She's been one of our favs for years and it's thrilling to see that the rest of the world is catching up on the Tami Neilson phenomenon. Just as many countries have borrowed our best kept secrets we're returning the favour with the Canadian who now calls Aotearoa home.
Born in Toronto, Tami Neilson has been performing for as long as she can remember, first alongside her parents and brothers in the Canadian country music family band, The Neilsons. From being cradled as a baby in the arms of Roy Orbison, singing with Kitty Wells at the age of 10, and opening for Johnny Cash in her pajamas at 18, she had already led an extraordinary life before leaving North America in 2007 to start her own family on the other side of the world.
Neilson has forged her own artistic path as a critically acclaimed solo artist and songwriter, ultimately earning wide-ranging applause and myriad NZ-based awards for her booming vocal power and inventive, strikingly personal approach to country, rockabilly, and soul.
2020’s CHICKABOOM! proved her most internationally praised work thus far, with No Depression declaring, “Neilson’s phrasing is impeccable…she gets inside the song, turns it inside and out, and makes it her own. She can soar on the rockers, she can deliver the heart-rending ache of a ballad of lost love, and she can capture the playfulness of a schoolyard rhyme with a joyous seriousness.”
With her tireless work ethic, seemingly infinite musical gifts, and subversive songwriting approach, Tami Neilson has already found extraordinary success on her own terms.
Now, with the groundbreaking KINGMAKER, she takes her music and message even further, using her one-of-a-kind voice to rattle cages and change the game for those who have been denied their rightful place at the table for far too long.
Recorded at Roundhead Studios, KINGMAKER marks Neilson’s most provocative and powerful collection to date.
Fuelled by the world-changing events of the past two years, the album’s songs expose and explode the patriarchal structures that pervade the music industry, family life, and society as a whole. While Neilson has previously explored these themes on 2018’s SASSAFRASS! the new album draws these challenging ideas out even further, shining a dramatic musical light on what the late bell hooks referred to as “the politics of domination” that render women nameless and voiceless.
Songs like “Baby, You’re A Gun” and the cinematic title track see Neilson giving her own resonant voice to women everywhere – to their strength, power, fierceness, and resilience in the face of structural and cultural barriers to their full participation in society.
Tami Neilson on her video for the single Kingmaker:
“It felt so fitting to work with an incredible team of women on this video for a song of empowerment, led by Director Alyx Duncan and Producer Emma Mortimer. Alyx really poured her heart and soul into making KINGMAKER come to life with her incredible attention to detail and she suggested approaching the owner of the historic St James Theatre located in the heart of downtown Auckland. The once-grand theatre that had hosted Queen Elizabeth herself in 1963 is now crumbling and dilapidated, shuttered for years as work to renovate it came to a standstill. This created the perfect symbolism for KINGMAKER- a group of women, alive and powerful, rising from the ashes of the old colonial institutions that once excluded and oppressed them. Art director and stylist Evie Kemp created the throne room and my crown, like a renaissance painting come to life. I wanted the visuals to reflect the cinematic feel of the song, which includes a choir of some of my dearest friends, Julia Deans, Anna Coddington, Bella Kalolo and Zoe Moon- all incredible New Zealand artists in their own right. I asked each of them to dress in what they viewed as regal and what made them feel powerful. (Bella wears Samoan traditional dress, Zoe wears cowrie shells- the ancient pan African symbolism of wealth and fertility, Anna wears a Maori necklace carving and a feather shrug that nods to the traditional Maori kākahu by indigenous designer Kiri Nathan) Having these women who support and surround me both in music and in friendship serves as a reminder that when we are united, we are so much stronger. “
TAMI NEILSON - KINGMAKER TOUR DATES
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
30 July Auckland, Aotea Centre, Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
Chamber Music New Zealand
3 August New Plymouth Theatre Royal
10 August Wellington Opera House
13 August Tauranga Baycourt
17 August Nelson Theatre Royal
18 August Dunedin Regent Theatre
Christchurch Symphony Orchestra
20 August Christchurch Douglas Lilburn, Christchurch Town Hall