It’s not uncommon for musicians to come from remote spots on the map — sometimes they emerge from places that don’t actually make the map. But even Alaska’s Jewel would be hard pressed to match the far-flung roots of singer / songwriter Tenielle Neda. (But you can just call her Neda; her friends and family do. It’s the Croatian word for ‘born on a Sunday’.)
Neda was raised on a plantation in WA’s Carnarvon, and as a teenager shifted to the far north of the state, where she mastered the fine art of driving trains to the port at Dampier. Not any trains, mind you: she was single-handedly operating trains that stretched for 2.4 kilometres and weighed 33,000 tonnes when loaded. Big rigs.
Neda’s musical awakening happened in church. ‘Instead of going to Sunday school with the other kids,’ she recalls, ‘I would stay with my Dad while my Mum played the church organ.’ Neda would stand on the pew, but strained to read the words, so her father whispered the lyrics to her. ‘I associate a lot of memories with music,’ says Neda. ‘It’s a powerful emotional medium.’
Neda duly soaked up the music of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and Joni Mitchell — and later on, Aimee Mann and Feist — and these iconic figures would play their part in shaping her own musical inclinations.
She wrote her first song while impatiently waiting for her mother to finish work. ‘It was about how bored I was,’ she admits. Simple. Not long after that Neda mastered her first cover — Jewel’s ‘You were meant for me’. Suddenly the distance between WA and Alaska shrank just a little bit.
And still she continued driving trains. Inevitably, a tug of war developed between her need to earn a living and the lure of making music. Did she really want to drive trains for the rest of her life? Neda had an epiphany. ‘I was a passionate closet singer / songwriter who loved to write and sing.’ It was time for her to break free.
Quicker than you could say, ‘road trip’, Neda packed the car and drove cross-country to Sydney. The gamble paid off when she was spotted by Mike Taylor from Island Records — home to Boy & Bear, Gin Wigmore, Clare Bowditch and Hilltop Hoods, among others — and Bill Page from Mushroom Music Publishing. Both became true believers. Neda’s debut EP is the end result of her pilgrimage.
‘The last two years have been a real creative journey,’ she states.
Others spotted Neda’s distinctive talent. For the EP, she co-wrote with Adrian Deutsch from the Red Riders, as well as Andy Bull, Tim Derricourt from Dappled Cities, Lisa Miller and Nashville great Kim Richey. Drummer Tim Hart from Boy & Bear also helped Neda bring her music to life in the studio. Swedish mixmaster Lasse Marten, who’s worked with Peter Bjorn and John and Sarah Blasko, added his distinctive dynamics.
Adrian Deutsch from the Red Riders not only wrote with Neda, but produced the EP. ‘I valued his creative input to the EP more than anything, his honesty, confidence and creativity.’ But the vision remains very much Neda’s. ‘What I really love is folk music, roots music, country music and pop music,’ she says. ‘And I think my music reflects all that.’
The EP’s title, Daylight Disguise, is a lyric taken from ‘The Sound’; its significance struck Neda while she was listening to the mix. ‘I feel there is an underlying lyrical theme on the EP, one where things or people — or just life in general — are not always as they seem. To me, Daylight Disguise sums up the record.’