DIARY - 25 NOVEMBER 2003 - KASEY CHAMBERS INTERVIEW 2002
LEAPS BARRICADES WITHOUT VITRIOL
I was rich I would spend it on my own/ if I was dignified I'd only
smoke at home/ if I was dark I would only dress in black/ if I was
chosen I would only give it back." - 'If I Were You.'
- Kasey Chambers.
When Kasey Chambers leaped the commercial radio moat after a decade
of neglect she joined the Dixie Chicks in biting the hands that
can bleed an artist.
Chambers breakthrough hit 'Not Pretty Enough' - a parody
of demographic driven radio - was the second single from second
album 'Barricades & Brickwalls.'
But the Dixie Chicks waited six albums to drive their Justins into
the corporate chain clones with their hit single 'Long Time Gone.'
And the Texan
trio booted their myopic monopolists with a satiric song by bluegrass
writer Darrell Scott with similar sting to the Larry Cordle-Larry Shell
song 'Murder On Music Row.'
didn't alert radio to her song's message until it was a hit.
"It wasn't much of a risk, really, no-one knew until I told them
what it was about," Kasey, 28, told Nu Country in 2002.
"They thought it was a love song. There is a little bit of irony,
it helps me even enjoy it a little bit better."
Although current single 'Million Tears' didn't score the same airplay
it earned enough to fuel national tours with Fred Eaglesmith and Troy
Cassar-Daley whose fifth disc 'Long Way Home' is on brother Nash
Chambers Essence label.
'Million Tears' and its successor 'If I Were You' are lachrymose
And programmers, who dictate what infiltrates their tight play lists,
will have to rely on surveys as their radio radar.
None of this phases the Nullarbor reared minstrel whose album sales exceed
600,000 with hefty figures in the highly competitive American market.
International sales, with minimal airplay and touring, are a veracious
barometer of how the unique nature of Kasey has been marketed and devoured
by TV and the print media.
Chambers' songs have been in TV dramas diverse as 'The Sopranos', 'Crossing
Jordan', 'Always Greener,' 'Dawson's Creek' and shows dedicated to
pursuit of inflatable leather by grown men.
Chambers, unlike her long neglected country peers, appreciates why she
has not been treated like a leper by radio.
"I know how they feel, there was a long time when radio wouldn't
play me," Kasey empathises, "it's not as if they're going to
play every single of mine, It has to be a lot closer to being commercial,
they're not all going to be No 1 on the radio."
The singer believes that TV and the print media were her stardom springboard
after a decade of beating around the bush with much acclaim but no rewards
with the 'Dead Ringer Band.'
"My biggest support here in Australia has been TV," Kasey recalls,
"we were on 'The Panel' four years ago when we were absolute nobodies.
But they took a punt and we did 'Rove' and 'GMA' and they were really
supportive. Even bigger than that was the Press has been our biggest support.
One of the biggest things was to get my name out there."
Chambers draws parallels with her struggle and that of protégé
Catherine Britt whose music is vastly different to what Kasey is performing
now but shares a similar passion for the genre's roots.
"Catherine is getting a lot of good Press, similar to when we were
starting out, how it happened with us," says Kasey, "I did the
Chris Isaak tour four or five years ago. She also toured with Chris."
Motherhood put a hand brake on tours but enabled her to maximise quality
time with actor-director partner Cory Hopper and son Talon by writing
"Cory is good with the lyrics, that's normally my side of it,' says
Chambers, "we prop Talon up on the couch and he sits there with us.
He brings in some inspiration, smiles at all the right times. Cory came
up with a lot more of the lyrics than I have lately."
Chambers, infrequent co-writer, is hoping some of their collaborations
make her third album.
"There are probably more love songs, a couple of typical Kasey Chambers
how I'm feeling at the moment type of thing," says Kasey, "who
knows if they'll turn up on albums. I'm really enjoying it at the moment,
it's bringing out new inspiration in me because I've never done much co-writing.
I find it hard to pour out my heart to people in the room in a song. I
guess it's easy with Cory because he and I are so close and he's the person
I'm pouring my heart out to normally anyway. You make the most of it.
It's definitely got that positive thread that wasn't there before but
we can still make them sound pretty sad."
Such candour is refreshing in an industry where style rules over substance
and fashion fuels the fame flame.
Chambers, whose life and career are explored on her debut DVD, has lost
none of the country charm that disarmed cynics used to fast falling stars.
Her long stints in the outback and road and shorter terms in school have
instilled that strong bush work ethic.
"The number one thing for success is touring," she says of a
decade on the road with her family band.
"You have to get out and tour and ground a fan base, That's the best
way to do it, we toured for so long they couldn't ignore us in the end.
We were in their faces all the time. It helps to get your name out there,
then you can do shows on your own. It's good for learning. Every young
artist should get out there and see what its like to do the hard touring,
get to know how to work a crowd, talk to your fans, meet the people who
are actually buying your music. They'll let you know better than anyone
where your music should be headed and who you want to be playing it."
Chambers reached a level where she enjoys the fruits of her talent and
toil - she has invested in a home, motherhood and a bigger P.A.
"It's not as if we're put putting money in stocks and shares and
real estate," Kasey laughs, I've invested mine in having a baby,
That's cost enough but it's a precious investment."
Chambers identifies more with Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and U.S.
touring partner Matthew Ryan.
Her road to nirvana is similar but tougher than the Dixie Chicks who played
for tips on Dallas street corners and cut three albums in a decade before
selling 22 million albums in four years.
But she and Britt understand the sentiments of international chart topper
'Long Time Gone.'
"We listen to the radio to hear what's cooking/ but the music ain't
got no soul/ now they sound tired but they sound haggard/ they got money
but they don't have cash/ they got Junior but don't have Hank."
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