When you think of famous musical families who've made a lasting impact on American pop culture, the Osmond brood is no doubt bound to be hovering near the top of that list, alongside the likes of The Jacksons. With the release of his first solo project, Feels Like Heaven, Nathan Osmond, who's dad is Alan, one of the founding members of The Osmonds, is keeping the family tradition going strong. I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Nathan about his famous roots, his strong family ties and his new solo career.
Fans of a certain age can no doubt name each of The Osmond brothers--Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay and Donny, who made up the popular singing group. Donny of course later joined sister Marie for a hugely successful variety series, which also featured the youngest sibling, Jimmy. A second generation of fans can also name each of Alan's sons who formed The Osmonds Second Generation or 2ndG as they are also known. While the original Osmonds got their big break by appearing on an Andy WIlliams special, The Osmond Boys, as Nathan and his brothers Michael, Douglas and David were originally known, had a similar start, having been discovered by the late Bob Hope and appearing on his annual Christmas special on NBC back in 1986. It wasn't long before Nathan and his brothers evolved into The Osmonds: 2nd Generation, got a record deal with Curb in the US and Song in Europe. They snagged three Top 40 hits and traveled extensively in the US, UK and Asia.
On growing up in and around the spotlight, Nathan remembered, "Having grown-up in a musical family, I didn't know anything different. I thought it was normal to have a television studio and dad on TV. The older I get, the more I appreciate all of the amazing experiences I had as a child. I had a very unique childhood!"
With his father, aunt and uncles having lived through it, I wondered what advice they had given Nathan over the years that he has kept with him. "I've received a lot of GREAT advice from my father and uncles and of course, aunt Marie. My father told me how to work hard. They were known as The One-Take Osmonds because they would come into the studios and nail it on the first take. That didn't come without a lot of unseen hours of sweat! I'm glad he didn't just hand it over to me. I was up every morning at 6 am in front of the mirrors rehearsing before school. After school I was right back at it again. I had to prove to him that I really wanted it. He also helped to keep me grounded. He let me know that if I ever started thinking I was better than anyone else, that I would be out of the business. He said, 'I may have M.S., but I've got a really fast foot.' Ha! I love him. Donny gave me some good advice, he said beware of Yes Men. You know, those people who are always just telling you what you want to hear. We are brutally honest in our family. If you're flat...fix it! We get things done a lot quicker that way there's no hard feelings. He also said that as I begin my solo career to make sure that I'm doing it for the right reasons. He said, 'Don't do it to prove it to me, Marie, your dad, or brothers or even yourself...do it because you love it!' What great advice."
When I had the chance to talk to Nathan, I told him one thing I really admired about his father Alan was how public he has been about his battle with Multiple Sclerosis, as I myself have Spina Bifida, which also affects the nervous and muscular systems. Nathan's brother David, who made it to Hollywood week on last year's American Idol, also suffers from MS. On the subject of their strength in dealing with the disease, Nathan said, "I've learned that life happens to all of us and that attitude and a faith in God can help you get through anything! My father's slogan from day 1 has been, 'I may have M.S., but M.S. does NOT have me!!!' My brother David has adopted that as his slogan as well. He said, 'I feel my father in every step that I take. I will never take another step for granted.' We are ALL going through tests. Nathan continued, "Remember this, If things are rough right now in your life...hold on, things are going to change. If things in your life are going great right now...hold on, things are going to change. In life, you are either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis or headed towards a crisis! Ha! But, isn't that why we're here? Life is a test. Suck it up and own your stuff. Always ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this situation that will ultimately make me a better person?' Sometimes that's more easily said than done. But, at the end of the day, it's your attitude that determines your altitude!"
Nathan's debut cd Feels Like Heaven, out now
No doubt encouraged by that determination to deal with the life you're given, Nathan has been instrumental in promoting the social network, uPlej (pronounced "You Pledge"). "uPlej.com is a social networking site designed to raise money for your favorite charity in your sleep. My family's history with M.S. was definitely a driving factor in getting uPlej up on its feet. I'm the world's FIRST 'uPlejer.' He went on to reveal, "One of the other driving factors was the fact that my eldest son Zachary was diagnosed with P.D.D.N.O.S. which is on the low end of the spectrum of autism. We are all hit with different things in our lives and uPlej, for me, was my way of giving back."
Giving back, like performing, is something Nathan grew up experiencing, as it was his grandmother, Olive Osmond, the matriarch of the family who was one of the founders of the Children's Miracle Network some 27 years ago. Nathan, who in addition to being a spokesperson for uPlej, also serves as VP of Charity Relations, shared a story about his grandmother, "Before she passed away, she was in a coma and my father was sitting by her side. She came out of the coma and the first words that came out of her mouth were, 'It's amazing what we can accomplish when we don't care who gets the credit.' That has always stayed with me."
When Nathan's Aunt Marie and Uncle Donny were doing their weekly variety show, they would often introduced a musical medley segment with the now-classic lyrics, I'm a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock 'n roll. With 2ndG, Nathan and his brothers had a sound that was decidedly pop rock, but his latest project, Feels Like Heaven is allowing him to follow in Aunt Marie's steps and explore his country side. When pressed to pick one genre over the other, Nathan explained, "I know that it seems to be a popular trend now days to go Country. That's NOT why I'm singing Country music. The Osmonds have done a wide-variety of genres throughout our careers, but my favorite genre by far is Country. I was first introduced to Country music when I moved to Branson, MO and did two shows everyday except Sundays at the Osmond Family Theater. I heard guys like Garth Brooks, Collin Raye, John Michael Montgomery and many others. I told my wife that I blinked and before I knew it I was married, had 3 kids, a couple mortgages, a mini van and a dog. I said, 'Hey, that's Country music!' I can sing about my life! Ha! I've had the great privilege of singing with some of Country's biggest names. I've learned that the Country artists are typically the most down-to-earth, real people I've ever met in this business. Country fans are also typically the most loyal. I hope to have a long career in Country!"
Nathan's foray into the country features tracks that he co-produced with two of Music City's heavy-hitters, songwriter Gary Baker, who penned I Swear and I'm Already There, among others, and Lonestar's Dean Sams. "I had the privilege of working with the band, Lonestar a few years back and hit it off with Dean Sams, the keyboard player and founding member of the band. He's the one that gave me my first Nashville recording experience. I've known Gary Baker since I was a kid. He played bass for my aunt Marie for years. He had me come to his studio in Florence, AL where we finished the album."
Song selection is key to the success of any project, especially an artist's debut. With that in mind, Nathan revealed he was very involved in picking the songs included on Feels Like Heaven. "I was extremely involved with the song selection on this album. For over two years I wrote, and sifted through songs from other writers. I've always believed that you only get one first impression. I simply put my pride aside and said, if there's a better song out there than the one I've written, I'll record the other song instead. At the end of the day, it's ALL about the song! One of my favorite songs on the album is called, Should've Been Lovin' You. I love this song because of having been on the road a lot, sometimes your relationship can take a hit. It's a song about a guy that was married to his job and burnt the candle at both ends. Looking back he knows now what he should've know back then. He should've been loving his girl. My wife is very supportive of my career and she puts up with a lot with me being gone. We've been married for over 7 years now and have 3 beautiful children (all boys). The song is a reminder to me that no success can compensate for failure in the home," Nathan explained.
A solo career on the rise, Nathan's got no time to rest
On the other side of the subject of love, I Believe In Love, the sole song on the CD co-written by Nathan, is a more traditional uplifting song about the power of love, and one of the strongest tracks on the project. Originally, the plan was to pitch the song to others, but as luck would have it, fate stepped in and Nathan ended up including it on his debut. Nathan recalled this circumstances surrounding the song, "I co-wrote the song, I Believe In Love with Dean Sams and Laurie Killian Starr. We originally wrote the song for Rascal Flatts, but they already had their album in the bag. Lonestar then tied up the song and were going to record it, but then Richie McDonald left to pursue a solo career. I called up Dean and in the back of my brain I was thinking, free demo. I asked Dean, 'Hey, if you guys aren't going to record the song, do you mind if I do?' Dean said, 'If you're gonna do it, why don't you just come out to my house and we'll do it right?' That's how this whole album got started. I would love to have a lot more writing credits on the next album!"
As for how he juggles family life, his religious background and a career in the music business, Nathan admitted, "One of my favorite books says, 'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.' It all starts in the home. My father has set a great example for me as to how to deal with the pressures of this business. I am thankful for the many great examples I've had in this business that have proven to me that you can make it without having to shift or lower your standards. Decide early on who you are and don't be ashamed of it. Be true to who you are. I hope to set a good example for the youth of today. Especially to those who are wanting to get into this, the music business." By the way, that book Nathan referenced is Proverbs: 22:6.
When asked if there are any plans for a reunion of 2ndG, Nathan revealed, "As of right now, we are all very focused on our own careers. I still perform here and there with my brothers if they're missing a brother and need me to fill in the harmonies. I am completely focused on creating a long solo career in the Country world. I have their 100% support."
With three boys of his own, I had to ask Nathan if there was any chance for music from his sons. I even offered up a perfect stage name: OG3. "You'd have to ask my wife that question. We're working on their pitch right now, but they all have great lungs," he said proudly.
As far as other family members, when questioned about Uncle Donny's chances on the upcoming season of Dancing With The Stars, in true supportive Osmond fashion, Nathan beamed, "I did the background vocals for Donny & Marie's Vegas show at the Flamingo, and so I've seen the show number of times. He's dancing his butt off every night. I've never seen a 51 year-old work so hard! I think he has a head start on the rest of the cast. I think Donny is going ALL the way with Dancing With The Stars!!! Go get 'em D!!!"
While Donny will be burning up the dance floor, Nathan is doing a bit of shuffling himself to get his solo career going. He revealed he is currently seeking a major label deal. To that end, his team isn't messing around. "I'm meeting with several record labels right now and there are several that are showing a lot of interest in the project. Show Dog Records even took my CD over to Toby Keith's house the other day and told him that they really like the album and want him to take a listen to it! How sweet is that? I have several concerts throughout the year and my calendar is filling up FAST!" As if those things weren't enough, Nathan is teaming with The Donald. "I just partnered with Donald Trump on a new business venture I'm excited about. More to come about that on my website or by checking out the Trump Network site at www.trumpnetwork.com/NathanOsmond. I just got a personal letter from Donald the other day. I heard they are fighting over my CD in his office. I had to send more copies to all his kids. His secretary just told me that she walked past his office and he has my CD on his desk," said Nathan. Beyond that, he will also continue keep himself busy with a fundraising concert at the home of Nancy Cartwright , the voice of Bart Simpson, as well as events with ties to Children Miracle Network, a Christmas concert and the IAFE convention in Las Vegas. He summed up the future with expected Osmond ease, "We'll just take it one day at a time."
Nathan hopes to have Feels Like Heaven available to retailers nationwide by the end of the year. In the meantime, to listen to sample tracks, purchase digital copies, or to check out Nathan's official site, CLICK HERE.