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Tami Neilson on ‘insidious’ sexism

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Sexist behaviour persists in the music industry, but it tends more insidious than outright sexual misconduct. That’s the view of Tami Neilson, whose latest album Sassafrass! – out on June 1 – is heavily focused on female inequality.

The singer-songwriter told NZ Music Business that while she had never been a victim of sexual misconduct, she believes that sexist attitudes remain in the business.

“I think sexism and misogyny is a much more insidious thing,” she says. “For women in the music industry, it’s lost opportunities, it’s being passed over or other people taking credit for your work and that being very accepted. It’s the look of shock when someone says ‘oh, you wrote that song all by yourself?’

“I think people who don’t think they have been affected by it are only talking about sexual misconduct, which I haven’t experienced. But I have definitely experienced sexism.”

On the album, Neilson also addresses some of the sexist attitudes in the wider community, in particular her choice to pursue a music career.

“I never experienced sexism full force until I became a mother and dared to be a musician – and a touring musician at that. These roles that society assigns us from birth… we think we have come so far but you don’t realise how deeply ingrained it is until you start getting criticism for being on the road or my husband being the prime caregiver when I’m away. I was definitely addressing a lot of that on the album.”

Steeped in soul and R&B as well as her other trademark retro sounds, Sassafrass! should see Neilson ditch the ‘country singer’ tag once and for all. It’s also her first album to feature her regular touring band and she is delighted that she has finally got to record with them

“I have been playing with these guys for a few years now so it has been really exciting to go into record with them,” she says. “I think it will be nice for them to tour this album and play songs they created and put their mark on.”

Neilson and the band will get the chance to do that at the end of June when they head out on a global jaunt to promote the album. “We are actually doing a couple of shows in China, and then a couple of weeks in Canada. We come back to New Zealand for the tour here and then we head back overseas to do Europe and the UK.”

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