At age 16, Bex Chilcott, an Americana singer-songwriter professionally known as Ruby Boots, left home to work on a fishing boat. Those expeditions at sea proved to be the most formative of the Australian artist’s life. Liberated from the mainland, and all the painful complexities of her life ashore, she learned to sing, play guitar, and write songs. Upon returning home, she became an award-winning artist. Now, after three acclaimed EPs, she issues her epiphanic debut, Solitude.
“The writing process of this record helped me take control of my life. It made me realize that I never officially considered myself a musician until I finished the record,” she confides. “Putting my crazy life into song helped me feel a bit settled.”
Since 2010, Ruby Boots has issued three EPs of finely crafted and boldly vulnerable Americana. With just this compact body of work, Ruby Boots has earned West Australian Music Awards’ “Best Country Music Act” four consecutive times. Solitude was released on Lost Highway Records (Australia), and in the short amount of time since it’s release has earned West Australian Music Awards “Song Of The Year” for the single “Wrap Me In A Fever. The album has also charted in many Top 25 lists.
She’s become the first? Americana artist to share the stage with touring musicians. A selection of artists she’s opened for include Father John Misty, Justin Townes Earle, Nikki Lane, Shovels and Rope, Shakey Graves, Tony Joe White, and Reverend Horton Heat. She’s also supported the most esteemed Australian roots and Americana artists, including The Waifs, Mick Thomas, Oh Mercy, Diesel, Wagons, Mama Kin, Weddings Parties, and Jordie Lane. Ruby Boots has also had the honor of performing at such festivals Big Day Out (WA), Out On The Weekend, Laneway (WA), Tamworth Country Music Festival, Boyup Brook CMF, Bridgetown Blues, Nannup Music, Boddington Blues, Nukara Music, Wave Rock Weekender, West Coast Blues & Roots, Queenscliff Music, Moomba, Illawarra Folk, Festival of the Sun, and Americana Festival Nashville. Her recent tour of the United States garnered her a feature story in No Depression. This spring she will head back to North America on tour supporting The Waifs.
For Ruby Boots, the music journey began during those years she spent out at sea as a deckhand working twelve hours a day. Nighttime was her own, and she spent it learning The Waifs third album, Sink Or Swim, from front to back. These moments grounded her and provided a soulfully centering respite from the day’s drudgery, and it gave her emotional distance from her painfully complex childhood. “When I discovered music, it felt like I arrived,” she recalls.
Though she was something of a vagabond as a young person, she found an artistic home in folk and alt-country. “Everything about that music felt right to me. The songcraft was second to none. It was grassroots and about the fans and people relating to the music,” she explains.
Discovering music signified discovering herself and reclaiming her identity: no longer was she lost or scared. She took the name Ruby Boots. “Ruby is fiery and passionate, and ‘boots’ is about moving around. The idea recalls life as a wayfaring troubadour, living for the moment, being independent and not fearful. It’s about me creating some sort of security in the wake of a shaky childhood,” she says.
Over five years, Ruby Boots issued three EPs, but for a myriad of reasons held off releasing an EP. Nodules on her vocals sidelined her, she realized her longtime steady band was imploding, and, most importantly, despite acclaim and awards she felt she hadn’t worked hard enough on songwriting. “This is the first thing I’ve done that I’ve been proud of,” she says.
The 10 songs on Solitude were carefully picked from 32 songs. “The album represents many breakthroughs for me,” she says. The album is rife with songs of meaningful transient encounters and the loneliness that accompanies the life of a touring musician. The album’s first single, the glorious and chiming, “Wrap Me In A Fever,” was written while on tour, alone in a beloved fleabag Sydney motel. It’s rustic poetics and an invigorating and redemptive modern Americana spirit dissolves the sadness of the lonely heart. “Sometimes I’ve felt hopeless about relationships because I’ve sabotaged so many. That song is about letting my guard down and inviting love in,” she reveals. Interestingly, the song was also written while her band has falling apart. “I wrote it when they left the motel room for the day. I was surrendering to possibility of it all ending but feeling ready for it,” she says.
The elegant and essential, “Middle Of Nowhere,” brimming with lonesome pedal steel and Ruby Boots’ heart-in-her-throat vocals, was written with her early inspiration, Vikki Thorn from The Waifs. “I flew 55 hours to Salt Lake City, Utah to work with Vikki, and she picked me up from the airport. I feel asleep immediately and woke up in her driveway, and she said ‘Welcome to the middle of nowhere.’” Besides Vikki being Ruby Boots’ most foundational influence, the two had a deep and natural connection. “There was a lot of emotion surrounding that session,” Ruby Boots reflects. The sparkling twang of the album’s opener, “Cola And Wine,” will also be issued as single. “That song is very metaphorical. It talks about staying until the end of the party or leaving early. It’s a relatable message about life, and it was written around the time my brother had to go to the hospital after he nearly died,” she says. “It’s about facing your demons, opening yourself up, and having the strength to carry on.”
The album was birthed somewhat chaotically, reflecting Ruby Boots’ own path. It came from four producers, features about seven different bands, and was tracked in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Spain and Utah. Others involved include Jordie Lane, and producers Tony Buchen (Tim Finn, The Preatures, Mama Kin) and Anna Laverty (Jae Laffer, Paul Dempsy, New Gods). “It worked out so well, it’s exactly how I’ve led my life,” Ruby Boots says. “Each session bred new energy and I learned so much working all these beautiful musicians and producers.”
Reflecting back on Solitude, Ruby Boots says: “For so many years, I felt so disconnected, but music has given me so many connections. I get to sing my story to people and relate to them, and I’m surrounded by so many creative people onstage and off. I feel blessed.”