As Ruby Boots, Bex Chilcott makes a fiery, offbeat brand of country music that is right at home at Bloodshot Records – with other rebel heart breakers like Lydia Loveless and Sarah Shook. Hailing from Perth, Australia, but now based in Nashville, Chilcott takes love to task and expresses real strength in her songs – all with a crisp clarity that tends to trail off in a twang. Her music is raucous and brave and finds beauty in hard changes.
She is about to head out on tour with fellow Nashville chanteuse (and South Carolina native – holla) Nikki Lane to promote the brand new Ruby Boots album, Don’t Talk About It. But, despite the planning of said tour and living the Nashville dream, Chilcott graciously gave us a few moments of her time to talk about her music pals, her pearl-farming past, intersectionality in her country music, and more.
Purchase the album and check out the tour dates at Bloodshot and give her music a listen below the interview.
Who are your influences?
I mean, I have so many things in life and musically that influence me, of course I have some favourite writers that speak to me and I love like Lucinda Williams and Tom Petty but when it comes to influences, I can’t put my finger on any one thing to prioritise.
Do you feel at home in Nashville?
Yes, completely, I moved around for many years before I finally landed in Nashville, it was the first city in the world I felt that I could live in, the only other one that came close was Melbourne. Melbourne really is an incredible city also.
Who are your most treasured/important collaborators in Nashville?
I would have to say my good pal, Nikki Lane. We bounce ideas about all kinds of things all the time, including songwriting, I have two songs on the album we wrote together. There are some incredible writers here in Nashville that would love to work with again in a heartbeat, Tristen, Kirby Brown, Emma Swift, Phillip White, Noah Jackson the list goes on – it’s Nashville!
Do you think women are changing country music here in the US?
This answer is tricky for me to address as I have spent most of my time in Australia and not all of my time entrenched in the world of country music as I don’t consider myself to be a country artist. I do however feel that women are creating exceptional art, we always have and we always will, the change will happen around that art and I hope to see more balance of women artists played on radio, I do know for fact that the disparity on country music radio between men and women artists is atrocious!! I also am very aware that the imbalance on festival line ups between men and women is something that needs to be changed, and I do feel that women are supporting each other more than ever and as a collective of voices we will get louder and louder and hopefully see a shift in these areas and wherever else there are gaps or imbalances.
Are you connected to the other women musicians and singer songwriters from Australia who are currently finding varying levels of success here in the US?
Yes, absolutely, Kasey Chamber has been forging the way in the US for quite some time now, also acts like The Waifs and Mia Dyson have a great presence in here. I love seeing the recent success of Australian artist Jen Cloher on her last tour with a plethora of sold-out shows across the country. All of these Australian women inspire me greatly.
Who/what were your major influences for Don’t Talk about It?
I went through a lot of personal growth the years leading up to writing the album, I started to see the world differently and really grew into my own strength and resilience that you can only build up through real living and moving through the highs and lows of life by learning from every experience and all that growth was the real influence on the album. Sonically, I wanted to create something that was more electric guitar-driven and we referenced a lot of classic rock-and-roll albums for inspiration like Petty, T Rex, Stones, etc., but kept it open to have its own sound, so as not to be bound to any one thing.
When, where, and with whom are you headed on tour? I’ve read Nikki Lane, but she’ll have some dates with Sarah Shook. Are all of three of you going to be on the same bill somewhere?
I have toured with Nikki in Australia which is where we met in 2014 and we touring Europe and the UK last year, I love being on the road with Nikki and I hope we do some more shows in the future and I am yet to tour with Sarah but maybe I could twist her arm because that would be super fun too! Both of those women are rad! I am heading out on my own headline tour around America and Australia for the next chapter however which is very exciting for me because I love being on the road more than anything!
Any country music heroes from the past?
Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells and Tammy Wynette – to name just a few!
I’m dying to know, what was life like for a woman pearl farmer? Or do all pearl farmers, regardless of gender, have it the same?
It was surprisingly very neutral out there, everyone was working their guts out and you either cut it or you didn’t and that was regardless of what sex you were. I saw both men and women break out there and have to go back to land because they couldn’t handle the work. I think it was more about spirit than anything, it was backbreaking work and actually there was a lot of respect for the women out there because the work was so physical and intense.
Finally, we’re in the midst of a major political moment here in the US, particularly for women, queer folks, and young people? Any thoughts about the intersections of music and politics or country music and politics?
Yes, I feel as an artist that we should be using our voices to create positive change that moves us toward equality IN EVERY AREA, I understand that politics have to be involved but if we can reach people on a human level through music then all my dreams about our art making more of a change in society than politics ever could would come true, I’m aware that is idealistic, but its the kind of energy I want to put out into the world. I recently had a very long conversation with my brother who works in the LGBTIQ health sector and is currently training to become a ratified counsellor in the community and he said (about my video for “Don’t Talk About It”): “To see someone present not just a queer point of view but a trans view point and from a pre-adolescent age at that, and to do it in a manner that I don’t feel patronised in anyway has left me speechless”. After a lengthy conversation with him about how much work went into trying to achieve what he had taken from the video, I truly felt like I was using my voice as an artist to address and shine a light on the things that need it to encourage equality and change.