KASEY CHAMBERS DEAD LUCKY WITH WILLIE?
“We're all gonna die someday Lord/ we're all gonna die someday/ mama's on pills daddy's over the hill/ but we're all gonna die someday/ well it hurts down here on earth, Lord/ it hurts down here on earth/ it hurts down here cause we're running out of beer/ but we're all gonna die someday.” - We're All Gonna Die Some Day - Kasey & Bill Chambers-Paul Henning-Steven Mark Werchon.
When Kasey Chambers performed Ain't No Little Girl live during Willie Nelson's Luck movie town reunion sessions at his Pedernales studio near Austin, Texas , on May 4, 2017, she was definitely in Luck.
And when she later pitched the Octogenarian singing actor her song We're All Gonna Die Some Day she was back in Luck again.
Willie, now 85, recorded the song for possible inclusion on his latest album The Last Man Standing.
But Kasey, 41 and mother of three, was out of Luck when Willie released his album on April 27.
Her song hit the cutting room - maybe because Willie chose his own song Still Not Dead Yet (one of his 11 originals on the disc.)
“Willie Nelson is now off my Christmas card list,” Kasey joked during an interview to promote her 12th album Campfire.
“He recorded a song of mine but it never made the record. You're not really allowed to say negative things about Willie. When he recorded one of my songs I said ‘Willie Nelson - greatest artist ever. Hail Willie Nelson. We thought this song that Dad and me and Worm (Kasey's roadie) had written, we can now pay off our mortgages, we can go out for dinner and celebrate. All is right with the world. The next day we learned it didn't make the album. I don't know if I'm meant to talk about this. You've got this exclusively. I'm hoping it will make the next album.”
It wasn't exactly the last supper for the Chambers clan, especially with one of Willie's many duet partners Emmylou Harris, now 71, also guesting on Campfire.
But, with Willie releasing a new album every six months, there's still time to send that Christmas card to Luck.
And, like Willie, the singer mines her messages with a plethora of video clips to promote each album.
Kasey's clan filmed three clips in the one day that her co-writer Alan Pigram was available after flying in from his home at Broome on our Wild West coast.
“Everyone sing around the campfire where the song of the curlew awaits/ and dance with me under the moonlight until the morning breaks.” - The Campfire Song - Kasey and Bill Chambers-Alan Pigram.
The Chambers and Pigram families have long shared their love of the bush as fertile fonts for their music.
For the Chambers clan it started way out west on the Nullarbor Plain and south east South Australian fishing town Southend before relocation to the NSW Central Coast.
Kasey, Poppa Bill and Pigram wrote the title track that draws from the indigenous Yarawu spoken word in Broome and fuels the video.
“I put our video director Duncan Tombs to the test,” former Nullarbor nymph Kasey explained.
“I rang him up and said we want to do three videos in the one day. Al was over from Broome and he only had one day. Duncan really loves the challenge, he got his team together and we did Campfire Song, Go On Your Way and Goliath Is Dead . We filmed Campfire Song and Goliath Is Dead on the Central Coast right up the top of a mountain - the same place we took the photo shoot for the album cover. We did Go Your Own Way in my mum's backyard. She has this little house on the Central coast with this little jetty that goes out the back onto the river. My kids go out there and fish. This one has a particular water vibe.”
“Go on your way, your mother awaits you/ go on your way, your father you'll see/ go on your way, your brother awaits you/ go on your way and may your be free.” - Go On Your Way - Kasey & Bill Chambers-Brandon Dodd.
Campfire was ignited by family visits to our outback and Africa and features the Fireside Disciples - Kasey, Bill, Pigram and young guitarist co-writer Brandon Dodd.
And, of course, the fourth musical generation Little Pilgrims - Kasey's children Talon, Arlo and Poet, Poppa Bill's youngest son Tyler and two best friends Townes and Banjo - played on new song Happy.
“ We wrote that song in Africa,” Kasey recalled, “it was part of our journey through Africa so the kids all knew that song. The kids kept coming into the studio and annoying us and singing along so we just pressed record.”
The Chambers sang Go On Your Way to the family matriarch - Poppa Bill's mother - on her death bed and then The Campfire Song at her funeral.
“ Go On Your Way is drawn from the influence Africa had on my life,” Kasey revealed.
“I have been there a few times. A few of the songs from The Captain were also inspired by one of my early trips to Africa with my mum in 1998. Just the place and the music. My dad and I recently went there mid last year in between all our crazy tours. We took the kids over there and we were really inspired by a lot of the music we heard. We were really inspired by how much they use their voices as instruments. I saw a lot more music. I was over there doing this musical safari. All my family were there – my mum and a couple of my nephews. We also do open for the public shows in Capetown. I couldn't believe it, the show sold out before we got there which was amazing. We got to play to a bunch of locals there and share our music about Australia .”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT AND SONG
“Take my mind, take my soul/ take my liver till the cows come home/ leave my body lying on the floor/ make me croak make me cough/ make me dinner till the wheels fall off/ mama ain't coming home anymore.” - The Little Chicken - Kasey and Bill Chambers.
Their national tour will feature acoustic shows with stories explaining song sources.
We won't take away the mystique too much here but Kasey revealed Early Grave was not a sibling of We're All Gonna Die Some Day despite having the same co-writer - Worm Werchon.
“I must admit I never thought anyone someone would make that connection,” Kasey joked, “Worm and I co-wrote that.”
Instead we'll explore the food fetish that fries together Big Fish, The Fox & The Bird and This Little Chicken.
“There's a bit of an animal theme,” Kasey confessed.
“We didn't do that on purpose. Brandon and I wrote Big Fish , Dad and I wrote This Little Chicken and I wrote Fox & The Bird on my own. I don't have an animal thing but a lot of this album is drawn from my childhood and a lot of that did revolve around animals. Foxes have been a big part of life but not in a pet kind of way. My dad was a fox hunter. It's definitely drawn from living my childhood in the outback and all the places I have lived. That includes Norfolk Island . I lived there for a few years about the time I made The Captain album. The Captain is about a Norfolk Islander, These Pines and This Flower are all about Norfolk Island . Here on this album Big Fish is about my Norfolk Island time.”
Although the singer has long been surrounded by foxes and birds in her travels her feathers and fur song has a different source.
“The foxes and the birds sound like good little characters to have but it's a fairly metaphorical song I guess,” Kasey explained.
“It's basically a self-discovery song talking about foxes and birds. I have written enough songs about real people.”
EMMYLOU BLUEBIRD FLIGHT
“Well I'm worn but I'm wise the Reaper's disguise/ as a ploughman who's out in the field/ and the heart of a spell in a deep in the well/ and the shepherd is spinning the wheel.” - The Harvest & The Seed - Kasey Chambers-Brandon Dodd.
Although Kasey toured with Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller on their Australian sojourns her duet on The Harvest & The Seed was born at the famed Bluebird Café - featured in Nashville movie Thing Called Love in which Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Kevin Welch and Dale Watson had cameo roles.
“We were listening to a whole bunch of old country songs that I didn't know very well,” Brandon recalled.
“I said we should be writing something like this for the record. I was really inspired by it. I started writing and came up with the line. It almost wrote itself.”
So how did Emmylou become involved?
“It was after that writers in the round thing Kasey did in Nashville at the Bluebird Café with Phil Madeira during Americana week,” Brandon added.
“I had Phil ring up. He said ‘I have two guys on the show - me and Will Kimbrough. I'd like to even it out with two girls.' I said who was the other girl - he said Emmylou Harris. I said is this really happening? After the show she said I would love to work some more with you. If we can make something happen that would really be great. I tried to play it cool but inside but I thought this is the best time of my life. We didn't even think of Emmylou on that track when we were writing it but at the end I said this reminds me old Emmylou songs. Brandon said ‘can't you just ask her to sing on it'. Luckily she said yes.”
Emmylou's Australian tours date back to 1984 when expatriate Australasian Barry Coburn was her promoter and infamous Gram Parsons body snatcher Phil “Road Mangler” Kaufmann was her protector.
“I was lucky enough to open up one of her tours when Buddy Miller was playing in her band and also opening up for her,” Kasey recalled.
“It was just amazing. Red Dirt Girl tour. Patty Griffin sand harmony on the record. She said would you learn the harmony and sing it with me every night live in my set. This was the greatest and worst moment of my entire life. I'm so scared right I thought I would self- combust. Dad and I would play a set and then Buddy would do his set. Dad would play Dobro with Buddy. Dad looked around one night and Emmylou was playing rhythm guitar behind him. She came out in the set before her set and plays rhythm guitar with Buddy Miller. It was such a weird moment, it was really cool.”
ABRAHAM, GOLIATH AND JUNKYARD MEN
“Oh we failed you Abraham, we've come unstuck/ so many times you bailed me out/ of we failed to understand and fucked it up/ we laughed out loud but nobody's laughing now.” - Abraham - Kasey Chambers.
“ Abraham , that's one of the most serious songs I've written in my life,” Kasey confessed about the song, written on a NSW coastal beach.
“I was having a talk with one of my best friends Worm's wife Bernadette. I was brought up quite religious but I'm not that religious now. We were talking about bigotry in the world. Christianity, Buddhism and Islam worship all have a lot of the same beliefs. The bottom line morals and that are drawn from same places but there's so much conflict. That's what sparked that song. It was also the week of the Las Vegas shooting. Having that going on in the world at the time - about where the world ends up - we all have to take some responsibility for where it is and how to change it. I was sitting on a beach in the Forster area with my kids in school holidays with my two best friends - Worm whom you know and his wife Bernadette who I was talking to about the religions. We just found out about the shooting.”
The singer flexes mood swings from the joyous Orphan Heart to her pathos primed Now That You've Gone.
Kasey added that her gospel fuelled Goliath Is Dead - penned with Dodd - “is a really sad song.”
It's a vast contrast to another Dodd co-write Junkyard Man.
“It's so funny trying to learn Junkyard Man for our tour,” Kasey revealed.
“When we jammed that in the studio that song was really live. I don't know who we got through it without laughing.”
Brandon added “I wanted to see how high I could sing.”
“So many people have asked me who's the girl that sings on that,” Kasey quipped.
“It was the last gig of the last tour of America . We were in Atlanta on the tour bus and started jamming this song.”
Kasey added “I'm glad that passed.”
The album had its embryo at a music festival in the Aboriginal community of Doomadgee, almost 13,000 kilometres west of Cairns last August.
So it's appropriate that Kasey and her Fireside Disciples will head back to the bush and local cities before returning overseas where she made four American tours last year.
“It will be Brandon, Dad and me,” Kasey explained.
“We will bring everyone together and make them feel like they have been sitting around a camp fire when they go home. We'll be playing all acoustic with a P.A. We'll play songs off the Campfire album and also go back and tell stories about my life and play older songs. It's a good tour to take to America and share a lot of stories about Australia . They love that over there - they love the stories about my childhood.”
So will any of the Little Pilgrims be invited on tour when not at school?
“I usually take my favourite child that week on tour and leave the annoying ones at home,” Kasey joked.
Campfire ( Warner Music ) is likely to add to Chambers plethora of ARIA, APRA, Golden Guitars, Americana awards and royalties gold mine.