Kasey Chambers - Biography
BY J Poet
Kasey Chambers is one of Australia’s most successful singer/songwriters, an Ozzie superstar with a style that blends Australian folk, American country and pop. Her five albums have all been platinum or multi-platinum in Australia and with the exception of her debut, The Captain (1999 EMI Australia, 1999 Asylum US); they all reached #1 on the album charts. Since 2000 she’s split her time between Nashville and her home in New South Wales, where she lives with her second husband and musical partner Shane Nicholson and their two children.
Kasey Chambers, a budding international country star, grew up in a family that lived “on the Wallaby” (Ozzy slang for living off the land) for ten years, and it left a lasting impression. Her father Bill was a musician and songwriter, and in between hunting and trapping the rabbits and foxes that raided outback poultry ranches, he taught Kasey and her brother Nash to play guitar. Kasey and Nash were home schooled and listened to the music of Carter Family, Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and Gram Parsons, along with Australian country artists Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams, and Tex Morton on the car’s cassette player.
When Chambers was 10, she started singing in the family group, The Dead Ringer Band. They played pubs, parties, and fairs, and Kasey became the band’s lead singer. They made four albums and an EP during their five year career: A Matter of Time EP (1992 Dead Ringer), Red Desert Sky (1993 Larrikin Australia), which included Kasey’s first recorded composition, Home Fires (1995 Massive Australia), Living in the Circle (1997 Massive Australia), and Hopeful (1995 Massive/Warner Australia) an album of their favorite tunes my American songwriters including Lucinda Williams, Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt. Till Now: Best of the Dead Ringer Band (2000 Massive Australia) was released after Kasey became a star.
The Dead Ringer albums were praised for their stripped down acoustic sound, part country, part bluegrass, part Ozzie folk. The band got a major label deal just as Kasey’s parents began divorce proceedings. Part of the deal was a solo contract for Kasey. Her first album The Captain (1999 EMI Australia, 1999 Asylum US) was recorded in Australia, with Nashville overdubs by alt.country heavies Julie and Buddy Miller. She wrote all the songs on the album and it won the Australian Country Music Association’s Album of the Year Award and an ARIA (Grammy) for Best Female Vocalist. She toured the US to support the album, playing SXSW and the Fan Fair in Nashville, Tennessee. The album was a modest hit in America.
WEA in America switched Chambers to Warner for Barricades and Brickwalls (2001), which featured guest shots from Lucinda Williams and Buddy Miller. In Australia the album went 7Xplatinum and Chambers became the first artist in Australian history to have a #1 single “Not Pretty Enough” and #1 album on the charts at the same time. The album won ARIAs for Album of the Year, Best Female Artist, and Best Country Album. Chambers continued touring the US, and got great critical notices, although sales didn’t match her numbers back home. In 2003 her single of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colours” became the theme song of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Championships and topped the Ozzie charts. Wayward Angel (2004 Warner) debuted at #1 in Australia, and went platinum the week it was released. Carnival (2006 Warner) stretched out a bit with some blues, a jazzy torch song and a bit of pop polish. It debuted at #1 in Australia and went multi-platinum.
Chambers took some time off to get married to singer/songwriter Shane Nicholson and have another child. The couple collaborated on Rattlin’ Bones (2008 Sugar Hill), maybe the best album Chambers has put out yet. The album’s 14 songs are presented in stripped down acoustic arrangements that combine American and Ozzy folk music, bluegrass and old time country with the couple’s stunning harmonies. They trade off lead vocals and the tunes they’ve written – collaborations and solo efforts – are uniformly strong. Twenty years ago, this would have been a chart topper, and while it may not increase their sales in the US, it’s sure to propel them to the top of the Singer/songwriter/Americana charts. In Australia the set again entered the charts at #1 and went gold the week of its release. It got three ARIA nominations Album of the Year, Best Country Album and Best Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. In 2010 she released Little bird, followed by Storybook in 2011, and Wreck and Ruin, with Shane Nicholson, in 2012.