Nathan East was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Thomas and Gwendolyn East. He and his family moved to San Diego when Nathan was four to take up his father’s aerodynamics engineer job. East was a child and learned familiar tunes from the family piano. East began playing cello in the junior high school orchestra. East began playing the cello in his junior high school orchestra at the age of 14. He then switched to bass guitar after being inspired by David, his older brother. East began playing in local churches and at folk masses along with his brothers. East listened to recordings of jazz bassists Ray Brown, Charles Mingus, Buster Williams, Scott LaFaro, Motown’s James Jamerson, James Brown, Larry Graham, Cream, as well as horn bands such Chicago, Tower of Power, Blood, Sweat, and Blood, Sweat.