The term ‘icon’ is not too strong a descriptor when it comes to renowned Australian country/roots artist Kasey Chambers. The daughter of pioneering country artist Bill Chambers, over the past few decades Kasey has firmly established herself in the upper echelon of the Australian music industry, as well as making her mark abroad.
And this year she is marking the 20 year anniversary of the release of her breakthrough debut album. ‘The Captain’, with a bunch of special commemorative performances which will take her all around the country, including a Gold Coast show at the Southport RSL on 21 September.
As far as debut albums go, ‘The Captain’ set an extraordinarily high bench mark in terms of rapturous respect and devotion from both music critics and fans alike, the album’s gorgeously iconic title track, together with numbers such as ‘Cry Like A Baby’ and ‘These Pines’, resonating across decades and genres within a template of classic country influences channelled masterfully through Kasey’s distinctively Australian experiences and world view. The album went double platinum in Australia, cracked the top 50 of the US Billboard Country charts and resulted in Kasey receiving her first ARIA Awards, for Best Country Album and Best Female Artist.
On the line with a charming and down to earth Kasey, glowing from a recently returned African sojourn with her kids, I was surprised to learn about a very specific African connection to the album, as she explains; “The funny thing is, I took my first trip to Africa 22 years ago, which was about the time I was writing ‘The Captain’ album. So a lot of the album was not only inspired by Africa, but actually written in Africa!”
And upon randomly joking if her subsequent African adventures had inspired her to incorporate African thumb piano into future recordings, Kasey also had a topical anecdote to share on that matter; “I just got back from Africa and when we were over there, these two beautiful kids taught me and my guitar player this traditional Zambian hymn. And when we left for Zimbabwe, we saw these two guys on the street playing thumb piano – although it was a double one, which means you can play a whole heap of different notes on it that you can’t play on the regular ones. We ended up bargaining with one of the guys and buying it off him, and what we’ve done is learnt this traditional Zambian hymn on that thumb piano. And I just recently said to Brandon, my guitar player, ‘we’ve got to put that into the (upcoming) set!’. Because on ‘The Captain’ tour, I’m going to be talking a lot about where the songs came from and what they were inspired by. So it would be perfect if we played that song (on thumb piano) in the set… share a little bit about Africa and how it’s inspired me musically over the years. I was very excited that you asked me such a random question, I thought that would be the last thing I’d be asked this week, haha!”
From African inspirations, talk turns to the special place that the album’s title track holds in the hearts of Kasey’s fan base. Upon asking her of its resonance on a personal level and why she thinks it’s been so special, she opens up.
“Without a doubt it’s my favourite song I ever play – I’ve literally performed it at every single gig across the past 20 years! It’s one of those songs I never get sick of. If I had to sing one song for the rest of my life, I’d happily sing ‘The Captain’. I think I just find a real comfort in that song… there’s just something about it that I really connect with. I think that when you’re being 100% real in something creative, that’s what resonates with people, whether they know it or not. And I know you can’t always plan that, it’s not necessarily black and white. But I think as an artist, when you connect that deeply with something, it often will resonate with other people. Then it transcends, genre, or lyrics, or chords. I think I’ve realised over the years that authenticity is the easiest sell. When you’re being authentic, people are going to buy into that. You can’t really make that up. Which I love – that we don’t really have as much control around that stuff as we think we do. One of the most frequent comments I’ve had throughout my whole career is people saying to me ‘I don’t really like country music but I like your stuff’. And I used to be pretty confused by that, because, I mean, I’m pretty ‘country’ and I’ve got one of those whiny country voices, haha. But I think it’s that authenticity. Genre and all that doesn’t really matter, if someone is doing something really creative and authentic, you almost can’t go wrong. Which is a beautiful thing, to let yourself gravitate to what feels right, when you’re making it and when you’re listening to it.”
Country-roots legend Kasey Chambers will be performing her 20 year anniversary tour of breakthrough album, ‘The Captain’, throughout Australia throughout September and October. Local fans can rejoice, with two local-centric shows scheduled at the following venues:
Friday, 20 September: Fortitude Valley Music Hall, Brisbane
Saturday, 21 September: RSL Club Southport, Gold Coast.