Kasey Chambers, the golden girl of Australian country music who is a staple on the mainstream charts, has returned with her 10th album, Bittersweet. CHRIS HAVERCROFT speaks to Chambers as she embarks on a new chapter, both personally and professionally.
Kasey Chambers’ history is well known as she hunted foxes when living on the Nullabor and played in a family band that saw her at times playing to empty bars and sleeping out in the elements.
Those days must feel like an eternity for the singer who now tops the charts with regularity and is again hoping to do so with her latest and 10th album.
“I like to think that each record is special at the time, even if I don’t think it was quite so special when I look back at a later date,” jokes the affable singer about Bittersweet. “I wanted to have a new interest in going in and making a record instead of doing the same old, same old thing. I never want it to feel like I am just going through the motions. I haven’t felt that up until now, but if I went back into the studio this time and did it with the same producer, the same musicians and the same studio, it wouldn’t have had the same excitement about it.”
It was the singer’s brother Nash (who is also her long-time producer, sound guy and manager) who suggested that maybe it was the right time for Chambers to look for someone else to produce Bittersweet and to also go somewhere else to record it. Chamber’s rationale was that she was searching for the same feeling that she had when she made her debut album, The Captain, all those years ago.
“I was nervous and excited at the same time. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen and to try and bring myself out of the comfort zone, so that was why I wanted to try something new. Part of this too, was to get a bunch of people in the studio that I hadn’t worked with before. Bernard Fanning was someone that I have always admired musically, and we have done little things together but never to the extent that I did in the studio on this record. He was amazing. He is one of my favourite people that I have ever worked with in the studio, actually. He took on a different role and played all of the keys and all of the acoustic guitars. I also managed to talk him into singing a duet.”
Instead of reading like a guest list of country musicians, Chambers gathered a collection of contemporary Australian musicians to flesh out the songs for Bittersweet. As well as the aforementioned Fanning, Dan Kelly brings his flourishing guitar lines, Matthew Englebrecht adds bass and Declan Kelly sits behind the drums. The record is also produced by Nick DiDia – whose credits include Pearl Jam, The Wallflowers and Bruce Springsteen – to add to the star-studded line-up.
“It wasn’t a conscious effort to get people outside of country music,” Chambers says. “It was more to try and get people who understand the type of music that I write and that I play, but are also people who think outside the box a little bit. I also ended up with Ashleigh Dallas, who has been playing in my band for a while and she is predominantly a country player. It was about getting people that get my type of music but would approach it in a different way than what I usually do.
“I liked the idea of getting people in who are also songwriters because they tend to not just think about their own instrument. They are not session guys that you just chuck a chart in front of and then they play. I wanted people who would think about songs from a different angle.”
With her marriage to musician, Shane Nicholson at an end, the past year has seen Chambers try and embrace a fresh start and a new way of living. She admits to having to shuffle around the way that she parents, where she lives and the way that she does things (including touring and making records). Even though Chambers admits to it being scary at times, it is exciting too and she expects that is reflected in the record.
“I guess the thing is that when I write songs it is usually in my darkest moments. For the rest of the day I am usually pretty happy and positive about life, but I do have those moments where I think, ‘oh my god, I’ve had a marriage breakdown’ or ‘that didn’t turn out right’ so I probably come out sounding more depressed than I really am. Part of that is probably my country upbringing and my dad playing Hank Williams records every day for the first 10 years of my life.”