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article imageInterview: Phil Burton of Australian vocal group Human Nature Special

By Adrian Peel     Oct 30, 2015 in Music
One of four members of the award-winning band filled Digital Journal in on their upcoming series of shows in Las Vegas, entitled "Christmas, Motown and More!"
Now permanent residents of Las Vegas, Phil Burton, Toby Allen and brothers Andrew and Michael Tierney are more than familiar with the city's vibrant music scene, having performed their wildly successful Motown Show night after night for the last six years. Not bad for a band who only came to America for the first time in 2008.
In addition to being voted Las Vegas’ number one vocal group, the talented foursome, who have been together as a fully-functioning unit since 1989 - and who are the first Aussie act to secure a residency in Vegas - have also become Australia's top vocal group, with 24 industry awards, 18 Top 40 hits and five Top 10 hits to date.
Their latest show, a musical extravaganza packed full of Christmas songs and Motown classics, kicks off at the end of November at the Italian-themed Venetian Hotel and Casino.
"We start November 21," confirms Phil, "and we do about 10 days up until early December. Then we go across to the East Coast to do a few dates for about a week and then back to Vegas for another 10 dates.
"We did the show last year and even though we've done most of it before, we still find that after a year you have to refresh yourself a little bit with all the moves and the singing parts and the band parts, so there's still a little bit of work to do."
Discussing the setlist for Christmas, Motown and More!, the friendly 41 year old states, "We recorded a Christmas album a couple of years ago in Australia and it's also being released here in America this year.
"The album is kind of soul, Motown-based takes on Christmas songs. We're pretty heavily influenced by Motown because we've been doing it for the last 10 years, so the show is a lot of soul-based Christmas songs. We do an uptempo version of 'Winter Wonderland' that's a bit more soulful and 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,' 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'...
"It's all those fun ones, not too many of the classic, religious-type Christmas songs. One or two of those, but mostly it's the modern Christmas songs - and then of course some of our favourite Motown songs as well. It's gonna be a really fun show."
As the singer mentioned earlier, Human Nature's Christmas album is being re-released this year, and as an added bonus this seasonal stunner - the third biggest selling album in Australia in 2013 - will be a Deluxe Edition featuring four new songs.
"Yeah, we've done four extra tracks, which are 'Let It Snow,' done as a duet with a wonderful Australian singer named Delta Goodrem, 'Run Run Rudolph,' 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' and 'Holly Jolly Christmas.'"
 Christmas  Motown and More!
"Christmas, Motown and More!"
Michael Caprio
I asked the experienced entertainer, who also dabbles in songwriting, what he enjoys most about performing at the world-class venue that is The Venetian. "Well if you're gonna perform anywhere in Vegas, I think The Venetian is one of the best spots because it is one of those top-level casinos...
"Everything around you looks amazing. It feels like there's been a lot of money spent and there probably is a lot of money spent there every day, actually! The Venetian has that element of prestige about it, which is great."
Joining the quartet on stage for the Christmas run is actress and singer Ruby Lewis, fresh from her stint in the musical Baz and definitely a name to watch out for in the world of entertainment. "Yeah, she's an incredible singer, amazing, so we're very lucky" enthuses Phil.
"The fact that she's just been announced to be the lead role in Cirque du Soleil's first ever Broadway show means she's on a pretty steep career trajectory right now, so we're fairly lucky that we've grabbed her when we can because in 12 months' time I don't think we'll be able to afford her!"
Human Nature's Motown Show, where the guys pay tribute to the artists that have inspired them, lasts throughout the year and is one of Sin City's must-see events. Which tunes from the Motown songbook does Phil particularly enjoy doing live?
"All of the songs are quite fun," he replies. "I think as we get towards the end of the show, we start to really ramp up the energy and the dance moves and everything. So there are songs in there that we do, 'ABC,' 'Can't Get Next to You,' '25 Miles,' 'Reach Out I'll Be There'... I think those ones are probably the most fun to sing because you get to really let loose and go a bit crazy."
Over the decades countless acts, professional or otherwise, from all over the world have attempted to do justice to the Motown hit factory, but not many can say they've been given the full seal of approval from Smokey Robinson, no less.
"He actually presents our Motown show via video every night here in Vegas," reveals Phil. "When we recorded our third Motown record in Australia - we did two before that - we asked a few of the original Motown artists if they would duet with us and Smokey said yes straight away.
"He'd heard the first two records and really liked them, so he was happy to come on board. Then we met him and sang for him and he told us, 'Whatever I can do to help out your career, boys, I'm happy to do,' so we asked him if he would put his name to our show and he said yes.
"I think it gives the show an air of credibility that it wouldn't normally have because people would go, 'Right, four white Australians singing Motown, that's a bit weird!' But when they see Smokey Robinson's name on the poster they look at that and think, 'Well Smokey knows what he's doing - I'll give it a shot.'"
Catch Human Nature at The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from November 21.
The Deluxe Edition of their Christmas album will be available to buy or download from November 20.
For more information on these Australian singing stars, visit their official website.
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