She’s Dynamite! Q & A with our own Queen of Country, Tami Neilson

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Singer, songwriter, musician, wife, mother, even a Glory Days covergirl… Tami Neilson is one talented lady with a few strings to her bow!

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There can’t be many of you out there that aren’t yet familiar with this Canadian – who now calls NZ home, along with her Kiwi husband and two children, but just in case, here’s a bit of bio from Tami’s website:

“With a soulful voice straight from the golden age of country and rockabilly music, Tami Neilson has been described as “A red-hot honky-tonker, somewhere between Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson with perhaps just a little bit of Peggy Lee sophistication.” (-Nick Bollinger, NZ National Radio)
Singing her heart out along endless roads and stages, from her days as a young girl in Canada touring with the Neilson Family band, opening for the likes of Johnny Cash, to her full blossoming in New Zealand as a formidable talent in her own right, Tami Neilson has won the Tui Award for each of her past three albums.

Now, in 2014, Tami has been awarded the APRA Silver Scroll, New Zealand’s most prestigious music award for excellence in songwriting, for her song “Walk (Back to Your Arms)”. Tami was also awarded the “Best Female Artist” at the National Country Music Awards and APRA’s “Best Country Song” at the NZ Country Music Awards. The release of her explosive new album “Dynamite!” has been receiving rave reviews, including 5 Stars in the NZ Herald, claiming “This world-class album is a major statement from an artist at the top of her lyrical and vocal game.”, while National Radio NZ states “I don’t reckon there’ll be a better country album released this year.”

Charting #1 on the NZ Music Charts, Independent Music NZ Charts and iTunes Country Charts, the album is well on it’s way to proving them right!

While already having made a solid name for herself here in NZ, Tami’s latest album “Dynamite” and her musical talent are making reviewers jaws drop all over the world. You can check out her banging new video for third single off the album and the title track “Dynamite” below – featuring Anika Moa, Miss Victory Violet and Ria Hall. I love the Tarantino-esque vibe and the never mess with a woman attitude!

One of the things that makes such a fan of Tami’s is her incredible live performances. If you haven’t been along to one of her gigs before, DO IT! The first time I saw her live (very  pregnant, rocking a wiggle dress like nobody’s business!), I was blown away. I had to buy and listen to her album and have been hooked since! Always a huge fan of old school country legends like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton, I felt like I was really listening to something extraordinary. Tami plays with some of NZ’s best musicians, it’s always a show not to be missed! The originals sound as polished as on the albums, and if you’re lucky you might hear Tami play a cover from one of the legends she invokes, which will send tingles up your spine….

For a lady of such formidable talent, you couldn’t have anyone further away from being a diva! On stage, Tami’s easy going manner and infectious laugh make you really LIKE her, and in person she is just as lovely and friendly, always taking time after her shows to chat, sign albums and pose for photos. In fact, after one show I approached Tami, somewhat sheepishly, with an unusual request. You see, my four year old daughter loves Tami’s music, and seeing as she couldn’t attend the concert (past her bedtime)… she asked me to bring Barbie in her stead. Dressed especially for the show, of course. Tami didn’t bat an eyelid when I pulled Barbie out of my purse, she just laughed and posed for the photo 🙂 And my daughter was thrilled!

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Last year, Miss Tami was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for me!
With wedding chaos now over, I can get back into my blogging and am excited to share her answers with you…

Who are your biggest inspirations?
My family.

Choose three words you think best describe yourself!
It changes on a daily basis, but, today it’s: Mother. Happy. Tired!

 What book are you currently reading?
 I used to be a 1-2 books a week kinda gal (Ah, so THAT’S what I did with my time before having kid…!). Now I’m lucky to get through one every couple months! I just started “Shoot the Moon” by Billie Letts, after having heard of her passing. I’ve read all of her other books and it saddens me that there will be no more. I love her quirky humour mixed with dark and disturbing situations. Her characters are so memorable and great. (Her son, Tracy Letts, the playwright of “August: Osage County”, definitely carries on her talent!)

 Favourite piece in your wardrobe!
Too hard to choose just one- I am a dress kinda gal, so, you’ll find me wearing one- either from Rita Sue, De Vol Clothing, Pin Up Girl Clothing or, most recently, a custom dress made for me by Devel Men & Women!

What comes into your mind when you picture “happiness”?
My babies laughing.

You juggle your successful music career, which involves plenty of touring, with being a mum of two! Do you have any tips for other multi-tasking mamas for how to make things work?
The secret to making this hectic lifestyle work is the support of an amazing husband, who jumps in and takes over the solo-parenting role and always encourages me to pursue my music. Also, lots of organizing well in advance!

 Is there any one song you enjoy performing most?
I think the sad ones are my favourite! I always love singing “She’s Got You” by Patsy Cline.

What’s your favourite way to relax in your spare time?
Spare time?? Haha. Um…snuggling up to watch a movie with my hubby, reading a book uninterrupted, or a real treat these days- a massage or a pedicure!

If you had to pick your top 5 albums (or artists) of all time, what (or who) would they be?
Damn, another tough one…
Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Mavis Staples, Louis Armstrong, Loretta Lynn

What upcoming plans and projects can we look forward to seeing in the future?
I’m currently writing new material for my next album, being recorded in April 2015!

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Awesome, thanks so much to Tami! I’ll be looking forward hugely to hearing what she has up her sleeve for her new album!

If you want to get along and see this talented and inspirational lady perform next, check out her latest schedule here… I know I can’t wait for the Auckland show at the Tuning Fork April 10th!

Lorelei Louise xx

Friday Feature: Q & A with Lady Salsa about her label Ava and Rose!

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Lady Salsa in Ava&Rose

In this first post of a series on inspirational women, I ask Melbourne based Suzanne Marambio, or Lady Salsa as her alter ego is known, to tell us more about herself, and her gorgeous line of vintage inspired playsuits! She has some great tips on how to juggle being a working Mum of 2 with running her business Ava and Rose where she designs and even models her pinup perfect creations. I happen to think her playsuits with matching wrap skirts might just be the ultimate versatile piece for the pinup wardrobe! I will leave it to the lady herself to tell you more…

1. Tell us a little about your label, Ava and Rose

I created the label in August 2013. I was frustrated at not finding vintage inspired playsuits suitable for sleepwear, I looked at all the well known mainstream labels in Aust and overseas but was frustrated at how you always had to remove the straps and unbutton when you had to go the bathroom! After days of research on my internet I decided to create a draft template of what I envisioned to be the perfect playsuits that was still fun, feminine, flirty but most importantly functional. Body suits have been around for a long time so why couldn’t it be blended so that hidden snap fasteners could be concealed and therefore worn under skirts, swing pants and used as a foundation piece. I have been very fortunate as I am also a trained Intimo stylist with Intimo Lingerie Australia therefore I had seen many body types and understood bra straps were a must as women differ in their torso length. Many straps on playsuits in store are fixed and therefore can look a disaster if you are short or too tall. I contacted a professional seamstress, Carole Herd, from Sew Happy Workshop in my area and explained what I wanted regarding the pattern and let her draft it up for me. She created my first template sample and as soon as I tried it on I knew it was almost there. Carole graded the pattern to small, medium and large and she recommended a seamstress that could assist in creating my playsuits. Our partnership is perfect as I source for all materials and trimming, cut and pin the patterns and her role is to sew the playsuits and we both double QC check them.
My first playsuits were in gingham and polka dot fabric and I asked a few of my work colleagues to be my first fit models to define what size small, medium and large. They also helped in perfecting the template as we added more length to the short for depth and widen the width of the short so it wasn’t tight and restrictive around the thighs.
They all loved the final layout and recommended I go ahead and create more as they were placing pre-orders with me. The brand name comes from my daughter (Lavinia Ava) and god daughters middle name (Tyler Rose) blended together.

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2. Your playsuits and sets have some very clever and unique features, can you tell us a bit about those?

Miss Ruby front pose

Miss Ruby Rabbit in Miss Ruby Loves Retro playsuit and matching bolero

The body of the playsuits are made from 100% cotton as I wanted them to breathable and comfortable for both sleepwear and daywear. Then I added the adjustable bra straps so the bodice could be adjusted to fit the body shape of ladies. I wanted it to have a vintage inspired feel and after researching lots of original patterns in Pinterest I added the slightly elasticized waist to cinch and create an hour glass shape. The attached knicker short had to have a cotton frill trimming to make the look feminine and I love all the extra details of satin bows and appliques to define the mood and character of the playsuit. They are based on fictional characters of Hollywood Starlets from the 1950s…so when I shop for fabric I am always thinking about what I will call her! They are categorised as either a Siren or Sweetheart as you can channel your inner Goddess or Hollywood sweetheart when you wear an Ava and Rose playsuit. I find 20-30s love the Sweetheart look like Miss Joanie, Miss Greta and Miss Bettie and 30s plus like the Siren look like Miss Sophia, Miss Audrey and Miss Ruby. Each playsuit has the same template but differs slightly in bow, trimming and applique detail to define the personality and mood it is suited for.

The wrap skirt was developed so you could wear it out with the playsuit and thus it would look like a dress. Plus would give a bit of modesty for those who aren’t as comfortably strutting on the street in a playsuit. I also love the fact that my playsuit is designed for mums too. I have two young children and am very comfortable with the style as the bodice doesn’t open and cause breast spillage and is a square neckline and the attached knicker looks like a short and covers up my bottom.
3. I first saw your label modelled by Australian pinup model Miss Ruby Rabbit, wearing the amazing “Ruby Loves Retro” playsuit. Do you ever do other custom pieces?

the Pacific Belles with Lady Salsa

The Pacific Belles and Lady Salsa

My favourite part of being a designer is creating new playsuits, especially custom pieces. I met the Pacific Belles, a Swing singing trio in Melbourne at the Love Vintage show and was instantly drawn to their musical talent and energy. I knew at that moment I had to dress them for future gigs. We caught up afterwards and they were keen for a new costume to take on their June trip to WCOPA (World Championships of Performing Arts) in Hollywood. It was fate and perfect timing as Miss Greta the nautical playsuit was in the Australian colours of red, white and blue and we agreed that this would be their opening ceremony outfit. I set about researching a pattern for a suitable wrap skirt and matching bolero. For added detail I organised for their initials to be sewn on the bolero to keep it personal to their roles as Betty, Dot and Mabel Belle. The best part of creating custom pieces is seeing them up on stage and photographed by other pinup artists in different settings both indoors and outdoors. I have another custom order in creation for a Perth Cabaret Act and always welcome costume designs as I love theatre and also have a tap dancing background so understand the need for stage presence and creating a costume that is not only comfortable but is a showstopper! I strive to keep the production runs low to keep the look exclusive and not mass produced like fast fashion today. We also take care to double stitch and overlock the seams so the playsuits last with wash and wear.

Lady Lace in Miss Betty loves Cherries pl aysuit

Lady Lace in Miss Betty Loves Cherries Playsuit

4. Where do you find inspiration from when creating your designs?

I have always loved watching old Hollywood movies, as a teenager my room was covered in posters of Marilyn Monroe and I have always loved the fashion from the 1940s- 50s. It is only recently that I have embraced it more and made it part of my daily routine and dress sense of both retro inspired and Japanese vintage pieces. I look at my favourite actresses, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn and modern designers like Bernie Dexter for inspiration on how to pick suitable prints which meets the needs of the rockabilly doll. For example with the Miss Audrey playsuit it is based on the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s the colours black and white representing the character Holly dress sense and Siren persona on screen. I am keen to make a Miss Monroe and Miss Doris in 2015 so stay tuned for red and white polka dots and Daisy/ floral print.

5. Now as well as designing and creating your own clothing line and running a small business, you are also a Mum! What is your best advice for keeping all those balls in the air?

I follow Marieforleo.com for her video tutorials and advice on staying focussed on my dreams and keeping a balanced life in check with my role as mum and designer.

I also follow Franklin Covey’s lifestyle of the 5 Choices and 7 Habits of highly effective people which helps me to schedule the big rocks and begin with the end in mind and focus on the bigger goals. I am lucky to have a supportive family and friends around me who encourage and allow me to explore new opportunities and this keeps me motivated and positive too.

I do have a scatterbrain so you will see lots of scribble pads in my kitchen and on my wall calendar, vision boards and my mobile phone calendar full with tasks and dates as I do lead a busy lifestyle. After work I also do the mummy duties such as after school activities, dance every Sat morning and maintain a house just like a 50s housewife, with cherry apron and all!

But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hate having nothing to do, setting goals and creating designs keeps life interesting and fun and has made the last 12 months so exciting with meeting new people and connecting with a global audience. I pinch myself sometimes as I did not study in fashion school but have been fortunate to surround myself with professional people who are skilled at drafting patterns and sewing. I take care of the marketing, personally shopping for fabric and trims, social media, photo shoots and designing new collections as I am passionate about connecting with women’s needs and wanting to be a leader in creating playsuits that are quirky like me!

6. What future plans and projects can we be looking out for?

2015 will be new direction as I venture into vintage inspired playsuits for Brides and Bridesmaids. I will be exhibiting at the Vintage Bride Fair in Melbourne on Sun 22 March and over Christmas will design 3-4 new white playsuits and offer Brides a perfect lingerie piece for their honeymoon and the option to create personal gifts for their Bridesmaids instead of the traditional jewellery and bathrobes.
I also welcome new costume making opportunities, custom made designs and will continue to find new stockists and new connections wtith retro loving women though online magazines, my Facebook, twitter and instagram pages @avaandrose.

7. Lastly, as I’m sure you are all wondering, ‘where can we get our hands on one of your fabulous creations?

I am best contacted via facebook at www.facebook.com/avaandrose and I like the personal discussion with my customers about what they are looking for and what I can make for them.
There is an Etsy Store set up as well at www.avaandroseboutique.etsy.com and my playsuits can be bought at Once More, With Feeling at 73 Charles Street, Seddon in Victoria.
Would be lovely to find a stockist in NZ – so hopefully your blog will make that happen!

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Miss Dorothy playsuit and wrap skirt

Gorgeous retro designs, quality, delightful details, comfort (clothes I can wear to bed, yes please), unique features such as adjustable straps and snaps to win the clothing vs toiletting battle once and for all… I want them all! Lucky for me, my very own custom playsuit and wrap skirt are on their way and I can’t wait to share. Thank you Suzanne for answering my questions, you are one inspiring lady!

I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of Ava and Rose!

Lorelei Louise xx