Born for the stage

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Sitting at a piano, belting out raucous tunes, Jan Preston is worlds away from her Greymouth upbringing.

Despite her family not being “artistic”, Preston has forged a successful music career, while her sister, Gaylene Preston, is a world-renowned director.

“My parents didn’t have any opportunities for even tertiary education, let alone learning an instrument, but they loved music, and they encouraged us,” Preston says.

“I think I was born on a stage, I’ve always been a performer, an entertainer, it sort of came naturally to me.”

She began her career as a classical pianist, but switched to the “upbeat swing” of boogie piano.

“Although I loved classical music, by the end of the degree I wasn’t happy to be a concert pianist or, more likely, a piano teacher.

“So I cut off my hair, and moved to Wellington where I experimented with different styles of music, working in an independent theatre group and then rock bands.

“It’s just great fun.”

Since making the change, she’s released multiple solo albums and has also been a member of several bands, including Midge Marsden’s Country Flyers, Coup D’Etat, and The Tribe.

She also composes music for films, including collaborations with her sister.

“I think I’ve always been directed by Gaylene,” she laughs.

“Nepotism aside, Gaylene is a very, very good film-maker, a very good director, she’s very good to work with.

“Sometimes it’s disappointing when we finish something, because she just becomes my big sister again.”

Some of her memories with Gaylene will feature in her new tour, ‘88 Pianos I Have Known’, which she’s bringing to Queenstown next week.

She says the show “rockets along”, but it’s not all high-energy tunes.

“There’s a journey, personal stories, personal photos, there’s laughter and tears,” she says.

“I think that’s why people respond or relate very well, all of us have sadness and joy in our lives.

“There’s no acting, I’m just myself.”

To catch Jan Preston, head to the Memorial Centre, next Wednesday, 7.30pm, $24