*foul language warning*
Jun 16, 2020
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Jeremy Squires never disappoints. One of the better voices creeping out from the backroads of North Carolina, Squires is back with his new record, Poem. And once again, it’s a slow-burn stunner that reminds listeners of backyard bonfires, and tall tales told over tall boys of PBR in quiet confidence.
Poem is moody and takes what’s considered “Americana” by its ear and dares us to explore what works within the confines of genre. Much like how Lucero dove on Among the Ghosts and Jason Isbell did with The Nashville Sound. What works about Poem is that it feels like Squires set aside what he couldn’t do, but instead, focused on what was possible by testing what he was capable in the studio.
Poem is dreamy with haunting guitars that aim more towards My Bloody Valentine or Radiohead than what Squires country-inspired contemporaries are focused on and it’s imprinted all over the record. "Stargazer" and "A Calm Around" aren’t bangers but float through the collection of tunes in a haze, which is perfect considering the vibe of the record overall.
It’s also refreshing to hear songs that that feel earnest instead of trying to catch a wave or appeal to an audience that might not exist. On Poem, Squires has found much more of himself than on his previous releases, which were also solid, but this time around, this batch isn’t as self-serving, this is a man comfortable in his own skin, but also satisfied with what he does. For a lot of us, we’re always chasing that dragon that might never land, and we could all be so lucky to finally our moment as Squires has.
The back half of the record is decidedly more country but holds its presence nonetheless. If anything, the second half sounds a little more Tom Petty country than it does hard Nashville.
One thing to definitely take note of is the record’s cover. Whoever did it rules. It’s got this metal well of skulls thing going on. Super cool. Thank you for not wistfully staring out at the sunset or body of water, Jeremy.
Poem doesn’t go overboard, and no track overturns the applecart, but instead, the songs are dreary, rainy day bummers, which will forever have their places as long as people get sad and need someone else to feel their pain.
Poem is available on Jeremy’s Bandcamp page and most everywhere you consume fine music.
Apr 18, 2019
|Photos by Barry Grimes|
You were born in Louisiana and the culture and sound of the bayou comes through clearly throughout Pinkville, but you spent a few years in Los Angeles, specifically around the Grand Ole Echo scene, which is still an under-the-radar scene compared to Nashville or Austin. How did big a role did Los Angeles, and that specific scene, play in your development as a writer and artist?
Los Angeles played a major role being that I had already moved there when I started fooling with songwriting. I was 19 when I first started trying to structure my own songs. I remember around age 21 putting the guitar down. It would be a year or so before I’d get back into it. Around age 24, I got introduced to the Grand Ole Echo scene. Ben Reddell started a label and funded/released my first record Parish Lines. I was big into the folks that hung around there. Dan Janisch, Bob Woodruff, Rick Shea and David Serby. These guys were 20 to 25 years older than me but they sort of took me under their wing. I looked up to them and I still do. Check out Bob Woodruff’s Dreams and Saturday Nights. It’s a great record that was released in the mid-90s through Asylum. Dan Janisch was and still is one of my favorite songwriters in L.A. “Cannot Settle Down”, “I Dream of You” and “Everybody Gots Somebody They Used to Love” are stone cold classics. I believe Mike Stinson still covers Dan’s songs. The Cinema Bar in Culver City was my favorite hang. Julie Richmond and Kim Grant guided me into the scene there. I’ll always have a special place for L.A. It gave me my start and awoke something in me I never knew was there.
Cinema Bar's a cool place. Didn't some legendary Lucinda Williams show take place there? I don't know if I have that right. And the Echo was a really cool scene, still is. I know you've talked about seeing Phoebe Bridgers there early on in her career, when you and I first met you said you'd seen me play the Echo years before. A lot of the folks who started out there strayed a little further from Americana into, I dunno, whatever other made-up genre you want to use to classify them.
Your sound, though, and especially the sound of Pinkville, doesn't immediately bring to mind Los Angeles. These are dark songs, and you and Adrian Quesada did a great job on this record of framing your voice really nicely. How did you connect with Adrian and Will Walden, and when you started writing the songs for this record, did you have that kind of darkness in mind?
I met Will through the music scene in Echo Park around 4 or 5 years ago. He used to do sound at the Silver Lake Lounge. He was only 21 years old. We’ve been playing together for over three years now. It’s funny to think about that all these years later. He’s been on every tour I’ve done. He’s my right hand man. Interesting fact: His dad is renowned tv composer Snuffy Walden. Snuffy composed and won an Emmy for The West Wing. My favorite of his is The Wonder Years score. Will inherited that trait. A few years ago I was talking to him about what I envisioned as a record intro. “Picture a platoon cautiously walking through the humid jungles of Vietnam.” He came up with the riff on the spot. That riff would eventually become the opening track of Pinkville. I connected to Adrian Quesada through Mary Jurey at Blue Elan. It’s funny because he told me recently that at first he didn’t think he was the guy to produce me. He said he thought I was more of a country/Americana artist. After I described my vision to him he changed his mind. After the last record, I told myself I’d lighten up on the dark subject matter but in the end I created something even darker than the last. I guess it’s just who I am. I gravitate more towards those kind of characters. I read In Cold Blood at a very young age. I guess it stuck.
I read In Cold Blood pretty young, too. That one and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried both come to mind throughout Pinkville. How much do you draw from outside material - books, films, news, whatever? Everything around us has a way of informing what we write but how often does something you've read or seen jump out at you to the point where you chase it down until it becomes a song? What's that process like for you?
Yeah, I read The Things They Carried right before I started working on Pinkville. I loved the mixture of brutality and tenderness. That last chapter really got me. The opening track of Pinkville was something I experienced at a young age. It stuck with me and eventually I was able to put that story in to a song. My writing process on this record was different because I pulled a lot of things from my personal life. Rehabilitation, Pinkville, Manic Depression. I am the narrator in those songs. That is something I usually wasn’t comfortable with but with age and experience it came naturally. I am inspired by lots of things. Personal experiences, books, films. Some things just come out of nowhere. Cobra came out of nowhere. I wrote the lyrics late one night. Those are the most mysterious and interesting ones to me. No explanation on why I did it or where it came from.
There's a very plainspoken approach to some of that autobiographical material. Which isn't to say there aren't great turns of phrase or really beautiful lines it's just that a lot of it is matter-of-fact. "Rehabilitation" sticks out to me as really just a recounting of the day-to-day of rehab. It's not bereft of redemption but that's not really the point of the song. It's a kind of dirt-under-the-fingernails recounting of your experience. Was that the intent? To de-romanticize and de-stigmatize rehab by laying the process out so plainly?
Exactly. Rehab is the same schedule over and over for weeks. The rhythm and groove stays the same. Though there is the occasional “oh lawd” moment. A patient escapes, a patient gets pregnant. A few months after I was out a close friend I met there overdosed. I remember during a session, they asked me to play a song. I played “Feathers.” After, he came up to me and asked me about that song. “How in the hell did you come up with that?” Three months later he was dead. “I can still see his face when they broke down the door....”
It's sort of the same way with "The Heartbreakers". Was that another instance of trying to humanize something that seems much larger than life?
Totally. I envisioned it as a Tom Petty origin story. Will started playing the riff on tour a few years ago. It was before Tom died. After he passed away I knew I had to finish the lyrics. I relate with his story because we both grew up in the swampy Deep South. We both moved to Hollywood at a young age. Not trying to sound like Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James but I related with his story a lot. It felt like the right thing to do and it’s nice seeing folks react so positively to it.
The reach of those songs and that band is just immense, so it was nice to see you distill it back down to its origins. Do you feel like that dream they were chasing still exists? When you moved from LA back to Texas, did you feel like you'd done what you could in LA and needed a change? What took you to Austin?
I’m not sure if that rock n roll dream still exists. I’m sure some form of it does. I got signed in L.A. so that’s proof that’s it not completely dead yet. Every time we’d tour through Austin it was always amazing. Saturday nights at The White Horse. Making more money in one night than I ever did in L.A. The bands and songwriters are great. It’s also a genreless city. Folks would ask if I was worried about being surrounded by so many great bands. Honestly, I WANT to be surrounded by great bands. It’s inspiring. Folks that treat music as a competition are high. Townes did his thing here and so did Roky Erickson. Best of both worlds. Niels from Blue Elan had been telling me I should make the move. He said check back in with me in two years and let me know if you made the right decision. It took me less than a year to realize I had.
It's a special place, for sure. Portland took its little slogan, Keep Portland Weird, from Austin. The whole "Keep it Weird" thing started there in Austin as a call for folks to support local businesses and was then adopted by a few other cities, Portland among them.
You've been public about your sobriety -- obviously "Rehabilitation" references that -- and about mental health issues. How have sobriety and treatment changed the way you write and perform, if at all. Do you approach songwriting differently than you did before you got sober?
I’m much more focused now that I’m sober. Nothing to cloud my brain or throw me off course. My personal life settled down so I was able to focus on songwriting and my career. It helped me mature and my responsibility level went up. Folks ask how do I stay sober playing in bars and venues. Honestly that keeps me sober. Nothing against folks that drink but it caused a lot of unnecessary pain in my life. No one to blame but myself. The guilt is still there. I feel bad for the way I treated people that cared for me. That guilt will probably never leave but I’m thankful I can wake up knowing I have no one to apologize to and I can remember everything from the night before. Hell of a thing.
Hell of a thing indeed. Tom Waits, who you cover on Pinkville, is a sober guy and when asked about sobriety affecting his songwriting process, he said, "One is never completely certain when you drink and do drugs whether the spirits that are moving through you are the spirits from the bottle or your own. And, at a certain point, you become afraid of the answer. That's one of the biggest things that keeps people from getting sober, they're afraid to find out that it was the liquor talking all along." I've always really liked that quote. If you know how to do it, you know how to do it. It seems like Waits is a pretty big touchstone for you, creatively. What drew you to his songs and, specifically, to "Goin' Out West"?
I love the theater and monologues of Tom Waits. He’s a visual artist and really paints the scene. I gravitated to Goin Out West because of the subject matter. A brute of a man is pitching himself to Hollywood. The traits he brags about are mostly criminal but at least he looks good without a shirt. Y’all get that dude an agent! I related with it because I too moved to Hollywood with hopes of being in the moving pictures. I was in a handful of really bad films. “I ain’t no extra I’m a leading man.”
Part of that song too, though, is the folly of the narrator thinking that what the people "out West" want is a renegade, an outlaw, when what they really want is a soft, beautiful face upon which to project the image of an outlaw. The juxtaposition of real danger and the illusion of danger is really at the heart of Waits's thing, I think. And we see that not just in Hollywood but in this idea of Outlaw Country, a sub-genre of a sub-genre of music that, I guess, both you and I play. People love the idea of an outlaw - they love the outlaw image and the iconography that does along with it - but when somebody actually steps up and speaks their mind, be it about the president or how under-represented female artists are on country radio, or whatever, people get uncomfortable. That's kind of a bizarre thing to me. The flipside of that is we now have this glut of artists who work very hard to present a very calculated representation of the outlaw image they believe people want to see. It's nothing new in music or film, or life even, but it seems to be prevalent again, this idea of the outlaw persona. You seem to have found a label and a team that don't try to push that on you, or push your songs into that categorization. Is that a boundary you set with the label?
I agree 100 percent on that. The label has been great about me doing my thing when it comes to the music part since the beginning. I’m very thankful for that after hearing so many label horror stories. Folks love playing dress up. A doctored up “outlaw” bio or trying to appear a certain way. One of my favorite Sturgill lines is “The most outlaw thing that I ever did was give a good woman a ring.” I’m far from an “outlaw.” Maybe outlaw in the fact that I make records my own way. Though I still enjoy playing Xbox and hold a large amount of Middle Earth knowledge. Some of these folks would never want to appear “nerdy” or admit that they enjoy these things. One of my favorite spots in Austin is I Heart Video. Tons of VHS tapes and film memorabilia. I’m also much more comfortable in a pair of Nike Cortez than cowboy boots. Sure I’ve had a few run ins with the law but I’m more embarrassed by that than proud.
To me it's always, if the songs are good, I don't care much about how they're presented or marketed. That said, you do seem to have a pretty good hold on how to be engaging on Twitter and Instagram without being panderous or persistently self-promotional. Is that a hard balance to strike for you? How do you strike that balance?
Thankfully as far as that goes I’ve been able to just be myself. The older I got the less I cared about my “online” image. That’s when I noticed folks started paying attention. Most people can tell when someone isn’t being authentic. Authenticity always shines through in the end. Whether it’s through song or social media. I enjoy that side of it. I’m surprised when folks react to things that I post. The world has a better sense of humor than I originally thought.
The record's out, you're going to Scandinavia again soon on tour, and I imagine you'll be busy this summer. Pinkville is more or less going to be your life for the next 18 months or so. Does that take a toll on you? Do you hit a point where you're ready for the next thing or have you adjusted to the timing of the album cycle at this point?
This time it was different because I felt like it was the most well prepared release yet. The team was all set, the artwork was there and a Europe and US tour was booked. I’m already seeing the difference that makes. It takes a big load off of me. I enjoy being on the road. I’ve got a great new booking agent now through Atomic. His name is Jimmy Dasher. How can you go wrong when that’s your agent’s name? I’ve done a lot of questionable tours. 4 great shows and 15 bad shows was usually the case. Though this all builds character. You have to go through this. It’s the hustle. Folks want immediate fame through reality tv music competitions. Even if you win, you are usually forgotten within a few weeks. Careers are earned on the road. Whether you are playing to 5 people or 50 people, it’s the necessary path and what it takes to build a foundation. Cue Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”.
Pinkville is out now!
Mar 8, 2019
|Photo by Chad Cochran|
by Kasey Anderson
“It seemed odd to lose my relationship with a manager and label because I made a rock ‘n’ roll record, but that’s what happened.” Andrew Leahey is stuck in Nashville traffic, talking to me about his new album, Airwaves, the making and release of which brought Leahey to yet another unexpected career crossroads. The good news this time around was, after undergoing a life-threatening brain operation and rebounding to play 180 shows in 2016 in support of his debut album, parting ways with a manager and label was, if not small potatoes, certainly a less dire set of circumstances.
“In Nashville it’s easy to lose perspective. Nashville is the center of the Americana world so when I took this album to my label and my manager, the immediate response was, ‘Well we don’t really know what to do with this,’ which is like, really? It’s not a hard-to-understand kind of music.” In fact, for anyone who grew up during the era when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band dominated the charts, Airwaves is a very-easy-to-understand and equally-easy-to-embrace album, full of bright, chiming guitars, swagger, and anthemic choruses. According to Leahey, this was very much by design.
“We started playing ‘Make it Last’ at shows before we had even begun working on the record and it caught on immediately,” Leahey says. “For me - for us - we play a lot so it was important to make a record where any song could kick off a show, or could close a show. Songs that were maybe bigger in scope than the songs on my last record. And as we saw people at shows responding to those songs, it was an indication to me that we were on the right path. I wanted to make a Heartland Rock ‘n’ Roll Thriller,” Leahey’s thought is interrupted by his own laughter, “on a much, much smaller scale, obviously.”
Leahey and his band, The Homestead (and friends, including the 400 Unit’s Sadler Vaden), succeeded there, and Airwaves is indeed loaded front-to-back with songs that recall Petty, Springsteen and T. Rex. “Flyover Country” edges closer to what Americana purists - if there is such a thing - may have expected from Leahey while “Working Ain’t Working” recalls some of David Lowery’s twangier leanings but, by and large, Airwaves is kindred in spirit to the bands now relegated to Classic Rock Radio.
This is not to say Leahey and his band are unwelcome in Americana circles by any stretch of the imagination. Long a fixture at Nashville venues like the Basement and the 5 Spot, and with an ongoing gig in Elizabeth Cook’s band, Leahey continues to run in the same circles he always has, maybe just a little further out towards the fringes. “It’s all the same small pond,” he says, “I guess I’m just one of the weirder-looking fish right now.”
“When I came back from the operation, I really had to start over -- to repay all my dues, with my own songs, working on other people’s records, all of it. I struggled with it but ultimately, I had to rediscover what it all meant because I’d had it taken away from me so -- not that I didn’t appreciate it before the operation -- every opportunity is meaningful to me in a very different way now.”
Perhaps because of that, and likely also because Cook is one of the most dynamic and talented artists to come out of Nashville in the last several years, Leahey isn’t looking to relinquish his role in her band any time soon. “I love playing with Elizabeth, and my hope is I’m able to continue to balance both jobs because that’s a really important gig to me. I guess if there comes a time when I’m unable to carry both workloads, that would be a pretty good problem.”
Beyond Cook’s band, Leahey mentions that in Nashville especially, he’s happy to be known as more than just a singer, songwriter or bandleader. “It’s important to me that people remember I’m a player, too,” he says, “it’s really important to have those two halves come together and make a whole.”
With Airwaves, Leahey has achieved that symmetry. There’s no filler here. Just unabashed, infectious rock ‘n’ roll from an unapologetic Disciple of Petty. But make no mistake, this is not imitation. Following in the footsteps of others without tracing those footsteps is a delicate balance but Leahey and his band pull it off admirably.
Having survived the Nashville traffic snarl, Leahey has arrived home to meet the demands of his cat, and my own dog has grown restless so we agree that this is as good a time as any to cut things off, but before we go I tell him that to my ears, this album is as much a testament to Leahey’s own survival as it is to Petty or Springsteen or Stevie Nicks or anyone else.
“Yeah,” he says. “It took everything I went through to get to this point, to get to this record. Sometimes I wish I’d had some of these realizations when I was 22 but you really don’t know anything at that age beyond hormones and being pissed off at your hometown. I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m here now.”
I tell Leahey he’s not alone. A lot of folks are glad he’s here now, too.
Jan 7, 2019
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Oct 15, 2018
by Robert Dean
If you’re looking to fill that emotionally charged void left by waiting for new stuff by Tyler Childers, Chelsea Nolan’s debut e.p. Chelsea is an excellent place to start. On Chelsea, Nolan taps into a slow and steady dive bar tempo that’s the soundtrack down here in my fair city of Austin, Texas. The tunes are in the same vein of Childer’s Purgatory, and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t appreciate how Nolan channels an electric mix of Lucinda Williams’ growl, but also some Janis Joplin heartache and howls, too.
“Rock Bottom” doesn’t feel trite, or without its moments of chaos, instead, it’s raw and powerful. The song is country, but it’s got a rock and roll heart. There’s something about eastern Kentucky, these folks have a sense of rhythm that’s different than the rest of the country, the sound is becoming instantly recognizable, and on tracks like “Green Bridges” and “Sugar Holler”, Nolan is almost textbook in how to do the sound correctly.
Dan Conn is another Kentuckian, but unlike Chelsea Nolan, Conn’s sound is a little more subdued, less “Kentucky.” The vibe on his new record, Shine On, Conn’s approach is decidedly less honky-tonk and more bar room bummer.
If you’re looking for a driving record or something to throw on while you throw a few back, Shine On hits the mark. The standout tracks on the album are “The Pistol”, “Southern Accent”, and “Green Eyed Gal”, all which are 100% pure no bullshit country music, the exact stuff you shove in someone’s face when they ask you about pop country vs. the good stuff; that’s what Dan Conn is for. Give em’ Shine On to suck on.
There are a few clear indicators of artists like Wilco, The Jayhawks, and Tom Petty threaded throughout Shine On, and the more spins I give it, the more it proves to be something that could find its way into your favorite dive bar jukebox.
I dunno about you, but dive bar jukeboxes are the holy grail of cool, so that’s some pretty good damn company. Dan Conn can write a sad bastard song for the ages.
You can pre-order Shine On (due Nov. 30) here: https://www.danconnmusic.com/store
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|Photo by Cal Quinn|
By Kevin Broughton
The stage name – Ruby Boots – is quite ironic, given the varied and calloused life thus far lived by the gal who thought of it (though she can’t recall exactly why.) On her own by 14, Bex Chilcott has been around. I mean, the world. Several times. As in, learned to play guitar working the high seas of the South Pacific.
Her Bloodshot Records debut, Don’t Talk About It, out last week conjures country sensibilities with an edge: Lucinda Williams meets T Rex, with a dash of – dare we say – Lone Justice.
We caught up with the brassy, sassy, sexy, saucy Aussie and talked pearling, the (de)merits of the metric system, and checking off a huge bucket list item in the nick of time. And some other stuff, too.
Americans generally view Australians as fascinating and a little exotic. What really grabbed my attention from your bio is that you were working on a pearling boat at age 19. That sounds both exotic and grueling. Describe that kind of labor.
Well, I guess with any kind of out-of-the-box job, there are really cool perks to it. I was out at sea for two to five weeks at a time, and I was in the sunshine 10 hours a day. It was really beautiful, seeing whales during meal breaks. It really helped my work ethic, but it was literally back-breaking work, pulling up 300 cages a day and cleaning all the oysters. It was in the most beautiful environment, though.
It’s a complex process, and I suppose we could do the whole interview on pearling (laughs). They have these Japanese technicians who come during harvest and put a plastic bead in the oyster’s tummy. Then they hang in these cages in ocean for two years. And we had to meticulously clean each one. It was a pretty radical thing to do, off the beaten path. But I needed to get out of my hometown.
Give us a thumbnail sketch/timeline of how you wound up in the States, and Nashville particularly.
I ended up hurting my back on the boat – it’s literally back-breaking – but I also ended up learning to play guitar and writing songs while I was out at sea, so I decided to travel around the U.K. and Europe for a couple years. And I came back to Australia and started playing open mics and gigging. That was around 2008, I believe, and I was gigging a lot and ended up developing nodules on my throat because I wasn’t singing the right way.
So I had to take two years off from singing just to get rid of these nodules on my vocal cords. And after putting my energy into recovering from that, I started gigging and recording, and started to open my eyes to what was out there, and came over to Nashville in 2012. I fell in love with the city immediately; I’d never had that feeling with any other place in the world. And I’ve seen a lot, really: Asia, India, Europe and Australia. And I just kept coming back, because it has this incredible vibe, this small-town feel with all this creative energy that it was living off of. I was coming back a couple times a year.
And then I was awarded a government grant to write my record, so I afforded myself some time in Nashville to get it done, then finished out my last album cycle touring around the country. So in May of 2016, I settled down in Nashville again to write this record.
This is random, but have you quit thinking in the metric system since you’ve been here? Have you embraced “miles” and “pounds?”
Hell. No! (Laughs) My Siri on my phone is still in kilometers and has an Australian accent! I’m all about assimilation, but I still need to know where I’m going, how long it’s going to take me to get there, and how far away it is. (Laughs)
Why the stage name, Bex? Going forward will “Ruby Boots” be you & whatever band is behind you at a given time, and how did you come up with the name?
Actually it’s been so long ago, and I’m trying to remember. This came up recently when I was in Australia and on this radio program. It was live-to-air, with an audience, and I was asked about it and I just honestly couldn’t remember; I’ve used other names in the past and have just used this one for the last couple of album cycles. That name’s been with me for a while now and I’ve started to make fans with it in this area. I’ve thought about changing it to something closer to my actual name, but people have grown used to it and can relate to it.
I do remember that my real surname was not at all stage-worthy, so that was the motivation behind finding an alter-ego name.
The Texas Gentlemen – whose album I’ve worn out since last fall – backed you on this record. How did that introduction come about?
One of the guys who had played with them a lot who had also played with me – Chase McGillis on bass – has become a very dear friend. And he told me the Gents were passing through Nashville on their way to play the Newport Folk Festival, where they were backing Kris Kristofferson. They were doing a warm up show at the American Legion Hall in Nashville, and Chase rang me about two hours before the show and said, “Do you want to come down and sing “Me and Bobby McGee?”
So, I went down there and sang “Me and Bobby McGee!”
Yeah! So the Gents put on my old record on the bus and listened to it on the way to Newport. And when they were on the way back to Dallas, I was living in Nashville at Nikki Lane’s at the time and they were all there. (Texas Gent and producer) Beau (Bedford) was asking me what I was doing, so I started sending him songs. The rest is kind of history, I guess.
What about the arrangements and production? Did you go into the studio with a pretty good idea of how you wanted it to sound? How collaborative was it?
I definitely had set about to move into this record with a fuller electric sound; that was a conscious choice as I was writing the songs. I felt like on my previous tours from other albums that I was missing that extra grit, you know? My punk heart was really missing that.
Beau came out to Nashville and we went through all the songs and talked about them, and what we heard in them. And we set out to honor all the songs, I guess, but still with that electric feel. And we definitely came together chatting about old school records like T Rex, or Tom Petty – whom I’ve just always idolized as my go-to, No. 1 songwriter – and Beau definitely has a lot of the same influences.
But once we got in the studio, all those guys just have such an encyclopedia set between them of such raw musical instincts! The boys are each such great musicians and songwriters; so we did honor the songs, but in a very collective way with such a wealth of everyone’s musicality.
Several of the songs on this record obviously come from dark places; you left home at 14 for starters, and you named the album “Don’t Talk About It.” Ignoring that title for a moment, I’d like to know where these songs come from, and how cathartic it was to record them. Did you get any kind of closure, or was that something you were even looking for?
There are some particularly personal elements in the record, and I’m not trying to avoid...(pauses) the listener thinking they’re all songs that I’ve written from a place within myself. But a lot of them were conversational; they started conversations within myself, you know? What was going on in my life at the time, in my friends’ lives…society, and how all of those things spoke to me and came out in songs.
It’s not a breakup album, it’s not a love album; it’s a life album to me. The introductory track, to me, is a classical example of it.
It’s that element where…I mean, you can be on the giving end of it or the receiving end of it, but you’ve been in a situation where information is being withheld, and all of a sudden this other person informs you that they have a significant other. And it’s too late to make a moral choice; you’re already locked and loaded in that situation. (Laughs) And I think there’s an element of relate-ability there with the audience. And that’s what I wanted to do with the record and the way listeners digest it.
The great thing about coming from a tumultuous life experience in many ways is that you can always tap into it artistically. It doesn’t leave you – it gets better as time goes by – but it’s always there to tap into. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as a songwriter. And I think there are elements of strength and vulnerability in this record, with a woman’s voice – a good bit of defiance, but with some fragility too.
A long-winded answer, but it’s hard to wrap up the voice of my record in a sentence, you know.
You’ve drawn comparisons to Lucinda Williams and Nikki Lane – the latter sings harmony on one cut. I’m reminded of Kasey Chambers – but that could just be my American brain making subconscious generalities. I’m also reminded of Maria McKee from Lone Justice, but that could be way before your time…
Oh my goodness! I love Lone Justice! You are the FIRST PERSON who’s ever made that comparison! I swear I was just thinking please, please, let him say Lone Justice, let him make a Lone Justice comparison!
Honest, that was the first thing I thought of. I said, “Man, this is Lone Justice.”
No sh*t? That’s awesome, and one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said. I love her! To hear you say that about someone I admire so much is a very big compliment. So thank you very much.
Who are some of your other influences?
Off the top of my head, Lucinda, Ryan Adams and Tom Petty are probably my top three songwriters that I just adore. Anytime I feel like I’m not getting what I want from what I’m listening to, I can just go back to those three.
I still can’t believe Tom Petty’s gone. Can’t process it.
You know, a lot of bad sh*t happened last year, but that was the worst. I feel really lucky because I finally got to see him in Detroit last year, on the 40th Anniversary Tour. I had just fallen in love, and our first out-of-town trip was to Detroit to see Tom Petty, and that was at the top of my bucket list. I’m so glad I acted on a hunch that I might not get a chance to see them again, you know?
What’s next for Ruby Boots?
After the record launch on Feb. 9, I’m gonna play some shows in Kansas City, and we’ll hit South By Southwest after that. I’ll do an in-store here in Nashville. But it just means so much – it’s taken a lot of will and might – to have made my way here to America from Australia. It means so much to be able to launch this record here in America after all the tenacity and focus. It’s a really big deal for me, you know?