If Don’t Talk About It was a backpack, it’d be covered with half-shredded patches from all over the world. While pedalsteel, tubular bells, and dirty tremolo guitar sift across Bex Chilcott’s new album, she says the most important instrument was the one in her throat.
You left Perth at 14 and have been on a personal and musical odyssey ever since (most recently in Nashville, where the album was recorded). You’re a force! Do you feel like there’s anything that can stop you in your tracks right now?
Well, I am a human being! We all are humans – it doesn’t really matter how successful we are, or how involved we are in giving back to society: at the end of the day, life can get in the way. For me, it’s really important not to let fear rule me, but still have fear in my life, because I think without fear you’re not really pushing yourself. I think I was given a really early life-path that allowed me to build up a lot of resilience, but at the same time that resilience can turn into brick walls and block out vulnerability, which is where a lot of the courage in life comes from. It’s kind of complicated! I’m always managing that, and always growing within that space.
The track I Am Woman came out of your anger at recent events and revelations of discrimination and outright violence against women. You’ve said, “As tempting as it was to just write an angry tirade, I wanted to respond with integrity.” Do you try to apply this maxim of measurement to other things in your life?
Absolutely. I feel like at the moment, there’s a real “us and them” mentality – and not just in women’s issues. I think it’s really important to stay true to yourself without separating yourself from other people – which is really tricky! At the moment, we really need to come together, more now than ever.
The instrumentation across the album is beautifully crafted, with tons of space but so much fire. What were you looking for in instrumentation?
To be able to sing the way that I wanted to sing, it was important for me to just focus on that one instrument [voice]. It could be said that it’s the most important instrument on the record. I [wanted to] find an emotional character in each song, so I could do each song justice. So, I didn’t play guitar on the record. Surround yourself with people who can do things much better than you, and enjoy it! No ego! I chose that band for a reason: for their musical ability, depth, knowledge and approach. I got more enjoyment out of that than I would have, had I been playing.
Your vocal melodies always have a native feel to them; they seem to unfold as naturally as a fern. How hard do you work at them when writing?
I can feel the waves of self-doubt, the reminders, of questioning every note and every melody when I wrote the record! [laughs] Melody is probably the thing that I am the most meticulous about. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics mean the world to me, but the thing I pick at a lot is the melody. It’s all about the hooks, baby.
Don’t Talk About It by Ruby Boots is out February 9 via Island/Universal.
Check out our review of the album.