Interview: Ruby Boots Shares Her Winding Road to Americana Success
Bex Chilcott's path to a career as a singer-songwriter has been anything but straightforward. The artist known as Ruby Boots, wouldn't exactly describe herself as a musically inclined child; although she recalls messing around with the guitar at a young age and wanting to sing when she was a bit older than that, she focused her talents on myriad other activities.
A native of Perth, Western Australia, Chilcott left home when she was 14; a few years later, she began a three-year stint working on a pearling boat -- and, as an added benefit to the job, began finding her musical voice. Time spent busking and playing open mic nights in Europe and the United Kingdom followed, before she made her way back home and found her place in Perth's music scene.
"[I thought] if I can do this in London or somewhere in Scotland or something like that," Chilcott recalls, "then I can do this here."
And she could ... that is, until two nodules began causing problems with her vocal cords. She was considering surgery to remove them but opted to let them heal naturally -- which meant three long years offstage, just as she'd really fallen in love with performing.
"It was quite emotionally disruptive," Chilcott admits. She found herself "quite depressed," unable to write songs or worthwhile lyrics, but she kept herself in Perth's music scene by finding work on the business side, with festivals and as a booker for a local venue. And when it came time to release her first EP, in 2010, those connections paid off.
"I didn't have to try and convince people to listen," Chilcott explains; rather, although they didn't know her as an artist, people still knew her, and that gave her a leg up.
"You know, some things are the worst things that have ever happened to you at the time," she reflects, "but they end up being the greatest blessing in disguise."
As an added blessing, Chilcott now has the "huge" advantage of knowing the "business" part of the music business -- well enough, even, to land a record deal. She was managing herself when she signed with Bloodshot Records, the label on which her newest album was released, in late 2017.
"It's not like people are out to get you, but we're all human in this industry, and there's no textbook," Chilcott says, "so it's so good to have your own knowledge."
It's also good to pair up with those who do. For that new album, February's Don't Talk About It, Chilcott teamed with Beau Bedford and his band the Texas Gentlemen as her producer and studio band, respectively. In addition to being artists themselves, Bedford and the Gents have a wealth of production and in-studio knowledge and were pros at helping Chilcott and her "Libra brain" create the best-possible product.
"[Bedford was] very graceful and very supportive of everyone in the studio but still managed to direct the room and sway the room the way it needed to go, in a very graceful manner," she recalls. "And they're all so talented and have such incredible knowledge of music -- not music as theory but music as, like, different kinds of music ... it was really wonderful to watch my songs come alive with joint, raw instinct ... It was magical."
Don't Talk About It also features the work of another Americana star, singer-songwriter Nikki Lane. Lane and Chilcott have been friends since 2014, when they toured Australia together (in fact, Chilcott was pet-sitting for Lane while speaking with The Boot), and the two co-penned "I'll Make It Through" for Chilcott's newest project.
"It's one of those things where, when two like-minded women get in the room together, it doesn't take very long to write the song," Chilcott says with a laugh.
Chilcott's tour calendar contains a number of upcoming shows throughout the U.S. and in her native Australia. Visit RubyBoots.com for more details.
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