SONGS OF STRENGTH & DEFIANCE
Ruby Boots’ commitment to life as a professional musician and the sacrifice that goes with it are about to come to fruition with the release of her second album. Her home for the last year has been Nashville, TN and during a recent solo Australian tour she took time to sit down and discuss the genesis and recording of Don’t Talk About It.
Taking in the morning sun at a Newtown cafe, Ruby Boots (Bex Chilcott) has an acoustic guitar propped up next to her. It’s a sign of the lifestyle she’s signed up for – always on the move, self-promoting and leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of her personal goals and artistic creativity. In 2016 she was awarded the second Nashville Songwriters’ Residency by the Australia Council For The Arts, which enabled her financially to immerse herself in the Nashville music scene for a concentrated period of time. The goal was to write her second album and network in the hallowed music capital but things didn’t initially go to plan.
“When I got there I didn’t really feel like writing a new album but I was in a position where I had to. I simply couldn’t write when it came time to do it. I’d sit down and start crying and be completely blank like I’d never written a song before in my life,” reveals Chilcott. “I realised I needed to have a bit of space to live life again. I had been sober for 12 months and so I started drinking again for a couple of months and then realised that wasn’t helping. I had to start living life and digging deeper into who I was now and how I see the world and how it affects me. The album is written around that growth, I needed that time to self-reflect.”
Don’t Talk About It is a much more realised and cohesive collection of songs than her nonetheless strong debut Solitude. When the songs finally started to emerge, Chilcott began to see some common threads in her writing.
“There’s a strong theme running through the songs that I wanted to keep and that I felt passionate about. The balance between vulnerability and strength is one of many layers of what the record is about. Each song has its own feel in terms of message but the thing that has come through is the idea of what strength is. Is it about being able to take on the world all the time or is it about being able to be vulnerable while still retaining that strength needed to navigate through life with a sense of defiance. Managing that in relationships and other life instances is what it is all about,” says Chilcott.
The other secret weapon she was able to employ in the studio was the North Texas, roots-rock collective The Texas Gentlemen. They brought musical chops and a rock ’n’n roll swagger, allowing Chilcott to focus on singing and conveying the emotion at the heart of her songs.
“We had a bunch of reference albums, mainly Tom Petty! Wildflowers, Damn The Torpedoes – old school rock ’n’ roll. On some songs the band just got it straight away and owned it. Their musicality and ability to understand what the songs needed and produce what they did with endless raw instinct was amazing. They’re all songwriters and their chemistry together made the recording a lot of fun. I didn’t have to play guitar as much so I could focus on singing lead vocals with the band which I love the most.”
“Essentially, my 45-90 minutes on stage is my joy in the job for the most part,” says Chilcott. Accordingly, she plans to be back in Australia in 2018, touring with a full band and dialling into that feeling of hometown love. “Having everyone in the room singing back at me, it reminds me of how much I’ve done in Australia. Coming home and getting a response like that gives an incredible feeling of validation. You need that extra lift-up every once in a while.”