Ruby Boots, aka flame-haired, Perth alt-country troubadour Bex Chilcott, is bold and unafraid. Like the gutsy characters in her cleverly crafted cowboy-mouth songs, she doesn’t hide from what she wants and doesn’t care who knows it.
Boots is not your typical cookie cutter country songstress. Adding her flair to the Australian Americana/alt-country scene for some years now, she does so with style and sass, and it’s no wonder she has become one of the leading talents to tour.
A couple of EPs have been markers of her growth so far, but they hardly prepare you for the magic contained on Ruby Boots’ debut album Solitude (set for release on April 24).
Show after show she has received accolades, nabbing coveted support spots with Shaky Graves/Shovels & Rope and Tony Joe White in March this year. She has also opened for the likes of Father John John Misty (USA), Justin Townes Earle (USA), Wagons, Mama Kin, Tim Rogers, Adalita and many more!
Her signing with Lost Highway Records Australia, and a West Australian Music (WAM) Country Song of The Year Award with single ‘Wrap Me In A Fever’, confirms that Ruby Boots is a star clearly on the rise.
I caught up with Bex Chilcott before she kicked off her Solitude album launch tour…
You have some pretty neat tattoos too. What are they and what do they represent?
They all have their own wonderful story, the one that gets the most attention is my owl on the left arm, it’s my buddy, walks with me everywhere I go in the same direction … it was the very first visual piece that was created to pair up with my music, it was added to for the final EP cover but the original draft design had a raw edge to it, so I put it on my left arm … it reminds me of where this mad musical journey all started from! I have a cool old shcool radio that I saw hanging from a roof on Frenchman street in New Orleans, I paired it with my favourite Ryan Adams song “Let It Ride” which I stuck it on my right arm, I’m a hard core Ryan Adams fan, for use of a better word.
Is ‘Ruby Boots’ very different to Bex Chilcott?
Yes and no, its good to be able to have at least one thing that separates yourself from the music, so much of yourself goes into it, into the songs, into the work, into every aspect that it becomes a forest from the trees scenario at times and that can be quite taxing, but in saying that I like to be myself and at my best on stage so having a difference reminds me that when I am performing regardless of whether I have everything or nothing at all to give, it is first and foremost for the audience that night so I manage to find that best side for them even if it is just for that moment in time on stage, that’s what they deserve, they’ve made the effort to come to the show.
Where did you get your musical influences from growing up?
Well it started with Nirvana and Silverchair through my high school years, I was part of the grunge uprising when I was young, it was an undeniable time in music … then I moved onto Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis, thats all I would listen to when I was 16 and 17, in a way you couldn’t ask for any other three artists that could influence me the way that they did!
Perth has produced some pretty cool artists and bands over the years. Is there something in the water?
Haha .. that old chestnut! I think the isolation of the place deserves more credit than its water, after all it is the most isolated “city” in the whole world right … that’s got to have some kind of impact on how music is developed, lesser immediate in the flesh outside influences in a way, though, everything is at our fingertips through a screen these days so its hard to say!
You recently signed to Lost Highway Records Australia, which is part of Universal Music and an Australian branch of the Nashville company. What’s it like to be associated with such iconic labels?
Well, its a huge honour! So many of my absolute heroes are on Lost Highway and I adore having people that are passionate enough about the songs on the album to get behind it like they are. You know, the label has an instant stamp of all the music that inspires me so much so you know whoever is behind that really understands what it is you are trying to do as an artist and that means a hec of a lot in this business, that combination of both passion and understanding for what you are creating can’t be beat.
You also recently won the West Australian Music (WAM) Country Song of The Year Award. What does it feel like to have recognition like that under your belt?
Again, its a huge honour! All you can really hope that anything you write does is connect with people and if that song of mine has done that then my work is done, and that’s an amazing feeling.
You took a songwriting trip to the US with Vikki Thorn from The Waifs. Did that serve you well when crafting your new album?
Writing with Vikki was such a huge turning point in the writing process, going out there and meeting her for the first time properly in such an isolated environment and penning ‘Middle Of Nowhere’ in just the first couple of days uncovered a strong connection artistically and on a personal level, so any further collaboration past that point was such a fulfilling experience, and both of us are so proud of the songs we wrote together that made it on the album, its a sweet reminder of that connection and collaboration … I’m doting, I know!
What’s it like to finally have your debut album Solitude coming out?
It’s a HUGE relief, I have been very patiently waiting to release this record since early last year, but of course, everything happens at its right time and I know that now is the time for lots of different reasons. This LP is the first thing I have artistically felt strongly about so I am really excited for people to hear it.
The themes of the LP swing from sweet to tongue-in-cheek. What was the thought process going into the writing of it? What feelings did you want to evoke?
It is interesting hearing other peoples take on the songs, I can’t remember feeling sweet about anything when I was writing it, a cross between tongue in cheek and bitterness may be closer to the mark thought haha! I just hoped that my writing was open enough that other people could relate to it and think to themselves that they’d been in a similar position before or had felt like that before however which way they interpret the songs. I also didn’t want to create anything too flimsy musically, I wanted the songs and the production to be delivered with guts and depth, thats something I felt really strongly about in the recording process.
Your gorgeous new singles ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and ‘Wrap Me In A Fever’ are number 3&4 on the album. What made you want to chose those two songs in particular to announce the arrival of the album?
Shucks! Well I wanted to start with ‘Middle Of Nowhere’ because I feel its such a powerful song lyrically, a lot of it is about throwing yourself in the deep end and reaching new heights which can bring great challenges to the surface, part of that was heading to Utah to write with Vikki, so to me it encapsulates so many aspects of the album. ‘Wrap Me In A Fever’ is a song that I have been playing live (being too impatient to wait for the album release) for some time now, and at almost all of my shows people would tell me how much they loved it and ask me all kinds of things about it, so it just felt like it had the legs to really connect, it was the listeners choice in a sense to have that as the second single.
Who did you work with on the album and what did they bring to it all?
The album had a lot of contributors all to varying degrees i think by memory there was 6 or 7 bands on it some overlapping players in each, but that really brought an interesting element to the recording process, I like to think it serviced the songs having so many different musicians on it so that there is less chance of boxing them in too much with each other. All of my producers were beams of light, Tony Buchen, Anna Laverty, Jordie Lane and Bill Chambers! And again they all brought something unto each other to the table. I think what was great personally for me doing it that way is I have so many fond memories of different collaborators that I get to keep forever!
What are you most looking forward to playing live?
Just being on stage sharing my songs with the audience is more than enough satisfaction for me! I always love hearing my guitarist play slide guitar, it kills me, so I get to do that every night on tour, I am very lucky!
What can we expect from a Ruby Boots show?
I like to take an unabashed natural approach to my shows, I like people feeling like they are a part of a conversation through songs and banter and you get to hear my songs of course.
RUBY BOOTS ‘SOLITUDE’ TOUR DATES:
Fri 15 May
Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Thu 21 May
Newtown Social Club, Sydney
Fri 22 May
Sat 29 May
Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Solitude is out this Friday April 24 via Universal Music Australia.
For more info, head to http://www.rubybootsmusic.com