The Campfire Song is the perfect opener. How did you come to make friends with Alan Pigram, who are his people, and what is he saying in his spoken-word monologue during the song?
The Chambers and the Pigrams have know each other for many years. We have jammed together, fished together, swapped stories together, and had family cook-ups together, but this was our first time writing together. My Dad, Al and I sat down and The Campfire Song basically wrote itself. I think on some level the song has always been around… it feels traditional to me within my heart, like I’ve known and sang it for many years.
The spoken word is from Yawuru which is local to the Broome area:
(Everyone sing at the campfire)
Jirrmu windugu-jina yingan
(Song for the curlew it is)
Ngayubarri burrb jimbin diligun
(With me dance inside the firelight)
Gadugarriny ngurragabu yimburlan
(Until/still yet tomorrow comes)
It’s one of the most moving sounds in a song I’ve ever heard.
How did you know that the stunning Go On Your Way was supposed to live its life just as a simple a capella?
It was always a cappella. We didn’t even have an instrument when we wrote it. My dad and I had just gotten back from a trip Africa where we had heard some amazing, inspiring music where most of the time they did not use instruments, but instead just their voices, to make such powerful sounds. I’ve spent some time in different places in Africa throughout my life and I’ve often drawn on the place and people for lyrical inspiration, but not so much from a sound point of view. The song just fell out when we sat down to write it. Felt so natural. Africa is a very special place to me and is reflected on this album a lot.
The message of Big Fish is very literal – when you’re fishing, you let the little fish go, because you’ve got to let them grow into big ones – but the metaphor is important. When you were young and living this hunting life, did you understand that bigger message of patience and regeneration?
Well, I was under 10 when we were living on the Nullarbor, so I’m not sure if I even knew what those words meant. Or cared. Haha.
I spent quite a few years living on Norfolk Island through the late ’90s, and this song represents that part of my life. It’s a very special place to me and a lot of our time revolved around fishing out there. I take my own kids fishing now a lot, and they know we always throw the little ones back to let the big fish grow!
The chit-chats at the start of Junkyard Man show how much fun you and the Fireside Disciples have while recording. Were there any hairy moments, or have the length of your friendships ensured y’all just get on with things?
We all got along so well. But that’s no surprise – these are are people I choose to spend time with socially outside of music too, so it’s a beautiful thing to make an album with your best friends. But it’s not all fun and laughter. Recording a song live like Abraham took us all to a very different, dark place, which is important too I think.
How did you write the harmonies for your duet with Emmylou Harris, The Harvest & The Seed – together with Emmylou, or did you show her your vocal line first, or another kind of approach?
My guitar player Brandon Dodd (of the Fireside Disciples) and I wrote the song together. We joked at the time about how perfect Emmylou would sound on the song, which eventually turned into convincing ourselves to ask her to do just that! She said she loved the song, and yes she would sing on it. I left the rest totally up to her: whether she wanted to sing a verse, or a harmony, or whatever. She ended up doing both.
It became one of the biggest highlights of my whole career.
Her voice is one of the earliest and most beautiful sounds to my ears, from my dad playing her songs to me as a child – often around a campfire – so it made perfect sense for our collaboration to be on this record.
Did you know straight off the bat you wanted your dad involved with This Little Chicken? Its feel is such a cute reflection of your obviously close and laughter-filled relationship.
We wrote the song together so it’s always been ‘ours.’ Not mine. I’ve learnt so much from my dad about music, but for the most part we just connect because we love music in the same way. My dad is a huge part of this whole record.
The Little Pilgrims (featured on closer Happy) sound super cheeky – who are they?
My 10-year-old Arlo, my 6-year-old Poet, their two best friends Townes and Banjo, and my little brother Tyler. And yes, they are super cheeky! They were quite the little divas to work with in the studio. Not quite as professional as I would have hoped, haha. My 15-year-old son Talon also plays guitar on this track.
The group outro at the album’s end is a wonderful and intimate inclusion. Where and when was it recorded?
This is the actual recording of the Chambers family singing songs to my Nana (my dad’s mum) around her hospital bed on her last night before she passed. Music was such a big part of her life, so it was the perfect send-off. (Go On Your Way was the last song she heard.)
My Poppa loves The Campfire Song and we all sang it together at my Nana’s funeral, too. But it doesn’t represent sadness to me. Only beauty. It sparks emotion, but in a beautiful way.
Campfire is out April 27 via Warner.
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