Chicks With Guitars

Not a fetish. Just an appreciation.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I got a chance to spend 20 minutes on the phone with Kasey Chambers to preview her gig at the Southgate House. Her Warner Bros. publicist set it up for me, and I stayed in the office until 7:30 p.m. so I could take her call. She was very sweet, even when I started gushing about how much I loved her. Anyway, here's the story:

By Richard O Jones

When Kasey Chambers was 3 weeks old, her father Bill took her, her mother and her older brother Nash deep into the Nullabor Plain — a vast, desolate expanse of south-central Australia — to hunt foxes and rabbits. They lived there for seven months of the year, isolated from civilization, until she was 9 years old.

“It didn’t seem odd to me at the time,” she said. “It was just the way we lived. But now that I talk to people, I realize that it’s pretty strange.”

But without the influences of the outside world, the Chambers family entertained themselves, mostly with Bill playing the guitar and the others singing along to the songs that he knew — songs by Jimmie Rogers, the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

“My dad kind of gave me the impression that everybody listened to that type of music, and he probably thought that, too,” Chambers said. “He probably didn’t think how weird it was that in the Outback of Australia we’re playing Gram Parsons albums instead of Neil Diamond albums or something. But that was such a big part of my life, and I didn’t realize until years later how much it did influence me.”

The Chambers clan moved back to “civilization” in 1986 so the children could attend school, but they were soon back on the road touring as the Dead Ringer Band. After four albums together, culminating with 1997’s “Living in the Circle,” and winning several awards – including an ARIA – the Dead Ringer Band had become one of the most popular country acts in Australia.

When she was 13 years old, Bill took her to see a Roseanne Cash concert, and her outlook on music, and indeed her entire life, changed.

“I hadn’t been to that many concerts because of our lifestyle,” she said. “But
when Lucinda Williams came on stage to open for her, I’d never heard a singer perform like that. Up until then, I thought a song was just something a singer uses. But here she was, putting her heart on her sleeve with her songs.

“At first I didn’t know whether I loved it or hated it, but before the first song was over, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Her first album, “The Captain,” was released when she was 19. “Barricades and Brick Walls” followed two years later, and last year, at age 26, she released “Wayward Angel,” the first album, she said, that really sounds like what she wants to sound like.

And a fourth album shouldn’t be too far off.

“I don’t really write that many songs,” she said. “If an album had 13 songs on it, it’s because that’s how many I had when we started making the record.

“But I’ve been spending a lot more time at home and I’ve been writing all the time, a lot more than I used to.”

Chambers’ solo career is still very much a family affair. Nash serves as her manager and has produced her three albums. Bill is her lead guitarist and mother Diane is in charge of merchandise.


PS: We went to see Kasey's show at the Southgate House and hung around later trying to get an autograph. She didn't come out, but I had a chance to talk to Bill for a minute. I asked him if fox hunting paid better than being a guitar player and he said that it paid surprisingly well back in the '70s.


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