Human Nature Sprinkle Christmas Spirit Down Under, Bringing Motown Back to Vegas

Human Nature’s vocals have shifted millions of albums, but they’ve also been making some particularly sweet moves of late. 

The Australian vocal group’s move to Las Vegas back in 2009 was a shrewd one, and their musical move into Motown territory has proved a big success. 

The foursome -- comprising Andrew Tierney, his brother Michael and long-time friends Toby Allen and Phil Burton -- have shifted more than 2 million career albums in their homeland, and they’ve quietly become one of their country’s most successful exports. According to the Business Review Weekly’s list ranking the top 50 highest-earning Australian entertainers in 2013, the group came in at No. 15 ($4.3 million). The other Aussie bands to rank above them? AC/DC at No. 11 ($5.8 million) and the Wiggles at No. 2 ($18.2 million).

Since signing with Sony Music Australia in 1995, the mainstream hitmakers have have released 10 albums Down Under - five of which went to No. 1.

On the eve of Christmas, the Sydney singers had a rare moment to reflect on their achievements. “We’re pretty proud,” notes Michael Tierney. “Doing shopping, I came into the Venetian and saw our posters up there. It’s one of the biggest and most prestigious casinos in the world. There’s no guarantees in Vegas. But we’ve really made something of this opportunity and really made it a success.” 

Human Nature has been back on home turf, wrapping a national tour in support of a holiday-themed album, “The Christmas Album” (Sony Music). The 10-date, 5-city trek wrapped Dec. 20, and the album went top 5 and was certified platinum (70,000) earlier this month.

 

“We’ve released a lot of Christmas songs over the years, but we’ve never done a full Christmas album, of our own,” explains Allen. “It’s music we’ve always felt close to and enjoyed performing, and it suits us as well. The opportunity arose to do a full Christmas album and we jumped at it.”

Sessions for “The Human Nature – The Christmas Album” were cut in Las Vegas, and in Los Angeles, where the quartet joined forces with Grammy-winning producer Harvey Mason Jr and his production partner Damon Thomas, under the moniker of “The Underdogs”.

The act called on their friend Smokey Robinson to duet on “Please Come Home For Christmas” (the Motown great has been a “wonderful ambassador for what we’re doing,” says Andrew Tierney) and reigning ARIA female artist of the year Jessica Mauboy sings on “Sleigh Ride”. Director Martin Meunier created an animated stop-motion for “Dreaming of a White Christmas,” which can be watched below.

Back in Nevada, the four-piece have had their contract extended at the salubrious Venetian Resort, where they perform a Motown-themed show up to six nights a week. They’ve been ensconced in Vegas since May 2009 (initially at the Imperial Palace Hotel), becoming the first Australian act to ever secure a residency on the Strip.

“Vegas is an interesting place,” explains Burton. “It’s not only a big tourist destination for Americans but for people from around the world. Where you play here, you do open yourself up to a broader audience. We’d love to get to the U.K. and do some shows over there as well. We’ll see what happens next year.”

The relationship with Motown goes deep. Outside of Australia, Human Nature has signed with Universal Music Enterprises, a deal which brings them into Universal Music Group’s Motown family. Human Nature remained signed to Sony Music in Australia, the Denis Handlin-led music major that discovered, nurtured the band and together with the group created the successful Motown concept series.

In February of this year, the group signed a two-year residency at the Venetian, where their “Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature: The Motown Show” restarts on Dec. 27. The four bandmates are happily settled in their “second home” -- Sin City. At the beginning of 2014, the band will hit the milestone of 1,000 Vegas shows. “There’s a long way to go,” says Andrew of their profile in the United States. “I think word is slowly spreading. We’ve had a lot of people coming to the shows saying they’d seen us on one of those shows, or friends of theirs told them they needed to come check out the show. It’s a big country and it does take a lot of try and get around to everyone. But we’ll be here for a little while yet. And we’re hopefully doing the right things to help us build that profile.”

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