Pic: Rachael Barrett
Ruby Boots, AKA Bex Chilcott has been residing in Nashville for the last 12 months. It’s one of the places where she feels at home, but it’s provided her with yet another journey.
“I’ve learnt over the years to really not have expectations,” she says down the line from Detroit, where she travelled recently to catch Tom Petty in concert. “I feel that amplifies the journey a little more. So I went to Nashville with a really open mind. Obviously, I had a goal to write my record, but I didn’t know how I was going to get there.”
Chilcott has been going to Nashville twice a year since 2012, but it was always her goal to stay there for a longer period of time. She has laid a foundation of friends, and landed an Australia Council Residency which enabled the longer stay to write and record her forthcoming second album.
“I’ve had this really serendipitous journey. I was writing here for my record and the co-writing was incredible. I found, especially so with people that I knew within a circle, that we related to moving in a direction that I wanted to go in with writing which is a small stray, perhaps even a big stray, from my last record (2015’s Solitude).
“We’ll see what people see. That was really fun and I found that I had a lot of solace in the fact that I could collaborate because I was having a really hard time writing by myself, because I was self-managed for so long, especially after that last album cycle, and I was so strapped from touring and managing the project that I really had lost myself in all.
“So I got to Nashville and I was really confronted by that. And obviously the standard of musicianship is second to none, and the volume of it as well. So I faced this thing where I was either going to sink or swim… and I don’t like fucking sinking.”
Firstly, some rest and regeneration was required. Extended bouts of touring had physically and emotionally exhausted the singer/songwriter.
“I realised when I’d got back to Nashville that I was really craving human connection. My social life, any kind of romantic life, my family life had all fallen by the ways,” Chilcott notes. “I remember hearing Silverchair’s manager John Watson saying about managing them and when it all blew up he compared it to four stove burners. One’s family, one’s recreation, one’s work and one’s another part of life. He didn’t put the ideal career as something in monetary terms, which I don’t see it as either, but an ideal career is to have all four of those stove burners going at once. If you remove one, then you lose two and three and the domino effect happens. I really had one stove burner going for two-and-a-half years.
“Then it was like, ‘wow, I can actually live life in the only city in the world that I have ever felt like I could call home’. That was such a reassuring effect, that I was still a human being.”
Chilcott soon went about getting creative, writing with friends (and friends of friends) and coming up with 40 songs for the album over six months. It was all about opening new doors and getting out of old habits, which also saw her teaming up with a Wrecking Crew-styled Dallas band, The Texas Gentleman.
“They were backing up Kris Kristofferson at Newport Folk Festival last year and they were doing a warm-up gig at this place called the American Legion. They said they were getting some guest singers up and I said, ‘well if you need someone to sing Me And Bobby McGee, I’d be really happy to get up there’. So an hour before the show he calls me and says, ‘you’re on’. True Nashville style. You really have to fly by the seat of your pants. It’s really helped me with my songwriting and as a performer, seeing the world class performances that are coming through every night of the week.
“One of the guys is a producer and he said, ‘I really like your voice’ and they were coming through Nashville on the way back and we got to talking and just built up this slow, organic relationship. I learnt about Dallas as a community. These guys are really next-level musicians. They’re playing all the time on people’s records as a collective and that really appealed to me and I thought ‘maybe I can record it in Dallas’.
“What I wanted was a band that really had something going already and to harness that chemistry. So, que sera sera, I went out to Dallas and we made the record.”
Chilcott recorded the album with the band in Dallas over three weeks, compared to Solitude, which took nine months across multiple sessions. She has now signed with the illustrious Bloodshot Records label in the US, with the LP due in early 2018.
“We had the best time,” she notes. “We had a really good fucking time. And the record really captures that moment in time. And it all comes back to me having no expectations, because without those I can follow an authentic, organic flow that is really written in the sand. I work at the things that help me get to my goal, but how that happens is up to fate and timing, which I think is important in this business. Don’t try and put a triangle into a square.”
Ruby Boots supports Justin Towne Earle along with Joshua Hedley at Fremantle Town Hall on Friday, October 27. More details at www.facebook.com/events/1626700774027153/