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Will surprises continue for Kasey Chambers?

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2002

Don't blame Kasey Chambers if she suffers from a cultural identity crisis.

The Australian released a few solo albums there after being in her family band, The Dead Ringer Band. And in the U.S., she is just releasing her second disc, "Barricades & Brickwalls," after a highly praised debut and great success opening for Lucinda Williams on her tour last summer.

"I think people in America thought we were bigger than we were." says Chambers in a phone interview while vacationing in western Australia. "I think everyone in Australia thinks I have this huge, big career in America. I think people in America think I'm a lot bigger in Australia than I am too. I'll let them keep thinking that."

Well, if things continue onward and upward for Chambers, she may just have the best of both worlds.

Chambers had many surprises in store for her when she toured the States last summer with Williams. For starters, the Aussie was not used to such enthusiastic crowds in the land down under.

"I've had one maybe twice or something," she says about standing ovations received in her homeland.

The reception was slightly different in America where Chambers was a virtual unknown with one album, "The Captain," under her belt. "When at the end of the show, people were standing up, and I thought 'these are such wonderful people to play to.' It's so different (here)."

Few probably knew her music, but she more than made up for that with a voice strong and lively that could be tender and tough plus a winning, easy going stage presence to boot.

That gave Chambers a great starting point for "Barricades & Brickwalls," due out in the U.S. Feb. 12 on Warner.

"Barricades & Brickwalls" veers more heavily towards country than the debut, a melange of country, roots and pop music.

Chambers, 25, says the musical direction was not exactly planned.

"To be honest, I don't go through much pre-production or anything like this. I don't go 'this is our market, so let's keep it.' We just make the album really. Right in the middle of 'Barricades,' I sort of just realized, I didn't want to make another 'Captain' album. There was almost four years in between them."

One big difference for Chambers is one of lifestyle. Chambers wrote songs for "The Captain" as a teenager.

"Obviously, I'm saying a lot of different things (with what) I'm writing now. It's just different writing from a teenager's view than from a 25-year-old's point of view. It just sort of changes. I want to make the best album I can. If people will like it, fine."

"When I make my next album, I'm sure it will be different again. I'm going to go into a whole lot of different things (over the next few years). Who knows how that will be? I don't have any idea."

One change in store is that Chambers will be a mother later this year. The pregnancy will result in a very short tour of the U.S. in February before breaking until the fall.

While acknowledging she is far from a superstar in her native country, Chambers says the success of "The Captain" there certainly made life quite different.

"After I put out 'The Captain' and it went quite well, I got caught up in all of that. It was kind of dominating my life. I spent a lot of time touring (behind) the album. I didn't have time for myself. When I say myself, I mean my personal ' life. In saying that, I really enjoyed it too."

"But I went through a time that there's more to life than the music industry. I realized the music industry isn't real, and that's not a real life. Have fun with it and enjoy it, but don't take it so seriously."

Chambers, who has done music almost her entire life as she was in her family's band, The Dead Ringer Band, before going solo, remembers feelings of sadness during "The Captain" period.

"My album's going great, and I'm travelling around the world, and everything is going really really well, but why am I feeling lonely and am I lost sometimes?" Chambers remembers thinking. "Going double platinum doesn't make you the happiest person in the world. I think songs came out of that."

"A lot of the songs on 'Barricade' were kind of a therapy session for me," she says.

Like "A Million Tears," a singer/songwriter/folky song Chambers calls her favorite on "Barricades." The song focuses on affairs of the heart asking her lover to "hold my heart in the palm of your hands."

Only to be smothered with thoughts like "my hands are tied/my head is reeling/my eyes have cried a million tears."

If you ever wanted to know what Hank Williams sounds like in the guise of a female voice, then check out "A Little Bit Lonesome."

"I was looking to Hank. Every now and then, it's a rule that you have to put Hank Williams on,' she says with a laugh.

The inspiration came from her flatmate, Worm, who also has a hand in writing songs and being her roadie.

"We were cooking sausage rolls and listening to Hank all day," Chambers recalls. "The next day I was into Hank mode, so I wrote 'A Little Bit Lonesome.' That song was just supposed to be played like that. I can't imagine any other way."

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