Tami Neilson Isn't Afraid Of Touring Life… Or Crocodiles

  • Written by  Grace Purvis
  • Sunday, 13 August 2017 20:09
International soul star Tami Neilson takes on Australia with her highly rated album 'Don't Be Afraid' this August.

Since performing in her family's band as a young girl to now taking on solo shows and big-name festivals throughout the world, Canadian born, New Zealand-based country and soul singer Tami is a force to be reckoned with.

You've recently finished a Canadian tour; how did that go?
We did five shows in five different provinces with their own time zones in five days, which played havoc with our brains a bit especially landing from New Zealand the day before we kicked off. But the response and audiences made every bit of sleep deprivation worthwhile.

Montreal Jazz Fest was a career highlight for me; it's one of the best festivals in North America and the audiences are amazing. We were at a huge outdoor stage, singing to thousands of people and I decided to perform a quiet ballad, which I never do in that kind of setting and you could hear a pin drop; unheard of for a late-night festival audience. They love their music and respect their musicians.


You're coming to Australia in August for a tour; what are you most looking forward to about the trip?
Melbourne vintage shops if I get a minute to squeeze in a peek between shows. I also hope to catch some other artists shows at the Darwin Festival. I've only ever dipped my toes in the water over there, playing a couple festivals over the past decade. So, it's really exciting to bring my full band over and perform some headline shows. I also have some dear friends in Australia and hope to see them across the tour at shows.

What's your favourite memory of Australia?
Growing up in snowy Canada, Australia was always this magical, exotic place to me. I had a pen pal there when I was about eight years old and still remember getting a postcard with a kangaroo.

I remember waddling around Woodford Folk Festival, performing there when I was pregnant. Meeting Kasey Chambers at Tamworth (I adore her!), then walking to a gig in my heels down the main street and the sole of my shoe literally melting off. I had never experienced heat like an Australian summer.

You've added Paddy McHugh as your Australian tour support. Have you worked with him before?
I have never worked with or met Paddy, but have just found out that we have a mutual close friend who says lovely things. So he must be a bit of alright. I'm looking forward to meeting him.

You've been added to the Darwin Festival 2017. You'll have to plan a day-trip to see the local crocodiles?
You are just feeding into my soft spot for Australian magical folklore, aren't you? Local crocodiles... I'm there.


Some posts on your Instagram suggest sleep was a luxury for you throughout your tour in Canada; what's your plans after the Australian tour? Time for some rest?
Yes, two, three hours of sleep a night. This touring life is so glamorous. No rest for the wicked, sadly. After our shows with you lovely Aussies, we hop a plane back to NZ for one night to hug and kiss our families and then fly out the next morning for a three-week tour across Europe and the UK.

I'd like to say that I will rest when I get back home, but I have two little ones, so as most parents out there can attest to, rest is an ever-elusive thing that you learn to live without for the first few years. Good training for tour life.

You've got two young boys. How is it travelling and touring with/ without them?
My husband and I have to weigh each tour up and decide what's best for the boys – Sam (3) and Charlie (5). It is dependant on how gruelling the schedule is and while I miss them terribly and wish I could afford to have them with me all the time.

I also have to realise that when I'm in a different town every night with no days off and surviving on two, three hours sleep, going from hotel to airplane to van to soundcheck to show to hotel to airplane... it's much healthier for them to hang out with their Daddy for a couple weeks, surrounded by their little routine, skyping Mummy each day and tucked up into their own beds each night. It's also really great for them and for Daddy to have that one-on-one time with each other.

When they were tiny babies, I toured with them as they were a bit more transportable when they were babies. We now plan family holidays around one-off shows where we can make a whole weekend out of it or rent a holiday house for a week and stay on afterward. Charlie is now 5 and has gone on a few weekend trips flying around New Zealand with me, which is really exciting for both of us. I can't wait until they are a bit older and I can whisk them away overseas on adventures with me.

Your last album 'Don't Be Afraid' was released a couple of years ago. Should we be expecting to hear something new from you soon?
I'm currently writing my next album and starting to try out some of my new songs on audiences. I have studio time booked for November, so, hoping to have something new and shiny ready to roll early next year.

From a young age you were travelling and performing through Canada with the Neilson Family Band. What were some of those early experiences like?
Being raised in a touring family band was an incredible way to grow up, but I didn't quite realise that until I got older as the way you grow up is what is normal to you. We toured in a 40-foot motorhome for the better part of 10 years, playing all across the USA and Canada. Playing before Johnny Cash at a festival and meeting him afterward was a memory that will always stay with me from that time.


Your 2015 album 'Dynamite!' won Best Country album at the NZ Awards; how did that feel? Must have had all the feels that night?
I've been lucky enough to have won Best Country Album four times for my last four albums and it sure never, ever gets old! I am always overwhelmed and honoured to be recognised by my peers, especially being an ex-pat in another country. I am humbled to be so embraced and accepted as one of New Zealand's own.

You live in New Zealand; what prompted to move there? How have you found the move?
I've lived here for 12 years now. I fell in love; the age-old reason people turn their lives upside down and move to the other side of the world! New Zealand is my home now, but I get the best of both worlds, travelling to Canada a few times a year with my work to see my family there and get my fix of maple syrup and poutine!

What is the music scene like locally?
New Zealand has an incredible music scene and community. I find Kiwis always punch well above their weight on the world stage, producing music that makes an impact. From artists like Lorde, to friends and colleagues like Marlon Williams, Nadia Reid and Aldous Harding making waves internationally.

Tami Neilson Shows

Thu 17 Aug - Darwin Festival
Fri 18 Aug - The Flamin' Galah (Brisbane)
Sat 19 Aug - Ding Dong Lounge (Melbourne)
Sun 20 Aug - The Basement (Sydney)

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