On the Couch with Nathan Lay

Nathan-Lay-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Nathan Lay?
A country boy turned city slicker, family man, motorcycle enthusiast, coffee lover, opera singer that likes to dabble in pop music.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Probably not a lot. If lockdown taught me something though, it’s that it would be beneficial to have a solid side hustle! I’ve always been interested in marketing, so perhaps one day I’ll diversify. I think it would be hard to find something that brings me the same level of fulfilment and satisfaction as performing though.

Who inspires you and why?
Whenever I start working on a new show, I always find it inspiring to watch and listen to my fellow cast mates and artistic colleagues. Something great about working in the arts is that you are always meeting and working with new people. Every show brings new directors, conductors, composers, singers, instrumentalists and crew. It keeps things fresh, and watching your cast mates succeed keeps you motivated to improve yourself as a performer.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
There have been many people over the years who have helped to fund the development of my voice and career. This all started with my parents facilitating and paying for countless trips to Melbourne from country Victoria to take singing lessons. It then became various scholarship funds and artistic trusts providing money for my studies and development. The cost to create a professional singer or instrumentalist is immense, and not affordable to most people without significant financial assistance from other generous patrons and companies. I have had the good fortune of being offered considerable assistance over the years, and one day I would love to try and do the same if I am in the position to do so. It won’t change the world, but will hopefully help someone like it did for me.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Cowes, Phillip Island is right up there. Growing up, it was tradition for my family to go to Phillip Island for a week every summer. I have fond memories of watching the Australian Open in the holiday house when it was too hot to go outside, getting grumpy when things didn’t go my way at Grumpy’s Crazy Golf on the main road in Cowes, and body boarding the tiny waves that I thought were huge at the family beach.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I’d take them on a coffee crawl of all of my favourite trendy cafes in Melbourne. I refuse to pay $4 – 5 bucks for a coffee unless it has some level of snobbery! Then, once they have had 7 coffees, I’d invite them to the opera and know for certain that they won’t fall asleep during the performance!

What are you currently reading?
I’m not much of a reader! However, I do enjoy reading news or other pointless drivel online on topics I’m interested in. Does my opera score count? If so, I’m currently reading Echo and Narcissus, Composed by Kevin March, Libretto by Jane Montgomery Griffiths.

What are you currently listening to?
People often find it strange when I say this since I’m a muso, but I don’t often listen to music in my free time or around the house. My wife loves having music on in the house, but I find myself turning it down or off because when I hear music, I can’t help but be fully drawn into it or to start analysing it, distracting me from basically anything else I’m trying to focus on! I do obviously still listen to music at times, and go through phases where I obsess over different artists and watch all of their content on YouTube. I rarely watch or listen to classical music in my own time unless I’m preparing for a role. To give you an idea of some of the stuff I do listen to, I probably watched every bit of John Mayer and Jacob Collier content over the course of the lockdown.

Happiness is?
A simple night at home on the couch with my wife, my 3-month-old baby girl, and my fur girl – aka cat.

What does the future hold for you?
Given the performance drought over the last 12 months, hopefully lots of performing! I’ve always been one to ‘play it by ear’ and just see where I end up. When being asked a question like this, or ‘Where do I see myself in 5 years?’ – I never quite know how to answer it. In a perfect world I’d say performing full time, but ultimately, I don’t really mind, as long as I’m happy and doing something I enjoy.

Nathan stars as Narcissus in Victorian Opera’s production of Echo and Narcissus, presented in a world premiere double bill of new works with Cassandra in the Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne from 17 March 2021. For more information, visit: www.victorianopera.com.au for details.

Image: Nathan Lay (supplied)