picture

Human Nature

The ARIA Hall of Fame recognises songwriters, artists and producers whose body of recorded work has had a cultural impact within Australia or the international marketplace. This year the Australian Music Vault is proud to honour Human Nature as the 2019 ARIA Hall of Fame inductee.

Toby Allen, Phil Burton and brothers, Michael and Andrew Tierney first came together as high school students in western Sydney to form the a cappella, doo-wop group, The 4 Trax. Inspired by a shared love of the Motown era, including groups like The Four Tops, they initially built a following through street performances and singing professionally in clubs.

Publicity image for The 4 Trax c.1994

Courtesy of Toby Allen

"We were all in choirs; we did a lot of singing. There were band competitions around and I was thinking, at the time, we should start a band because we didn’t play instruments and I thought maybe a vocal group like the old style doo-wop groups. … We started singing ‘Earth Angel’ because that was the only song we knew. People told us, “You’re great; you should start listening to Motown groups.” And that’s where we really cut our teeth on all the old Motown stuff and … we’ve been loving it ever since.” - Andrew Tierney

In 1996, an a cappella performance of ‘People Get Ready’ for Sony CEO, Denis Handlin, landed them a contract with Sony Music Australia. Feeling that The 4 Trax name was a bit outdated, they changed their name to Human Nature.

 

We were singing a cappella at the time, and it represented what we were about; singing was our human nature.

Toby Allen

“At first we thought it was probably a bit obvious because it’s such a well-used term, but then the more we lived with that it suited us. We were singing a cappella at the time, and it represented what we were about; singing was our human nature.” - Toby Allen

Human Nature, c.2000

Courtesy of HN Entertainment & Sony Music Australia

Human Nature set themselves apart from other ‘boy bands’ of the era by writing their own material and focusing on performance. In 1996, they released their first single, ‘Got It Goin’ On’, co-written by the Tierney brothers and their producer, Paul Begaud. The song reached No.19 on the ARIA Singles Chart and won them their first ARIA nomination for Best New Talent. This was closely followed by ‘Tellin’ Everybody’ which reached the Top 30 and ‘Wishes’ which was co-written by Alan Glass and Andrew Klippel, former member of Australian band, Euphoria, giving them their first ARIA platinum certification.  During this time, the group was given the unique opportunity to build their fan base by touring as a support act for superstar performers, Celine Dion and Michael Jackson. After the success of their first three singles, they released their debut album, Telling Everybody (1996), which remained in the Top 50 for 64 weeks in Australia and reached the Top 100 in Germany and Japan.

Human Nature - Wishes

Over the course of the next few years, Human Nature began to build an international profile that would eventually see them transition from Australian ‘boy band’ to Las Vegas entertainers. In 1997, they collaborated with John Farnham on the hit single ‘Everytime You Cry’, later performing with him on his I Can’t Believe He’s 50 Tour in 1999. They were also invited back to support Dion and Jackson on their European tours, before embarking on their own national concert tour of Australia. Between 1998 and 2004, the group released four albums: Counting Down (1999), Human Nature (2000), Here and Now: The Best of Human Nature (2001) and Walk the Tightrope (2004). Debuting at No.1 on the ARIA Music Charts, Counting Down proved to be one of their most successful albums, generating five gold singles in Australia: ‘Last to Know', ‘Don’t Cry’, ‘Cruel’, ‘Be There With You’ and the cover version of the 1989 hit by The Bangles, 'Eternal Flame'.

Human Nature - Last to Know

In 2005, recognising that they were perhaps outgrowing their original teen following, Human Nature decided to move away from their original ‘boy band’ sound and pay tribute to the music that had originally influenced them. For their fifth studio album they released an LP of Motown covers, Reach Out: The Motown Record, which not only reached No. 1 on the Australian Music Charts, but also won them their first ARIA Award for Highest Selling Album in 2006. This was closely followed by the release of Dancing in the Street: the Songs of Motown II (2006) and Get Ready (2007) which features guest appearances by Motown legends Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, and Martha Reeves.

On our third [Motown album] we wanted to ask if some of the original superstars of Motown would sing with us.

Andrew Tierney

"On our third [Motown album] we wanted to ask if some of the original superstars of Motown would sing with us. We asked Smokey and he agreed to sing with us and do a duet. So did The Temptations and Mary Wilson from The Supremes and Martha Reeves as well. We wanted to do something really special for Smokey, so the day before, we worked out an a cappella version of ‘Ooo Baby Baby’. We sang it for him, and he blew us away - he said it was probably his favourite version he’d ever heard of that song. That’s kind of where the friendship, the relationship, started. He came to Australia and did some shows with us and then we were talking together and came up with the idea of presenting us…in Las Vegas.” - Andrew Tierney

Human Nature in performance with Smokey Robinson, 2015

Courtesy of HN Entertainment & Sony Music Australia

Human Nature took a career-defining risk in 2009 and moved to Las Vegas, landing a residency at the Imperial Palace with their first Motown-inspired show. Their impact was so immediate that the following year on 11 May 2010, former mayor Oscar Goodman declared the day as “Human Nature Day”. Over a six year period they performed 1300 shows, and in 2016, they were re-signed to the prestigious Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino for a three year residency at the famed Sands Showroom with a new show based on their Australian double-platinum selling album, Jukebox (2014). The show consisted of a playlist of not only the group’s influences but also some of the greatest vocal hits of all time including ‘Under The Boardwalk’, ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Unchained Melody’, ‘I Want It That Way’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.

“Some Americans that come to see our show have never heard of Human Nature before. We have to tell our story of how we got together when we were kids in high school, and what motivated us to stay together and why we’re who we are. We tell that through the music and use the ‘jukebox’ as our way to move through the music that’s inspired us.” – Michael Tierney

Ten years later, they continue to perform before sold-out audiences on the popular entertainment strip.

In November 2019, Human Nature will celebrate their 30th Anniversary and over 4000 performances together as a group. This remarkable achievement was acknowledged earlier this year when they were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the performing arts.

The Australian Music Vault celebrates Human Nature's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, with a new display featuring fan mail, photographs, posters and costumes worn during their Imperial Palace residency in Las Vegas. Opening 30th November 2019.

SUBSCRIBE & BE THE FIRST TO KNOW

Subscribe to our newsletter and we'll keep you in the loop on all the latest happenings at the Australian Music Vault, plus music events at Arts Centre Melbourne that may spark your interest.