My first job was...

performing and touring across the US and Canada with my family band, The Neilsons.

It taught me… everything I know about the music business.

My big break came… it's not so much a big break as it has been decades of digging through rock and dirt with a spoon, like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption.

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The last job I quit was… A covers band I used to perform in when I first moved to New Zealand. Singing ABBA and Beyonce from 10pm to 2am, three nights in a row, while people gambled and didn't look up from their machines. Paying dues, baby!

The most famous person I've ever met is… Roy Orbison once held me in his arms when I was a baby! I've also had the privilege of opening for many famous people that I admire, from Johnny Cash to James Taylor, but just last month I was walking off stage after opening for Robbie Williams at the Spark Arena and this older man with long, curly, wild white hair was standing in the wings. As I walked past him, he said "that was incredible" and bowed. I smiled and said thank you and continued to walk... then stopped in my tracks and spun back around when I realised it was Brian May from QUEEN!

He was... absolutely lovely and kind and very down-to-earth.


The best time I've had on stage was… it's too hard to choose just one. Performing with my Dad onstage will always be the most special to me because he's now gone and I treasure those memories.

But the worst was… Again, hard to choose just one! A rodeo when I was about 16 stands out in my mind, my whole family had to traipse through cow manure in heels and sequins to get to the stage.

• Tami Neilson performs at the Bay of Islands Music Festival with Jimmy Cliff, Katchafire and Teeks on Saturday, March 31 in Paihia. Tickets from $119 from Eventfinda.