Australian singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers welcomes me into the green room at City Winery in New York City with open arms, giggles and water in a wine glass. “We’re fancy. Not really, but sometimes we pretend to be!” The pint-sized powerhouse vocalist is buzzing about being back in New York City to perform. “The novelty of playing a gig in New York City never wears off. It’s extra cool for us since we’re from across the world.”
A little while later, as her band ambles around behind us; casually strumming their instruments; making tea; eating pizza, Kasey asks if they’re ready to go. I ask where we’re going because I’m obviously a part of the band now. We walk through a chilly basement hallway, past the kitchen and into a massive wine cellar where the walls are lined with enormous barrels of vino. Kasey performs a few songs acoustically with just her guitarist, Brandon Dodds of Grizzlee Train. “This is so cool! Let’s just bring everyone down here for tonight’s show,” she half-jokes after the intimate performance.
Kasey’s eleventh studio album Dragonfly debuted in Australia at #1 on the ARIA Albums Chart. The double album includes special features from Keith Urban, Ed Sheeran, Paul Kelly and Foy Vance. After she wraps up the North American leg of her tour, you’ll find Kasey touring her stomping grounds throughout Australia.
We caught up with Kasey in between a warm tea and an impromptu performance to discuss Dragonfly, touring with her children and her love for Eminem.
What is your most memorable performance?
Last time we played here at City Winery. I don’t very often sell out gigs in NYC and we sold out the last time we were here. We sold out tonight’s performance as well, so this venue is good luck for me. When I first played NYC, I thought it was going to be so intimidating and I’d have to prove myself to the whole city. It was the warmest experience and has been ever since. We always feel so welcomed here. I’m sure the Australian accent helps.
Tell me a little about your newest album, Dragonfly.
It’s a double-album. I didn’t plan on making a double-album. I went into these two sessions thinking that I would record five or six songs for each and then piece them together. It ended up being about ten or eleven per session. I got too attached to all of them and I couldn’t let any go! They’re like my babies. It was a happy accident that I had more songs that I ever had. I think I’m enjoying songwriting more than I ever have.
Some of the album is very personal and was almost like therapy for me. Other songs are really different for me. I had stepped out of the box and was writing about different characters, apart from me. I feel like it’s always been in me but I don’t think I’ve ever tapped into it well enough. Every now again I would write a song about a character a little but it never worked as well as it did this time. I really enjoyed writing about specific things that I had to research. Then in between I would go back and pour my heart out about my bad day or whatever.
How was it recording with Paul Kelly and your brother Nash Chambers?
I recorded a session with Paul Kelly who I had toured with and recorded songs with before but never in this capacity. He’s the opposite personality as me. He is profound and poignant while I just babble on, trying to fill in the silence because it is annoying.
The other session was with my brother Nash who I’ve worked with a ton in the past. He’s similar to Paul, which is good because more of me would be trouble.
How do the two sessions compare?
I just hope there is some sort of a thread throughout. It felt a bit disjointed at times because there are songs about motherhood, love, heartbreak, made up characters; everything. At the end of the day, they are two separate sides of one album. They’re both me; in different ways.
Do you have any favorite special guests on the album?
A personal highlight for me was collaborating with Foy Vance. Working with Foy was amazing in the studio. I wasn’t expecting that. We went in and I had just asked him to sing a harmony. I didn’t know him or anything but we are label mates in Australia. The song has a bit of a Celtic vibe and him being Irish, I thought it’d be great. Foy came in and he started doing this vocal, chanting choir and layered it on. He helped change the song entirely, for the better.
What is a band or an artist that you listen to that fans would be surprised to hear?
I listen to a lot of Eminem. He’s one of my most favorite songwriters. I would put “Cleaning Out My Closet” at the top of my list of favorite songs. My kids like him a lot too. I know, that’s poor parenting on my part but I’m just happy I’ve got three children, 14, 9 and 5. To find music that we all like is pretty difficult. Their top three artists are Eminem, Ed Sheeran and Foy Vance.
What is it like touring with your children?
In Australia, I take my kids with me. It’s harder because I don’t have any time. When I’m here in America I’ve got time to sightsee and sleep. By the time we drive to the next town, with the crew, band and kids, we need to make 10 extra stops for bathroom breaks and then we have to stop at a skate park or something. We’ve got to feed the kids and bathe them; it’s a little chaotic. I like a bit of chaos though on the road. When we aren’t touring, I’m a very organized mom. On tour, I like the noise. They can come up on stage with us sometimes, if they’re in the mood.