Bill Chambers on backing Kasey

September 1, 2004

When Kasey Chambers’ brother, Nash, decided to use mainly session cats to record Wayward Angel, it put dad in a bit of a pickle. As one of the guitarists in Kasey’s touring band, Bill Chambers was used to living with his daughter’s songs before recording them. Now, he was faced with interpreting the parts of other players.

“The biggest challenge was trying to play something like Steuart Smith,” laughs Chambers, referring to the renowned Shawn Colvin and Eagles studio guitarist, who cut tracks on Wayward Angel. “I certainly don’t think I’ve nailed his parts, but I sure have learned a lot by listening to them. Luckily, Kasey and Nash don’t want us to play those licks note-for-note onstage. We learn all the studio parts, of course, but that’s mainly to get into the headspace of the session player—it’s purely a vibe thing.”

That strategy suited dad just fine, as he has always used Kasey’s voice as the guideline for his guitar parts.

“I’ve been listening to her singing the whole time she was growing up, so what I do is very much about following her,” explains Chambers. “On some of the songs, I play very little—which is a cool thing to do. It’s actually harder to stop playing and really listen to what the singer and the other players are doing before you dive in and start noodling all over everything. For example, some of the studio tracks have fiddle behind them. Well, we don’t have a fiddle in the band, so I decided to play Dobro on those songs to emulate the sadness the fiddle brought to the track. I also translate some of the picked parts to slide guitar to best complement Kasey’s vocal quality.

“But even when I’m playing parts someone else developed, I think it still sounds like me when I play them, because the only way I can play well is to play naturally. One of the most important things a guitarist can learn is to stick with what you’re good at. Because of my limitations and creative choices, the songs don’t sound exactly as they do on Kasey’s record, but they do sound like a live band is playing them, and that’s what we want.”

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