20 Questions: Kasey Chambers

Photo: Penny Lane

Australia's country great Kasey Chambers embraced her ambition on a new double-album, but still wants to be remembered as "being real in a very fake world."

Kasey Chambers


Label: Essence
Release Date: 2017-06-02

When PopMatters' Steve Horowitz concluded his review of Kasey Chambers' noted 2014 effort Bittersweet, he noted that it "begins by evoking the past and finishes by declaring she [Chambers] is not done yet."

This very well could sum up Chambers' entire career, as the Australian native has been releasing stunning material for nearly two decades, her sound deeply rooted in American country and bluegrass/Americana, arguably doing it better and more authentically than some of her States-bred peers. Yet Chambers isn't one to sit still for long: she's constantly growing and improving her songwriting skills, growing her list of regular collaborators, and even making significant inroads in the States.

Yet all her talents come to the fore in the form of what may very well be her most ambitious release effort: a double-disc set of new material called Dragonfly. In it, she tries everything she can think of, from the gospel-affected banjo jangle of "Golden Rails" to the quirky story-song stylings of "Talkin' Baby Blues" to the woozy accordion lament of "Ain't No Little Girl". She covers a lot of thematic ground across these 20 songs, and may very well have created her best album to date -- a bold statement given this is the same woman who made truly beloved hits like 2001's Barricades & Brickwalls and 2010's luminescent Little Bird.

To help celebrate the occasion, Chambers sat down to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, revealing an affinity for Friends, an adulation for Lucinda Williams, and the importance of "being real in a very fake world."

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I cried six times in Captain Fantastic and loved it!

2. The fictional character most like you?

I think I'm probably all the negative traits of all the three girls from Friends. I'm annoying like Monica, spoilt like Rachael and a bit loopy like Phoebe. Hopefully, I've got some of the good traits too! Ha.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Lucinda Williams' Sweet Old World changed my life so I'd have to pick that. It's really what inspired me to want to be a songwriter.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Life. All aspects of life: love, music, travel, hurt, happiness, pain. Broad answer, I know, but I don't have just one.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I'm proud of never compromising my style or sound of my music to find success. I managed to find more success in Australia than I ever dreamed of and I have always just made the music that I love and that felt right to me.

7. You want to be remembered for ...?

I want to be remembered for being "real". Being real in a very fake world. I want to encourage people to embrace their imperfections instead on hiding them. I want my kids to know that it will be their imperfections that will help shape who they are as much as their successes. That their imperfections can be part of their appeal. Being real is what makes us unique but also is the key to connecting with people. I want to connect with as many people as I can, not just through music but also through energy. My job allows me to do that. If I can be remembered for helping someone feel better about being themselves I will be happy.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

My dad. No one has inspired me in music or taught me more than my dad Bill Chambers. He still plays in my band now and has done since I was nine years old.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

"No Time to Cry" by Iris Dement.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I can do a pretty powerful and high scissor kick.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

My mum and dad always told me to follow my gut. Follow that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach about whether things feel right or not. I've followed that for most of my career and general life. It's usually right.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

[No answer given.]

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

I've never been in anything Armani so yes: Levi's.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Jack Black. It's pretty obvious why. He's awesome!

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

1960 because I'm watching that TV show 11/22/63. It looks like an interesting time.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

TV: I watch TV to alleviate stress.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Beach. I like hearing the ocean. But I really like to visit everywhere. I can find the best in all places.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

[No answer given.]

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Traveling around the world promoting my new album Dragonfly while juggling motherhood of three kids and trying to contribute positively to society. Literally living the dream.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.