Twenty-four years have passed since five young performers were selected to form Hi-5, one of Australia’s most successful musical groups.
The children’s band released multiple chart-topping albums, performed all over the world and received several ARIA and Logie Awards.
Now, original member Nathan Foley has spoken openly with Yahoo Lifestyle about his 10 years in the group, his relationship with fellow member Kellie Crawford, and what he’s up to now.
How did you become a part of Hi-5?
This year for me, which sounds really weird because I don't see myself as old, is my 32nd year in the industry. I started when I was about 10 doing a lot of shows and the School Spectacular at the Entertainment Centre and I got into a program called the Talent Development Project, which is funded through the education department where you go in twice a month and they give you pointers on your performance.
At the time I didn't have an agent, so they called me after I left, I was only 18 at the time, and they said, "Nathan, there are some auditions going down at the ABC Studios for a new kids' show, they’re looking for five presenters, singers, dancers, actors". So I went down there and did the audition. They put us into five groups of five and then they put our combination – myself, Tim [Harding], Charli [Robinson], Kellie [Crawford], Kathleen [de Leon Jones] – into this group, and our voices just gelled. It was one of those big moments and they said, "That's our group".
We did the pilot at the ABC and then Channel Nine pretty much took the show on board and that was it, and then everything just went so fast. We didn't really take it all in to begin with. We just went out there and did what we did and sang and danced and had no idea that the show was growing as rapidly as it did. That pretty much was the process, but it was all very, very fast. I was a year out of home as well, so it's one of those growth moments going from a teenager to a man but then having to tour the world and record and film and all those things. So I guess in a way, it kind of looked like an overnight thing but I was working for eight years before Hi-5 came along. I worked my butt off.
What was it like meeting the other members for the first time?
I actually knew Kathleen since I was about 12. We did shows together back in the early days. She was two years older than me, but we did a shopping centre show together for Christmas. So I knew Kathleen and her family and then when we got put together it was already established that she was like my older sister anyway.
The other guys I had never met before. But we were all very young and you have your ups and downs – we were like a family. So to begin with, it was all the excitement of getting out and doing a brand new show on TV. But then obviously, we're humans, we’re people, so sometimes you had a bad day, sometimes had a good day. It wasn’t always smiles, it wasn’t always heartache. We had a great time together.
What was the Hi-5 lifestyle like?
It was busy, it was exhausting at the same time. There are not a lot of groups in the world that actually do the TV thing but also do the recording, also go and visit the children's hospitals, and also have no time. We were teenagers, and we were loving the ride, but it was long hours. We were filming two-and-a-half days a week, rehearsing the rest of the week … We didn't have autocue, we had to learn our scripts for our segments, and learn our songs as well.
And then after that, we toured for seven months of the year doing three one-and-a-half-hour shows a day, six days a week around Australia, Asia, New Zealand and the whole of the UK. It was a lot of hard work and there were a couple of times that I nearly ended up in hospital just from exhaustion. I was buggered. So even though we were young, we were still working so, so hard.
But at the end of it all, it felt like we were doing something really good. I guess I can speak for a majority for all of us, it wasn't just about the music, it wasn’t just about the touring, it was about giving back to these kids. Especially when we went to the children's hospitals. There was this one time we went and saw this little girl, she was pretty severely sick and she had a couple of weeks to live. We walked in and she was in bed, her mother was standing beside her bed, and she looked up and she smiled at us. And the mother started crying and she said, "That's the first time my daughter's actually smiled in a couple of years".
It made you put things into perspective that it wasn't just a pop group. We were out there to make a difference and change lives at the same time. It was a heartfelt, horrible moment, but it was also beautiful at the same time knowing we had actually given something to this little girl who didn't have a long time to be on the earth.
What do you think made Hi-5 so special?
I've got a two-and-a-half-year-old now and for the first time in my life, I’m watching kids' shows. I'm like, "Oh my god, I can't watch this". But I think Hi-5 had that special combination where a parent could sit down and have a bit of a laugh as well at things we said, and the music was very pop-orientated. Lyrically it was for the kids, but obviously musically and melodically in the way that it was produced, it was primarily just pop music. You could play it on radio, obviously without the lyrics.
Was there ever competition between other children’s entertainment groups?
No, not at all. The funny thing is, we were asked that question a lot back in the day and I was like, well no, if you look in the adult world of music there are thousands of people out there competing, there are thousands of people on radio and on television. So there were only a handful of us in Australia: The Wiggles, Hooley Dooleys, Hi-5. I mean, that was pretty much it.
We were all so different as well, and we had so much respect for The Wiggles as well and we worked with them a couple of times doing some shoots and they were always lovely and supportive. Even today with my own music, Anthony [Field] is such a massive supporter of my solo stuff and I got to support them a couple of years back with my own stuff. We've just stayed friends and I think with the competition side of things, we just never thought about it.
What was it like working with Kellie, who became your fiancée?
It was a different world. I mean, obviously, we were together for about seven years, but we were also locked in with each other as a group. The outside world was kind of a blur to us at that time, so in a way, it was kind of a convenience. It’s like, oh okay, we're working together… That's sort of how that eventuated, but it was fine. We got along great.
How did you find working together after you broke up?
I think it just became about work. Honestly, when it comes to relationships, obviously, if you're smart enough, you know if something's not going to work, or if you’re smart enough, you know if something is going to work. I think at the end of it, we were good mates and we were just like, it is what is, it didn’t work out so let's just concentrate on the job.
What was it like saying goodbye to Hi-5?
I had my moment, I had my time. Obviously, I missed doing the show, but after ten years it kind of got to the point where I was like, yeah, I want to go back to my roots, go back to what I do. I never ever saw myself as a kids entertainer, even when I was doing the show. I just saw myself as an entertainer going in and doing my thing.
So it's kind of been a good and a bad thing for myself, even afterwards. Now everyone sees ‘Hi-5’, which is fantastic and I'll never apologise for the show whatsoever, but I think it has put a typecasting on me in some sort of way as well, which hasn’t been fun. But the positive to it all is that the fans are now in their 20s and they’re following me to come to my own shows and they’re rocking out with my band, and I'm bringing them with me now.
What you saw on TV on Hi-5, minus the colourful clothing, was genuinely me. I've always had lots of energy, I've always been a singer, dancer, actor, it's what I've always done, so just the music's changed, I guess. It’s still me, but just a different chapter of my life, a different chapter of my entertainment career.
What stands out from your ten years in Hi-5?
Just to be part of something that was iconic, part of something that touched many people's lives that are still very much a part of people's lives now. I mean, obviously meeting people that are in their 20s, it was a massive impact on them, and even parents now in their 20s that have got their own children now, they’ve kind of taken that on and shown their own children this show.
I believe that if a show is special enough or it has a beautiful message or it was strong musically like ours was, it is something that will live on. I mean, obviously, it will date eventually over time in the fashion and then it may come back, you never know! But I think if you're a part of something so special and so iconic, it's going to stay with people for a long time. I think I'm very grateful and very privileged to be a part of that journey and be a part of the lives and upbringing of kids around the world for that matter.
Do you keep in touch with any of the original Hi-5 members?
We stay in contact now and again. Obviously, we're all in different states of Australia now and we’ve all got our own lives and our own journeys and our own goals. So now and again we put a phone call in and say g'day or send a text message to see how everyone's doing but yeah, I mean, we all love each other.
Obviously, it's a very hard thing to say when you see rock bands out there and you see this person hates this person, but we never hated each other. We were just brothers and sisters and we have such respect for each other, even today. We all have that one thing in common that we shared something special together, and that will never die.
What made you want to go on The Voice in 2019?
I never went into it to try and win, and I didn't care about that. But I wanted to get out there and show people that I'm not dead. So I did it and got through a few episodes and it really actually did help publicity-wise to push me into getting my record deal and my management. I've got some great work coming in and I've been able to record my brand new album which comes out in September.
It's so cool. It’s not following any trends, but it's got pop, rock, soul, dance, it's got everything. It's a very sexy kind of album – very different from Hi-5. But it's something for everybody. I know that it's going to be across the board, across the genres and across the different age groups. Everyone’s going to really love it and I can't wait to share it with everybody.
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