The Australian duo of Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson have returned with their follow-up to 2008's Rattlin' Bones with their new collection of songs, Wreck & Ruin. In the classic tradition of such greats as Gram and Emmylou and George and Tammy, Kasey and Shane have crafted two rewarding albums that only hint at each of their solo work. Both Rattlin' Bones and Wreck & Ruin are filled with tunes that only Kasey and Shane could conjure out of each other together and give life to together.
Wreck & Ruin was just recently released on October 22nd (both in standard single and 2-CD deluxe editions) via Sugar Hill Records. I recently had the opportunity to ask Kasey and Shane a few questions regarding their ongoing collaboration and new album.
Hi Kasey and Shane. Thanks for taking the time to chat a little bit about your new record. Before we dig into Wreck & Ruin, I'd like to ask you if you could briefly describe your experiences writing and recording your first album together, Rattlin' Bones?
Shane: We met in about 2001, during the recording of my It's A Movie album, that Nash (Kasey's brother) was producing. It was actually Nash's idea that we write something together, but wasn't until years later that we actually got around to it. "Rattlin' Bones" was the first song we wrote together.
Kasey: It was a special time for us. We were pregnant with our first child together, Arlo, and we were both looking for a break from the industry side of music. We'd both begun to feel like we needed to rediscover our passion for music-making, and the Rattlin' Bones project provided us with a chance to do that.
After that album was released and you toured for it, was there already a plan for making another one together?
Kasey: Even though Rattlin' Bones began as a "one-off" side-project, I think it became quite obvious to us that there was something special about the sound we created together. I think we both knew that we would work together again at some point.
Shane: Every project leads to the next. After Rattlin' Bones wound up, we needed to go our separate ways for a while and make some solo records, tour separately. Then when the time felt right we decided to start work on Wreck & Ruin. We've learned that we need to maintain a balance between our projects together, our solo work, and our family life. That's a work in progress.
Did you have a set direction in mind for the new album?
Kasey: Our only direction with the songwriting was that we wanted it to be quite "traditional". More so than any other album either of us have made.
Can you describe any differences between Rattlin' Bones and beginning work on Wreck & Ruin?
Shane: The biggest difference with writing this album was that we needed to find somewhere neutral to be creative. Somewhere new and fresh, where we weren't surrounded by our daily lives. So we visited a bush cabin about an hour and a half from our house for a few days each week, for about a month or so, and the record came to life there.
Can you discuss how your songwriting writing (both musically and lyrically) come together?
Kasey: We're not exactly sure how we do what we do together. We have very different approaches to songwriting, but we try our best not to analyze the process too much. It works, so we are happy with that and we don't feel we need to know 'why' it works.
Shane: It was certainly a song-by-song record. We had a general "vibe" that we were aiming for, and we didn't try to steer the songs any more than that. In fact we were writing so much that we didn't listen to much music throughout the process.
What would you say connects Wreck & Ruin most to Rattlin' Bones? What sets it most apart?
Shane: The musical intent behind the new album connects it to Rattlin' Bones. The execution distinguishes it. In some ways they are similar records...in many ways they are vastly different.
What would say is most rewarding from your collaborations together as well as what these experiences meant to each of you individually in terms of your own work?
Kasey: Working together gives us a chance to explore new roads. By writing songs together and joining our sensibilities in the studio, we make records together that we could never make as solo artists.
What's next you for in 2012?
Shane: We're not exactly sure yet. Most likely moving onto solo work again. A healthy marriage is maintained by a healthy amount of distance and space.
Chris Mateer is a freelance music writer living in Portland, OR. He is the founder and writer of the Uprooted Music Revue and has been contributing regularly to No Depression. In addition to music writing, Chris teaches visual art and plays the mandolin, banjo, and drums.
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