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Interview with Bex Chilcott (Ruby Boots)

– by Tom Munday

Ruby Boots is the roll-off-the-tongue pseudonym of singer/song-writer Bex Chilcott. The Americana/country musician’s “late night bar song with a nostalgic country twist” style has caught the attention of the world’s biggest artists and producers. The Perth artist’s three EPs and 7-inch vinyl (Solitude/Lovin’ in the Fall ft. Jordie Lane) garnered immense critical and commercial acclaim for her fusion of old school, country-lounge style and modern roots allure. Further more, the redheaded bombshell’s tour slate and fan base have rapidly ascended over the past four years. Having played every Australian music event from Big Day out to West Coast Blues & Roots to Nannup Music Festival, the Scottish-Italian firestone’s career is kicking ass and spreading the good vibes. 2014 was a banner year for Chilcott – completing a hundred-gig tour, touring with some of country’s biggest acts, signing with Lost Highway Records Australia, and claiming her fourth consecutive Western Australian Music award for Best Country Act.

Chilcott’s recent releases Middle of Nowhere and Solitude – the titular track from her upcoming album due for an April release – received significant praise. The 10-track compilation – recorded and produced with Tony Buchen, Bill Chambers, and Anna Laverty – features collaborations with Australian music staples including You Am I’s Davey Lane and The Waifs’ Jordie Lane and Vikki Thorn. Despite the overwhelming success, Chilcott’s laid-back attitude and whip-cracking energy keep her professional and personal lives in check. Suffering several technical issues throughout our interview, I was determined to come out unscathed. However, her strong-willed persona took control from the outset and never let up. It was refreshing, the interviewee realizing the interviewer’s mistakes but still willing to keep the conversation moving at a hearty click. Her distinctive laugh and beaming confidence shined through her crisp accent. Our talk about the industry, her recent experiences, and glowing worldview solidified her glorious reputation.

What was your foray into music? When did you realise you wanted to pursue music as a career?

I don’t know when it shifted from when I first wanted to play, I just knew I wanted to play all the time. I guess when you want to play all the time it generally gravitates towards that, I guess that’s how it happened. But I always intrinsically knew all I really wanted to do was continue to play on a regular basis. Looking back now, even though I didn’t realise it at the time, I always knew I wanted to sing. Up until I was 21, all my life was fairly tumultuous so I didn’t have the opportunity to follow that. I was sitting out on a pearl boat with a friend, I was working as a deckhand on a pearl boat at Montebello Island just off the coast of Exmouth, and she got me a couple of chords and the rest is history, really.

What was the moment you realized you had become a household name in the music scene?

That’s a tough one because I try to go about my business without thinking about stuff like that. I haven’t turned around and said to myself: “Oh, I making a name for myself” or anything like that. I just really enjoy the fact that I’m playing a lot of shows and able to record a lot of songs that I also write and writing and all that stuff.

I think, as a side note to that, I really felt like this year, given I’d played a hundred shows, I was really becoming a true touring artist for a change rather than just having one or two national tours per year. I’ve actually toured non stop all year so that was something I could definitely take note of within in my own career. It’s been really good this year, it’s been non stop and relentless, and tiring at times, but it’s nice I’ve moved into that.

How did you come up with the Ruby Boots alter ego? Does your alter ego clash with the real you?

To be honest, there’s a really simple answer to that and that is I think my actual surname is pretty awkward and I don’t think I could have used it as a stage name so I just pretty much just came up with another name [Laughs].

How did your new song, Middle of Nowhere, come to fruition?

That particular song was written in Utah with a friend of mine, who played in The Waifs, Vikki Thorn. Basically, I travelled a long way, it was like a 55-hour trip to get from Perth to her house in time, and we drove up in her driveway and she said: “welcome to the middle of nowhere”. I guess that was the beginning of the seed of the idea, we fleshed it apart and said: “Well, what am I doing here? Why am in the middle of nowhere?” You know, throwing yourself into situations that you don’t know so that you can reach better parts of yourself and different parts of yourself. Yeah, that’s kind of the basis for that song and how it all came about.

You recently signed with Lost Highway records, what drew you to the label?

Given that the song (‘Middle of Nowhere’) is in the Americana/country genre, and that a lot of my heroes are on that label like Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, and Ryan Adams, it’s a really good fit for what I’m doing and I’m just excited to have some people that are really passionate, and get what I’m doing, behind the record. It felt obvious to me and felt like an obvious choice.

What are some of the similarities and differences between Australian and American country music?

That’s a tough question, I mean when you hear an American alternative, like Americana/country artist you can…it’s a hard one to put your finger on. I think it depends if someone is singing with an accent or not [laughs], that’s an obvious one. But, look, good song-writing is good-songwriting and if it’s within a vein then it should stand up as it’s own regardless of what country it’s in, you know? Especially, if you’re clearly singing and writing within a genre, and it’s good, it should just be, you know, Switzerland [laughs] – independent of any country, as such, apart from where your birthplace is, I guess. One of the main things I can think is the content of the songwriting. I know a lot of the American songs that I listen to have a lot of landmarks in America, because they do tour a lot and they talk about being on the road a lot over there. That’s a big difference I hear in the song-writing.

You have played and toured with some of America and Australia’s biggest country performers, what are some of your tour highlights?

F**k, all of them [laughs]! This year has just been phenomenal for touring. I started with the Stray sisters who are just such wonderful, wonderful women, Donna [Simpson] and Vikki, who really took me under their wing this year and that was fantastic. Playing with Kris Kristofferson was really something else, he’s a song-writing icon and I adore his song-writing. Nikki Lane was a really big highlight, she’s from America and I toured with her in October. I just had the absolute pleasure of touring around the country with Mick Thomas from Weddings Parties Anything and I just can’t express enough how fulfilling that was, it was really good. What a great bunch of guys and hands down one of the best song-writers I’ve ever encountered. It was really phenomenal to see so many loyal fans screaming every single word to his songs. It’s always something you can aspire to, you know? 

If you were not a musician, which profession would you pursue?

I was asked their question earlier, around my EP a couple of years back, and I didn’t have an answer for it when I was asked a couple of years back. Since then, I’ve become really passionate about…I mean I would like to make sure that whatever I was doing I was helping someone and I was contributing to the community in a really positive way. I’m really passionate about the way the brain works and also metal health, I’m really passionate about domestic violence. So, I would like to do something within some of those areas as long as it was definitely doing something to help people and work towards something good in the community, at least. 

The music scene is certainly a tough gig to break into; do you have any advice for anyone trying to break into the scene?

Yeah, absolutely. I guess, let me articulate this properly, three things that I think are really, really necessary are: work really, really, really hard at it, you know? Don’t do a half-assed job at it if you want to be a part of it, do it all the time and the best you can because it’s a cut-throat industry. The second one is to always keep getting better at what you’re doing and always improving, that should come naturally to anyone who wants to be part of this anyway. Thirdly, is to really make sure you’re enjoying the experience and journey as you go along because that’s when you’re going to meet people and you can take your memories away and that’s the energy that kind of expands, you know?

Ruby Boots is playing next at: 

22/01/15 – Tamworth Country Music Festival , Tamworth

20/02/15 – The Astor Lounge , Perth

28/02/15 – 01/03/15 Nannup Festival , Nannup, WA

Photo Credit:  Lisa Businovski (from Ruby Boot’s Facebook Page)

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