There’s a moment in most artists’ young lives when they realise music will shape their future and define who they are. Kasey Chambers didn’t have to wait for that moment to arrive. Music is part of her DNA.
Born in Mt Gambier in South Australia, Kasey grew up in a home environment where listening to and performing country and roots music was a way of life. She spent her childhood absorbing the music of Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and other country greats. It was in the family’s revered Dead Ringer Band with dad Bill, mum Di and older brother Nash that 10-year-old Kasey got her first real taste of being on stage. By the time she was in her late teens she was fronting the band and writing some of the songs.
A change came in 1998 when Kasey, at the age of 22, travelled overseas on a rites-of-passage voyage of discovery. She came back ready to start her solo career. The resultant album, The Captain (1999) remains one of the most extraordinary and lauded debuts by an Australian artist in any genre. Songs such as the title track, ‘Cry Like a Baby’ and ‘These Pines’ boast a maturity beyond her years and a wealth of Americana-styled musical influences, yet the album has Australia and family at its core.
The critics and the public saw The Captain for what it was a blast of fresh air in the local country scene. Kasey was on her way and picked up her first ARIA Awards, for best country album and best female artist. Greater success was to follow.
Barricades & Brickwalls (2001), Kasey’s second album, broke more ground, winning best album at the 2002 ARIAs and landing her at the top of the pop charts in Australia with the classic single Not Pretty Enough, ironically a song about not fitting into the standard pop mould. Kasey was the first Aussie country artist to have a single and album at No.1 simultaneously. The Captain reached the Billboard top 50 not long before Barricades & Brickwalls was released and Kasey built a fan base across the US touring on her own and with US artists such as Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen.
The third album, Wayward Angel (2004) was another monster success, going straight to No.1 in Australia and producing a string of singles including ‘Pony’, ‘Saturated’ and ‘Hollywood’. The album, produced by her brother Nash, won best country album at the ARIAs in 2004 and earned Kasey her second best female artist ARIA. Nash was at the controls again for Kasey’s fourth album, Carnival, which debuted at No.1 in August 2006. The album features the top 10 single ‘Nothing At All.’
In 2005 Kasey married fellow musician and songwriter Shane Nicholson and this partnership would form the basis of her next success. Kasey has sung with an eclectic bunch of singers over the years, from Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers and Bernard Fanning to Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin, but she has been less keen to write with other artists. With Nicholson, however, a chemistry and empathy emerged. Their debut as a duo, Rattlin’ Bones (2008) was another No.1 debut on the album charts and won best country album at the ARIAs in 2008.
The next vehicle for her broad talent as a singer and songwriter was her fifth solo album, Little Bird. Released in September 2010, the album peaked at No.3. The album included two singles, ‘Little Bird‘ and ‘Beautiful Mess‘, the latter winning the Grand Prize at the International Songwriting Competition. In October 2012 Kasey and Shane released their second album collaboration, Wreck & Ruin, which again attracted rave reviews, debuted at No.6 on the ARIA chart and won them the best duo or group Golden Guitar in 2013.