When Australian-born Bex Chilcott, who writes and performs under the name Ruby Boots, says she grew up isolated, she’s not exaggerating.
“That’s an actual fact. I’m not just saying that to ham it up,” Chilcott says, laughing. “My hometown is the most isolated city in the world.”
Born in Perth, Australia — the most remote city of its size on earth, Chilcott left home at 14 to work on pearling boats in western Australia. It was then that she turned to music, taking inspiration from her adventurous spirit and life at sea.
“I started to write while I was working out at sea,” she says. “I was out there for easily a good year before I hit the stage.”
After years of building a following in Australia and touring in the states, Chilcott moved to Nashville in 2016. She says the move made her dream or being a working musician seem tangible and gave her an opportunity to work with a variety of musicians.
“I’m very attracted to collaboration,” she says. “That’s not to say that there’s no opportunities to collaborate where I’m from. I just really feel that I’m that kind of person that needs to have that next thing on the horizon all the time. Nashville’s got everything I could ever want from a bigger music city but it has a small town vibe at the same time.”
Now Chilcott is on the cusp of dropping her sophomore album Don’t Talk About It (out Feb. 9 on Bloodshot Records), a stellar mix of crunchy power pop chords, ’60s girl group bops, ’70s southern rock and country soul.
The record was born out of a chance encounter with the in-demand country rockers the Texas Gentlemen, who would later serve as the backing band on the album. Chilcott recorded the eclectic album at the Gentlemen’s Dallas-based Modern Electric Sound Recorders Studio.
“It’s a mix of everything that just made me feel something. I drew an influence of sound from what I felt like I was really missing that I needed from the last album process really — more rock n roll,” she says. “I was touring for a couple of years and it was like ‘I just can’t get this out of my soul.'”
The album was produced by Texas Gentlemen band leader Beau Bedford.
“His vision for that — bringing in the right musicians to work on the songs — it was incredible,” she says. “I never really thought you could experience that magical feeling in the studio and it was multiple times that I did.”
Album-opener “It’s So Cruel” sets the tone for the record with a raw intensity.
Chilcott is joined by friend and fellow outlaw country rocker Nikki Lane on the title track. (Lane also co-wrote the track “I’ll Make it Through” with Chilcott.)
The record finds Ruby Boots slinking through vintage pop sounds reminiscent of the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes (“Believe in Heaven”) and channeling her hero Tom Petty on hook-heavy rocker tracks like “Easy Way Out” and “Somebody Else.”
The album’s most stunning moment is the a cappella “I Am a Woman,” which Chilcott has described as the backbone of the record. While we seem to be in a watershed moment for addressing sexual harassment and assault, she stresses that the song is a response to how women have been treated for centuries.
“It doesn’t stem from the current climate. It stems from a real issue that has been going on for fucking years,” she says. “What we need to know as human beings is that women’s bodies need to be respected — human being’s bodies need to be respected.”
Ruby Boots will celebrate the release of Don’t Talk About It with an album release party at The Hideout in Chicago this Friday (Feb. 2). She’ll also be performing during Austin’s SXSW next month. Luckily, it seems we can expect to see and hear a lot more of Ruby Boots this year.