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Lone Star inspiration

In ‘Storybook,' Australian songwriter Kasey Chambers pays tribute to Lucinda Williams, other top Texans

Brian T. Atkinson
Songwriter Kasey Chambers once toured with Lucinda Williams. 'She showed so much of her real self on that tour.' she says.

Kasey Chambers' ebullient "Storybook" salutes favorite songwriters. Lone Star state alums most notably, Steve Earle ("Nothing But a Child"), Townes Van Zandt ("If I Needed You") and Lucinda Williams ("Happy Woman Blues") dot the landscape.

"The thought process was to (record) the songs that had inspired me," Chambers says. "I could've picked 20 Lucinda songs to put on there. She was such a big part of my influences." The Australian songwriter performs tonight at One World Theatre.

American-Statesman: So, why did you choose ‘Happy Woman Blues'?

Kasey Chambers: In the end, I think it was because it was the first song of hers that I sung. I've sung and loved so many Lucinda songs over the years. It was seeing her when I was 14 or 15 that made me say, "I want to write songs." I wrote my first song after going to that concert.

Then you toured with Lucinda early on.

Yeah, one of the first times I toured in America, I opened for Lucinda for five weeks. That was one of the most amazing things of my life: Free tickets for five weeks to see Lucinda! And I get paid for it? I'm like, "What?"

Describe hanging out with her.

She's crazy, (but) in the most endearing and lovable way (laughs). I went into that tour having Lucinda up on this pedestal — and to some extent I've still got her up there — but I got to know her and have seen her on and off over the years. She was amazing. She showed so much of her real self on that tour. I've come to realize that she shows her real self onstage anyway depending on what mood she's in (laughs).

What draws you to so many Texas songwriters?

It's funny, I've never thought about it until you just said that. I think it's the other way around. I hear the music and I'm drawn to it and later someone will say, "Oh, they're from Texas." I wish I was leading up to something really profound to say to you right now (laughs).

You cut ‘If I Needed You' with the Dead Ringer Band (on 1997's ‘Living in the Circle'). Why record it again?

It's really simple. The guy I sing it with, Jimmy Barnes, has a TV show here called "My First Gig." He interviews people about their first gig and what music they grew up on, and he would sing a song with the guest. We were looking for a song to sing and he said, "Oh, I love Townes Van Zandt!" and I said, "Well, I love Townes Van Zandt, too!"

Meanwhile, you and (husband) Shane (Nicholson) have finished another album.

Yeah, the writing process on ("Wreck and Ruin," tentatively due in October) was easier. When we wrote for (the 2008 collaboration) "Rattlin' Bones," we'd never written together and it took a while for us to find the dynamic. We didn't have to do that (this time). We went into the studio and jammed it out. This album sounds more like a gig.

One promo photo shows you holding a banjo. When did you learn to play?

Well, I still haven't learned, but I figured I'd play it anyway! (She laughs.) I just like to mess around with it at home. There's one particular song that we wanted just Shane and I playing and I wrote it on the banjo, so I figured that just makes sense. It's certainly not something to look forward to on the record (laughs).