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Kasey Chambers is an Australian phenomenon. A country singer who has taken over the Australian music scene by the age of 22. She wrote most of her songs for her first solo album, The Captain, in the past seven years. Songs like "Cry Like A Baby" seem to be in the vein of Gram Parson and Emmylou Harris. Kasey also cites others like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and The Carter Family as major influences.

Her parents were musicians who lived hippie existences out in Nullarbor Plain, a vast wasteland in south-central Australia. Kasey joined a band with her brother and her parents called The Dead Ringers when she was nine. When her parents separated in 1997, it was time for a change. When The Captain came out in 1999, it went platinum and she won several country music awards. Soon she became known in Sweden and Norway. In England she toured as the opening act for Bryan Ferry. Now she is touring in the United States. She will be on the David Letterman show in November. I talked to her earlier this fall right after a show at The Roxy in Hollywood.

AL: The album has been out for a while in Australia?

Kasey: We brought it out in May of 1999. Then in June we brought in out in the UK and Europe. There are not a lot of local bands in Australia who get a record released in the states. Every now and then one does well there and then over here. We played in Australia for years. We were happy that there was interest elsewhere. It was luck. We weren't thinking about the rest of the world.

AL: What was it like playing with Bryan Ferry?

Kasey: It was really good. We did about six or seven dates on our own and then a few with Bryan Ferry. It was great because we got to play to huge crowds. I was surprised at the big crowds he draws over there in England. He's also huge in Australia, but I don't think he would play as big as venues in Australia. We played to twelve or fifteen thousand people. We had a good time. I was wondering how our music was going to go with those crowds. We were pleasantly surprised.

AL: I know that The Carter Family and Gram Parsons have influenced you. Do you have any recent influences?

Kasey: The few new artists that I have discovered in the last few years are ones like Fred Eaglesmith. He's been around for a while but I just recently heard him. Matthew Iron is one of my favorite songwriters. I saw a show about five years ago. So I've been a fan since. I have been listening to the stuff that I always listened to, like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

AL: You don't like pop music or techno?

Kasey: Not really. Most of the stuff I listen to is singer songwriter and country based stuff.

AL: When I talk to some of my Scottish friends, they are always interested in country music. They can relate to the life of someone like Hank Williams, who had a lot of sadness in his life. He's like a tragic figure to people all over. What do you think that you were attracted to country music, since you were from Nullarbor, which is very remote place?

Kasey: It comes from the fact that my Dad listened to that sort of music. He brought me up listening to Hank Williams. I was exposed to it at an early age, at that point you don't know it's having any affect on your ears. Music that I listen to and songs that I cover are songs I listened to real early.

AL: What do you think of Bob Wills and Lone Star Swing?

Kasey: Yeah, that's the stuff my Dad listened to a long time ago. It's still really relevant. There are artists making good stuff today but it's really hard to beat all that old stuff.

AL: Have you written much new material over the past year?

Kasey: We got about nine songs that we recorded just a few weeks ago. We finished recording The Captain about two years ago, so it has been a long time. I have been writing songs the whole time. We have a whole set of songs ready to go, and we have been concentrating on that back in Australia. It will be a while till that's out here.

AL: Much of the pop culture is about irony. Whereas much of country music is without irony. It's more about honesty and baring your soul.

Kasey: Yeah. Country music has changed over the years. There's a whole lot of stuff coming out now that I can't bear to listen to. But there 's loads of great underground artists still doing really honest and heart-felt country music. It's fantastic. It's harder to find those people but they are out there.

AL: Do have any advice for young girls who might want to play country or folk music?

Kasey: Well, you know, whether it be young girls or guys, or whoever is starting out in music, the important thing to remember is to do your thing. Don't be swayed by what's on the radio or what's popular at the moment. Or what the record company tells you. Just be yourself. No matter what's popular at the moment, you're going to always stand out more if you are doing your own thing. If you look at songwriters, even people like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, they just do their own thing. Maybe it takes a lot longer to get there, but they also stay around a lot longer. Even when they are dead people will listen to their songs.

AL: You did nude photographs with your brother in an art magazine. What was that like, and would you do that again, in America?

Kasey: It was fun. We did that years ago. I had never did anything like that before. I couldn't see myself doing that for just any magazine. It was an arty magazine and all the musicians in Australia were doing it.

AL: Did they get Slim Dusty to do it?

Kasey: (laughter) He didn't do it that time. I'm not sure I would want to see that. It was good fun. Maybe I would do that again. When my album went platinum I was asked to do it again. I didn't do it that time. I felt that I already did that and I just wanted to make music. But maybe one day? Playboy hasn't been knocking on my door yet.


Website: www.kaseychambers.com


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