Thousand of musicians from all over the world applied, but Canadian/Kiwi singer Tami Neilson is one of the lucky few invited to play at Nashville's Americana Festival.

The singer has conquered the New Zealand country music scene but the American Festival could be her chance to break into the US market.

More than just your average festival, it is also a conference that includes industry showcases and an awards ceremony, and - if Neilson manages to impress - it could lead to anything from invitations to perform on TV and radio spots, to securing US management, booking agents or even a label deal.

"I think there is something like only 100 spots, so it's pretty amazing to be chosen and invited to go," she says.


"You hope that all the right people are in the audience; it's a big week with a lot of different people coming through town ... and all sorts of opportunities come at any time."

But more than that, it's a chance for her to return to "the music city of America", which she says is "almost like a hometown that I keep coming back to throughout my life".

Neilson first went to Nashville with her family band, travelling in their motorhome and singing "at any opportunity we could".

They later scored a contract to perform on the General Jackson showboat, which they did for a year before becoming regulars on the Nashville Cowboy Church - a radio show hosted by Johnny Cash's sister Joanne.

The cost of flying herself and her band to Nashville, as well as covering accommodation and transport, is a tall order so Neilson's putting on a show to raise funds.

She'll perform her Songs of Sinners show at Auckland's Tuning Fork on September 1, a show she's previously performed only in Christchurch.

The show pays tribute to the gospel, jazz and country artists who influenced it - "artists like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mavis Staples right through to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash".

What: Tami Neilson sings Songs of Sinners, with special guests.
When: Thursday, September 1, 8pm
Where: The Tuning Fork at Vector Arena
Tickets: $40 presale (see Ticketmaster), $50 door.

Americana in NZ

If you're not lucky enough to be booking tickets to Nashville for its Americana Festival, never fear, because we have our very own, right here in New Zealand.

The Southern Fork Americana Festival returns to Auckland's Tuning Fork.

October 7: Skyscraper Stan, The Commission Flats and Ravens
October 8: Hayes Carll and Adam McGrath
October 12: Robert Ellis and Joe Pug
October 13: Josh Rennie-Hynes and Liam Gerner
October 14: Lindi Ortega and The Cactus Blossoms
October 16: The Shape I'm In, featuring Ebony Lamb, Tom Cunliffe, Hopetoun Brown and more.

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