AS HARD AS THEY TRIED HOLDING BACK, NOT wanting to sound trite or disingenuous, the folks who work with Kasey Chambers couldn’t help but gush. It’s a tough line to walk in this industry when tag words like “exciting” and “mind-blowing” are used as often as “Can I have more of me in the monitor?” and “Tell him I’ll call him back in a few minutes.”

But during the course of writing this HotStar feature, POLLSTAR heard several zealous compliments just the same. Chambers has left an indelible impression on the people who have seen it all before. By two different people, POLLSTAR was told word for word, “I can talk about Kasey Chambers until I’m blue in the face.” It was no lie. There was no problem gathering information on the singer.

“She’s about the most authentic, young country artist I’ve seen in a long time,” Fred Bohlander of Monterey Peninsula Artists told POLLSTAR. What makes her authenticity a surprise, he said, is she comes from Australia, not Music Row.

Chambers’ music is clearly in the alt-country genre. The Los Angeles Times said her song “Cry Like a Baby” put her “on singer-songwriter Olympus with the likes of John Prine and Iris DeMent,” and her debut was the most impressive of the genre since DeMent’s in ’92.

Lucinda Williams has called Chambers her favorite new artist. Rolling Stone (Australia) said, “When you can reduce Lucinda Williams to tears, you’ve got to be doing something right.”

To add to her rise, Chambers is doing a mini-tour of the States this month with Williams. She is then expected to return again to the U.S. in September to support her sophomore Warner Bros. release, Barricades and Brickwalls.

Chambers is already a star downunder. She has grabbed ARIA awards (the Aussie version of the Grammy) for female vocalist and album of the year for her debut, The Captain. Her best female artist nomination had her competing with Kylie Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia.

In the U.S., Chambers is hitting the alt-country clubs or supporting dates for the likes of Robert Earl Keen. She told POLLSTAR that suits her to a “T.”

“I kind of feel like people in America probably like my music more than the people here in Australia,” she said, mentioning there is no true country scene downunder. “It’s taken a lot longer here to explain to people where I’m coming from musically.”

Although the gigs have been at smaller venues, Chambers said it’s been a joy to meet people who know of her heroes, such as Fred Eaglesmith, Prine, DeMent and Emmylou Harris. She said she has made the trip to the U.S. nine times in the past two years, which is fine except for the plane ride back.

Kasey Chambers

“I love touring and I’ll do that forever,” she said, “but I like touring the way that I tour, and I’ve done it like that for a long time. I take my family along with me. I have band members that I really love working with and I’m kind of not ready to sit back and have somebody walk in and change all of that for me.”

It’s not exactly like she drags her family along for support. They also happen to be the other three members of the Dead Ringer Band, which is signed to EMI Australia. For her overshadowing solo career, her mum handles concessions, brother Nash does sound and her father plays guitar. Nash is currently putting the finishing touches on Barricades, which he is producing.

Although her father is deft at Pete Anderson-style guitar, he only played for fun when Kasey was growing up. She said the family didn’t even know there was a music business back then.

Her family traded fur and her dad spent hours tracking down recordings of Hank Williams, Harris and, later, Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith. “He was kind of the odd one out,” she said. “There’s no radio over here that would ever play that sort of stuff. It was really hard to find it, but he managed. I’m glad he did.” (She recently had the nerve-wracking experience of touring and singing with Harris, she said, an opportunity that may only be matched by meeting Jerry Seinfeld.)

The four began touring Australia approximately 13 years ago, sleeping under the stars in a swag. DRB eventually signed to Massive Records which, ironically, Chambers said was a very small label. EMI came calling, but unfortunately her parents were having a rough time and the band was taking an extended break.

The label was interested in signing Chambers as a solo artist and did so in July 1998.

“I think I had 13, 14 songs built up,” she said. “The record label didn’t get to hear any of the songs until we were done. It was just sort of a take-it-or-leave-it sort of thing and luckily, they took it.”

The title song from The Captain was recently played on HBO’s zeitgeist, “The Sopranos.” Responsible agent Bobby Cudd told POLLSTAR he has booked dates because of those two minutes.

In Australia, Chambers was managed by her brother up until last year. She is friends with members of The Screaming Jets and asked their manager, Gary Rabin, to help with her career. She is co-managed by John Lomax III in Nashville, who has managed her and the Dead Ringer Band in the U.S. for approximately seven years.