nathan has ever received.
“I was going through a real moment of trying to work out if the music I made was going to make a difference,” he remembers. “I went to a concert in Nashville to see another band play and Charlie was there. I walked up to him and I asked him, ‘What does it mean to be an authentic artist as a believer?’ He turned to me and he said, ‘at the end of the day, you have to let love be the compass. That’s the thing that inspires and shapes what you do.’”
“Eternity (What We Were Made For),” also written by Nathan and Jason, pays tribute to Arthur Stace, better known as Mr. Eternity. A relatively obscure figure, Stace is purported to have written the word “eternity” in chalk more than 500,000 times on the streets of Sydney over a period of nearly 40 years before his death in 1967.
“Here was a guy who never went to Bible college, he never waited until he had an album or until he had the spotlight on him,” Nathan says. “He took the very little that he had and he used it for the Kingdom—just a piece of chalk. At a lot of my shows, I encourage people to find their piece of chalk, the thing that seems insignificant that they pass off as something God could never use. Maybe that’s the thing God wants to use.”
Sharing the story of Mr. Eternity is also a vivid reminder that Nathan’s Aussie heritage affords him a unique perspective from which to convey his faith here on the other side of the world. Growing up in a Christian home—Nathan’s father was a chaplain at an all-girls school in Sydney—his own testimony strikes a familiar chord for many.
“I was profoundly impacted by watching my dad minister to and mentor others, but during my early high school years I kind of rebelled against that,” Nathan remembers. “I think part of the reason was to see if there was satisfaction outside of following Jesus. My parents saw I had lost my way pretty seriously, so they bought me a book called No Compromise, the story of Keith Green’s life. Keith spoke and wrote about Jesus in such a way that He was alive and personal. I realized I knew a lot of facts about Jesus—I could answer all the Bible trivia questions—but I didn’t really know the same Jesus. Then, after reading the Gospels over a two-week period I prayed to God and said, ‘I want to follow you. I don’t know what that looks like, but will you lead me?’ And that’s been my prayer ever since.”
At the same time, Nathan was cultivating a deep interest in music. He learned to play the electric guitar, piano, trumpet and bass guitar, but it wasn’t until he picked-up his mother’s dilapidated old classical guitar that Nathan found his true musical pursuit. “Pretty much every moment I could I was playing the guitar, which probably explains some of my school grades”, he says.
“And teaching myself guitar allowed me to find a style that is totally unique to me.”
His rekindled faith, coupled with his budding musical talents, foreshadowed a future calling when Nathan took his guitar to school one day. “I remember playing a song about a girl who was thinking about ending her life and then she finds Hope in Jesus. I looked around the class and a girl had started crying, not because of my singing, but because the song actually spoke to her. Socrates said that when the soul hears music it lets down its best guard, and I saw that in that instance.”
Deferring the completion of college, Nathan instead poured his efforts into a full-time Christian music ministry, and he hasn’t looked back. Hit singles, awards and accolades have punctuated his career in Australia, but he’s not allowing that to shift his focus from what’s most important. For some, leaving their family and home at the pinnacle of success would have been unthinkable, but for Nathan, it was simply an act of obedience.
“At the end of the day we’re just trying to be faithful to the call God has placed on my life, and often times that leads you out of comfort to the unknown, and that’s what moving to America was for us,” Nathan says. “I look at what we create now, the music, the way we share our lives—whether on stage or off—and I see that God is faithful through it all.”
Perhaps Nathan Tasker is somewhat of a nomad these days, yet lacking a permanent place to hang his hat has brought him—and so many others touched by his music—much closer to the true meaning of Home.