Analogue Music | Ruby Boots

Ruby Boots

By Matt Conner

Staying in Australia simply wasn't an option for Bex Chicott.

By the time Chilcott, the central force behind Ruby Boots, cycled through Australia's major cities a couple times apiece in a given year, the touring opportunities had run their course. The population base didn't allow for the kind of ongoing connection and musical career Chilcott desired. So after a number of visits to the U.S., she decided to call Nashville her new home.

This year was a foundational one for Ruby Boots, a stretch defined by multiple cross-country trips in support of her Bloodshot Records debut, Don't Talk About It, which released in February. Festival appearances and support slots (Nikki Lane, Langhorne Slim) and headlining tours followed suit. In many ways, Chilcott is living her dream—making good on the courageous continental shift made for the sake of her music.

Near the close of a tiring season, we spoke with Chilcott to ask her for her perspective on the entire journey, from one home to another and the internal dialogue that happens all the while.

Analogue: You've been all over the U.S. this year multiple times, so it seems like a fruitful year with lots of great press. How will you remember 2018?

Bex Chilcott: It's really funny because I'll probably have a very different answer in February, once I've had some time off the road. But it's been a very tumultuous year for me with a lot of highs and lows. But I think that's the nature of releasing a record, right? There's a lot of incredible experiences, like the record release in Chicago which filled up The Hideout as my first headlining show. That's such a beautiful experience because you're like, 'Where the fuck did all these people come from?' [Laughs] I don't even know where Chicago is on the map of America properly. I do now because I've been back four times. America is so vast and populated at the same time, while Australia is the polar opposite. So just being in Chicago and feeling that was so incredible.

I had to ask myself the question of whether I wanted to sink or swim. But I've already lived 10 lives before this one. I'm not joking. So of course I want to fuckin' swim. What else am I here for?

I'm glad that you can see something come out and see that it reflects its doing well, but I've had to start again in America. It's so much larger and more intimidating. There's so much more noise here. There's a lot of fucking good records coming out every week, let alone in a year. That's not to say I've been intimidated by that, but just that I'd worked so hard in Australia and you really have to start again here. From that perspective, things have gone really well. I'll be able to work into next year and build on it. Maybe it is a bit intimidating.

But on a positive note, overall I think it's done really well. I've been able to tour all year and I have my own band. I can get in and tour another country which is exactly what I wanted to do.

Analogue: What informed the decision to start over here in America in the first place?

Bex: In Australia, there's Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and then a couple cities up north, which costs a lot of money and takes a long time to get there. There's Brisbane, but I don't like Brisbane so I never go there. So you really have five cities and one of them you don't like. I've then got four major cities I can tour every year. There's a portion of regional cities that might make sense. I can do those twice a year, so that to me isn't anywhere near enough. I can't play 200 to 250 shows per year with that layout, so I came to America.

Analogue: Bex, how long ago did you make that decision?

Bex: Well it was 2012 when I'd never been to America before and I was like, 'Oh, shit, this is going to be cool.' I started coming over twice a year and finally came over in April, 2016 and did a tour with The Waifs. We did 27 shows or so and then I settled in Nashville in May.

Credit: Cal Quinn

Analogue: What were the fears for you at that point as you make the transition? I love the courage to set up shop halfway around the world but I'm also curious about the shadow side.

Bex: I think I was in a very fortunate place because there has to be a sense of fearlessness to do that, right? I mean to begin with. Then again, the fear you've talking about is on an even greater level because you've pushed past the stuff that would maybe scare others from just starting a life in another country. On a creative level, especially in living in Nashville, there's a lot of songwriters in Nashville. [Laughs] Holy shit! You're exposed to all these incredible musicians and songwriters.

I think any artist who hasn't put out a bunch of records and is still trying to find their voice would immediately question whether or not they are good enough. I don't know if that feeling ever goes away as an artist, but I had to ask myself the question of whether I wanted to sink or swim. But I've already lived 10 lives before this one. I'm not joking. So of course I want to fuckin' swim. What else am I here for?

Then you turn that fear into inspiration. But that comes through a series of experiences wherein you find your confidence to push myself to become a bette songwriter and grow that way. At the end of the day, I was lucky enough to let my fear drive me. I feel like I'm getting better at that with age. So yes, there was a lot but it was a very positive thing. I wouldn't have had the same record if I'd not pushed myself in that way.

Analogue: That sounds like a very funny tension to believe enough in your art to chase this dream and yet to live with the perpetual self-doubt that any artist has.

Bex: See, I don't know. If I could be slightly argumentative here, it was like, 'I'm not good enough to write these songs yet, but I will get good enough because I love it and I want to learn. I want to be able to express myself in the best way that I can and in a place where I can creatively live and feel happy and content for this moment. Right now the stuff I'm producing doesn't feel like it's there yet. I'm not content, but I believe in myself enough to grow.'

Analogue: So when does that start to feel true?

Bex: [Laughs] I think it was only three weeks before I was in the studio. Then again if the record's not great, then I need to be a harder critic, but I'm proud of it.

Analogue: Well that's what makes this conversation interesting to me because the record comes across as quite confident, an artist very comfortable in her own skin who is a straight shooter.

Bex: That's the weight of it. That's how the record has to end up, but it takes all that other stuff to make sure that I feel that the responsibility I put on myself to make a record and put it out to the world has all that in there. That's a burden that can be very heavy during the writing period, but hearing you say that makes all that internal pain so worth it.

Analogue: Do you relish that challenge?

Bex: I think I'm going to like it on this next record. I think I was very, very fearful that it wasn't going to be the end result on this record. I think it was the driving force behind me being very particular about the songs that made it on the record, out of the 50 that I wrote. I think I went through 48 or 50 songs in seven months. Now that I have a deeper understanding of the process, I think the challenge will feel a little lighter.