Nashville may be going through growing pains, but it’s a small town at heart, especially within the city’s music community — just ask Australian-born singer and songwriter Bex Chilcott. “Can you hold on just a second?” Chilcott asks, laughing over the phone. A dog howls in the background. “I’m babysitting Nikki Lane’s dogs.”
Known by her nom d’artiste Ruby Boots, Chilcott first caught the ears of fans and critics in Nashville and beyond with her debut album, 2016’s Solitude. That collection, which introduced Chilcott as one of the more dynamic artists operating at the very fringes of the country constellation, earned her a burgeoning following, as well as opening slots in Europe for Lane (not to mention a side hustle as a dog sitter).
“Nikki and I are very close,” Chilcott says. “The first four days [of the tour] we were up until 5 a.m. every morning. It felt like we were at summer camp, we were up all night talking and laughing. We’re very like-minded, and we both work very hard. I love being around someone who’s as hardworking as myself. It’s comforting, as well, like I’m not in it alone. It’s inspiring for me to see where she’s at in America and Europe.”
The fruits of Chilcott’s own hard work have never been more evident. In early August, it was announced that she’d signed to renowned Chicago indie label Bloodshot Records, through which she’ll release a yet-to-be-announced sophomore album in North America and western Europe (she’ll stick with current label Island Records/Universal in Australia, Asia, and eastern Europe). The label’s DIY ethos and close-knit team were major factors in her decision to entrust the label with her music.
“We sent the record out to a couple of key labels and they really responded to it in the way that really reassures me they’re the kind of people that I want to work with,” she says of the Bloodshot team. “They really loved the record. It’s a family unit, which I really respond to.”
While details (namely an album title and a release date) are scant at press time, Chilcott had a lot to share about the making of her sophomore album, which is already finished. After a fortuitous meeting at American Legion Post 82, Chilcott linked up with producer Beau Bedford and beloved session band The Texas Gentlemen.
“I was living out here for a year at the time,” she recalls. “One of the guys I was playing with is heavily involved with a group called The Texas Gentlemen. We were doing a warm-up gig, running through the songs at the Legion. I got up and did ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ and I got talking to Beau, the producer, and I told him I was writing a record. We cut a song after that.”
The group headed to Dallas’ Modern Electric Sound Recorders, where they spent three weeks playing and recording, whittling down 40 of her songs to an album-length collection. As Chilcott explains, while she and the group began chipping away at her body of work, a common theme began to emerge: “the strength and vulnerability that women often carry.” That common thread was less the product of planning than it was her creative process, which sees the songwriter following her artistic intuition until it “unveils what [I’m] trying to say.”
“I really wanted to capture a moment in time, so we did it over three weeks,” Chilcott explains. “It was very different. I was signed this time so I had the luxury of being able to map out how I wanted to do it. There were no roadblocks or anything. It happened really organically.” While Chilcott, who has amassed a handful of awards in her native Australia, is no stranger to success, she credits her relocation to Nashville — and her subsequent immersion in the local music scene — as an integral piece of this next leg of her musical journey.
“There’s such a high standard of musicianship here in Nashville that there was a point where I was feeling like I might stink, you know?” she says and laughs. “But it’s such a pleasure to have that many people around you to choose from to work with. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot from being in my favorite music community in the world.”