You can’t get more of a rural growing up than Kasey Chambers did. Speaking to Starts at 60 from her home on the Central Coast, the singer songwriter described what shaped her country music career.
“Most of my early childhood memories are from being out on the Nullabor. I spent a lot of time out in the outback with my family. My dad was, weirdly, a professional fox hunter. It doesn’t even sound like it would be a job now. This was the ’70s, so things were a little different back then. We lived in our car and we travelled around the Nullabor all the time,” she explained.
“We didn’t really have any other form of entertainment, no TV or radio to listen to what was on the charts. We’d just sit around the campfire and my dad would bring out the guitar and we would all play music, or dad would play us tapes while were travelling through the night. Music was just a big part of our lives.
“I thought everyone grew up like that. It was later on when I went into civilisation that I realised that you don’t have to hunt your own food before you eat it.”
But the performing lifestyle has always been part of her personality.
“It’s weird that I transitioned into that so easily,” she recalled. “I am really comfortable with being on stage. I think it is more of a personality thing. My brother and I used to put on plays for mum and dad and do little concerts, and charge them to get in. They were the only two in the audience.”
Chambers’ dad Bill is a musician and was in bands before he met her mother Di, so Chambers feels music is in her blood. And despite growing up on stage from her teenage years with the family’s Dead Ringer Band, the passion for music is still there.
“I go through stages where I actually need to get away for a bit and I’ve kind of learned to listen to those early warning stages,” she explained. “I never want it to feel like I am going through the motions. For a start, that’s not fair on the audience who have paid money, but I don’t think you can be creative when you are like that. I feel lucky that I can still do this for a living.”
Life is very much back to normal for Anthony in between tours – at least, as normal as you can get when you are a single parent.
“My days are not filled with glamorous things. I do normal mum stuff. I do school lunches, swimming lessons, footy training and school pickups. I do love that side of my life too. I love that, particularly when I have been out on the road a bit and I haven’t had that normal. I find a comfort in that. I enjoy being home as well.”
“It’s a juggle, there’s not doubt about it. I don’t think anyone breezes through parenting, and then you throw a job on to that and travel as well, and a single parent. It is a lot. I have a lot of help. I don’t have a nanny or anything but I do have my mum who lives on the same street who helps so much. I take the kids on the road half the time. They are all in school now but they do often come on the road now.”
“I take it day by day. I like to be a fairly organised person but I also don’t mind chaos. I think my lifestyle with lots of kids on the road, lots of noise, crazy times, running through the airport, you know, those sorts of things, you have to be a little bit crazy to find the beauty in that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find it every day. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out. Everyone’s life these days is crazy. Parenting is so unpredictable. Some times at the end of the day I am rocking back and forth in the foetal position in the corner. Sometimes you breeze through and you don’t even think about how much you’ve got on.”
The 41-year-old admitted that some days could be a juggle.
“One of the things I learnt over the years is to give yourself those days … and just go ‘this day is crazy’. I used to go ‘you have got to be positive all of the time, you are so lucky to have this’, but some days are hard, so I’ve learned to allow yourself those days. It’s what you do after those days that matters. You pick yourself up and go again.”
After being on the road for the last couple of month Chambers said she was looking forward to an afternoon of cooking, after talking to Starts at 60, with veggie patties on the menu.
“I do a lot of cooking. I think some of that comes from living on the road. I come home and I crave home cooked meals. I also find a day in the kitchen is a bit like meditation for me. Being in the kitchen and just spending the day baking, it doesn’t matter what it is. I bake lots of stuff and then put it in the freezer. It’s my little relaxation thing. “
Despite offers to go to the US permanently, Australia is always home for Chambers.
“I’ve had many offers over the years to move to the States, and obviously the sort of music that I play comes from America, and is much bigger in America. I love going over there and touring, the gigs are amazing, and I definitely feel a connection, musically, I think because I mostly grew up on American music, but as far as actually living over there, that has never interested me. I love going there. I feel like I am in one big movie when I there. The novelty never wears off. Going into a diner and I’m thinking, ‘am I in a movie?’, then a squirrel will run past and i‘m thinking ‘this is really strange’. If feels exciting every time I go there.
“This is my main career here, this is where I am bringing my children up. This is home to me and will always be home to me. There is nothing like coming home. It’s a good thing, getting into your own bed.”
Chambers has had many inspirational people in her life over the years, but said working with Paul Kelly on her most recent album Dragonfly, which he helped produce, was a dream come true.
“He is an amazing human. I am very extroverted. He is the exact opposite personality. I must be so annoying to him sometimes. I’m bouncing around like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and Paul is more this quiet, introverted, cool, calm person, who only says things that need to be said and they are profound, and I’m just babbling, filling in the silence.”
“He owns who he is very much, but is also able to relate to different personalities. He is a very charming person to be around.”
Currently on tour in the US through June and July, on her return to Australia Chambers head straight to the Gold Coast to perform at the Broadbeach Country Music Festival 2017. The free event is held from July 28-30, with other acts including America, Troy Cassar-Daley, Fanny Lumsden and The Wolfe Brothers. While she will play some new songs, she is looking forward to playing most of her big hits, like Not Pretty Enough and The Captain.
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be great. Lots of people talk about this festival. I’ve got a young band, Grizzlee Train, who have played up there before, and I’ll be bringing them back up. I’ll have my dad in the band as well. It’s going to be heaps of fun,” she said.