He is one of eight children (five boys and three girls) raised in San Diego, where the family moved when he was four. East first studied cello from seventh through ninth grade and played in local Horace Mann junior high school‘s orchestra. At age fourteen he developed an interest in the bass guitar, playing in church with his brothers Raymond and David.
He was active in his (Crawford) high school’s music programs along with a local top 40 band called „Power“. He has said his early influences included Charles Mingus, Ray Brown and Ron Carter on upright bass; and James Jamerson, Paul McCartney and Chuck Rainey on electric bass. He studied music at UC San Diego. Nathan East is also an accomplished amateur magician member of The Magic Castle and the Academy of Magical Arts.
He has worked with Bobby Womack (on the album The Poet), Babyface, Anita Baker, The Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Peter Gabriel, Gail Ann Dorsey, Bryan Ferry, Herbie Hancock, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Al Jarreau, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Earth, Wind & Fire , B.B. King, Kenny Loggins, The Love Unlimited Orchestra, The Manhattan Transfer, Laura Pausini, Savage Garden, Sting, Barry White, and Stevie Wonder. He co-wrote the song „Easy Lover“ for Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. In 2013, he recorded the bass line for the 2013 hit „Get Lucky“ by Daft Punk, which won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (2014). Since the 1980s, East has been a member of Eric Clapton’s studio and touring bands. East was invited to play at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 2009.
In early 2010, he was invited to join American Grammy Award-winning rock band Toto on their reunion tour to benefit member Mike Porcaro, who had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. East later joined Toto for their 2011 and 2012 tours as well. He joined Eric Clapton’s band for concerts in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and Dubai in February and March 2014 and again for the Madison Square Garden and Royal Albert Hall concerts of May, 2015.
East’s debut self-titled solo album Nathan East was released on March 25, 2014.
With Yamaha, East developed a custom 5-string bass guitar signature model, the BBNE (modeled after his early 1980s BB5000 5-string bass). The second signature bass, the BBNE2, was released in 2001. A limited edition 30th Anniversary version (the BBNE2 LTD) was released in 2011. He has also used custom 6-string prototypes of his BBNE2 bass guitar between 2003 and 2005, along with his black 1980s LB-1 Motion 5-string bass and a pair of 6-string TRB6P models. Yamaha introduced the NE1 Parametric EQ Pedal, otherwise known as the „Magic Box“ in the early 2000s. This pedal essentially gives the player the ability to use the „Nathan East EQ curve“ on any bass they choose. East also plays a Yamaha SLB200 Silent Upright Bass.