Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson are sharing their lives together on Wreck and Ruin, their second duets album. That transparent approach applies to the married couple’s insightful lyrics as well as their off-the-cuff tour banter.
“I love it when people feel like they know us a little better as people by the end of our show,” Chambers says. “Not so much as musicians, because you can buy the album and you can watch the video clips and see a lot about who we are as artists and singer-songwriters. But when people come to our show, it’s like a little journey through our life. That’s what this album is, a little bit, as well. They’re moments of our lives.”
CMT Edge: There are lots of laughs in the background on Wreck and Ruin. Why was this album so enjoyable to make?
Nicholson: Because we assembled a great group of people and personalities. Everyone was on the same page musically, so the recording process wasn’t difficult, and we all had a lot of fun. We encouraged the band to express their personalities as much as possible in their playing and to push their own boundaries, which always leads to some potentially humorous moments.
Where did you record the album?
We made this album at [Kasey’s brother] Nash Chambers’ Foggy Mountain Studio. It’s hidden in a valley out in the bush and has no mobile phone service. That’s why we love working there. A typical session was more about fun than work. We might play for an hour, record a song and then take two hours off to fish in the creek and ride the dirt bikes.
Kasey, how often do you co-write? What is it about writing with Shane that appeals to you?
Chambers: I don’t really co-write with people at all. Every now and then I might write a song with my dad or one of my mates, but I’m not a good co-writer. I like sitting in a room by myself and writing songs. It’s funny because it’s really the only time I like being on my own. I’m a fairly social person, and I like being around people all the time.
And when I write with Shane, because we know each other so well now, and we know each other’s writing styles, there’s no pressure. … It’s great because we live together and we can write when it suits us. And even though we specifically took time off to go write for this record, at least we knew that if we didn’t get something this week, we could try again next week.
“Familiar Stranger” sounds like a straight-up country song to me, and it’s an unexpected song to hear from a married couple. What were you hoping to capture in this song?
Nicholson: It’s three minutes of marriage counseling. It’s not odd for a couple to feel that way. It’s just unusual for a couple to admit it and sing about it on an album.
Chambers: I had had a couple of days of listening to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. I love them and they’ve been a big influence on Shane and me. … Without directly knowing it at the time, now that we’re finished with the making and writing of the album, we can look back and go, “Oh yeah, obviously!” (laughs) It was not so obvious at the time because you don’t think about it when you’re in the middle of it. But then you can often look back and think if it wasn’t for Gram and Emmylou, I don’t know that we would have a lot of the sounds that we have.
Does “The Quiet Life” represent how you live? Or maybe how you wish you could live?
Nicholson: It’s a bit of both. Between albums and tours, when we are at home, we do live a fairly “quiet life.” Or at least rather uneventful. The usual stuff — take kids to school and weekend sport, socialize with friends, clean the house, pay the bills, etc. But in some ways, the song speaks of taking it a step further and disconnecting from the world. Hiding out in the valley like hermits, strumming guitars and sipping whiskey.
Chambers: If people came to our town and our house, they would probably think that is written about the way we actually live. But when you spent any considerable amount of time with us, you realize that we have a very normal life and it’s not that quiet at all! We have three children and our days are filled with swimming lessons and housework. (laughs)
And as much as I love that and I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s not the best environment to get really inspired to be creative. It’s like your normal, day-to-day stuff, and we had to go away from that life a couple of days each week to write some songs in this little cabin about an hour-and-a half from where we live, with no phone service or Internet service or anything like that.
The only thing we had with us was our newborn baby because I was still breast-feeding, so I had to take her everywhere I went. My mum looked after the older kids for a few days each week so we could get some writing done. She was a really quiet baby so she was OK. She would sleep in the background while we would sit on the porch and write songs. That’s where “The Quiet Life” came from — just sitting there listening to nothing really. There would hardly be any cars go past.
Could you get used to that lifestyle?
Chambers: I guess because we’re in the music industry and that means you’re around people a lot, we would often think, “I wonder what it would be like to trade it all and not do music anymore.” Shane would often say, “I could do it in a second,” and I’d say, “I would be bored within a day!” (laughs) I just like being around people but Shane is completely the opposite person. He loves quiet — and he shouldn’t have married me then, if he likes quiet! (laughs) He doesn’t get much of that with me around.