Without hesitation, Bill Chambers recalls his earliest musical influence.
The multi-talented Australian was supposed to be sleeping, but his attention was keenly focused on the radio his parents played late at night. Although it was more than 50 years ago, Chambers vividly remembers the unforgettable nasal vocal of legendary Hank Williams working its magic halfway around the globe like it was yesterday.
“I had never heard anything like it. It sounded amazing and I was just laying there, soaking it all in,” Chambers says.
Ironically, Chambers was extracting the memories as he drove through the central Alabama stomping grounds of Williams, working his way to Mississippi and down to the fertile music scene in Texas.
Chambers is a major country star in Australia, where he has earned Album of the Year nominations from the prestigious ARIA in 2003 and 2016 for his highly successful “Sleeping With The Blues” and “Cold Trail” projects.
He is also well-known for playing in the band of his daughter, Kasey Chambers, a member of the ARIA Hall of Fame, and producing records for other artists. He toured the states with his daughter's band in July and has now embarked on a solo endeavor.
After playing gigs at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas, and the fashionable City Winery in Nashville, Chambers will be appearing at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 on the Balcony Stage at The Varsity Center in Carbondale.
Tickets are $12. For more information, call 618-457-5353.
Chambers says he will play a classic Williams and Johnny Cash covers during his 90-minute set, blended with his rendition of “I Drink” and many originals, including fan favorite “Roll the Windows Down,” before concluding with marathon jam “Drifting South,” the title cut from a 2009 album.
The inspiration for “Roll the Windows Down” was an incident during his first visit to America many years ago.
“I was in California with Audrey Auld and we were trying to hire (rent) a car to go to Texas. When we found out how expensive it was, we just decided to borrow one,” Chambers says. “It was hot outside, so Audrey ask the owner how the air conditioning worked? She said, 'Roll the windows down.'”
A veteran songwriter, Chambers flipped the negative situation into a golden song idea.
Music was never Plan A, B or C for Chambers. His long list of vocations includes operating a restaurant, selling fish and catching lobsters. He then spent 10 years in the Australian Outback, and an entire decade hunting fox in the desert.
“We were literally in the middle of nowhere. Kasey learned to pick and sing around a family campfire. She is using the experience as the concept for her next album, which will be all acoustic,” Chambers said.
Emerging from the bush, Chambers formed the four-piece family band Dead Ringer Band in 1993 and they performed until 1998, the same year Kasey Chambers released critically-acclaimed debut album “The Captain,” which was producer by her brother, Nash Chambers.
Kasey Chambers was able to secure a guest vocal appearance on the album by Nashville's Julie Miller, who brought along her husband to play guitar.
Through the Buddy Miller contact, Kasey Chambers was able to land a job as the opening act on a Lucinda Williams tour of America and an Emmylou Harris tour of Australia. Bill Chambers played lead guitar for his daughter's band for both tours.
“The Lucinda tour was the most exciting tour I've ever been on. She evokes so much emotion when she sings. Every night was an incredible experience.”
Miller and Williams were the most influential members in the early years of the genre now classified as Americana.
Bill Chambers says Texas singers and songwriters have made a tremendous impact on his musical style.
“All my life, the music I listened to the most was Guy Clark, Towns Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver and Steve Earle. Getting to meet those guys was a dream come true for me,” he says. “There are only a handful of good songwriters in Australia, but there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing songwriters in the United States. The best ones and my favorites are able to combine country music with blues, rock and folk, and create this hybrid called Americana.”
Chambers says his current tour was booked without the help of an agent. He just opened his notebook of contacts he has made through the years and started working the phone.
“I've never done anything like this. It's something totally new,” Chambers says. “I've brought my wife and a couple other musicians along. We are playing everything from major venues to small house concerts and having a great time.”