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Words by Tam Schilling | @tamcamimages_

Hailing from a long line of storytellers, proud Gumbaynggirr / Bundjalung man and all-round legend of Australia’s Country music scene, Troy Cassar-Daley has just released his brand new album ‘Between The Fires’. This album holds a special place in his heart as it was fully recorded at his late Mum’s home.

I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with him last week about ‘Between The Fires’, love, loss and the importance of the next generation of musicians coming through.

Congratulations on the release of your new album. I’ve been lucky enough to sneak in an early listen to the album and I am really excited for this one! 

Thank you, this record is a bit of a deep dive. The show that we are putting on at The Princess Theatre later in the year is going to be a beautiful environment to play some of these new songs. In the new show, we are playing about 5 or 6 new songs in the set so it will be  wonderful to finally get the share them with everyone once this is released. 

This album was recorded at your late Mum’s home and after listening to this you can tell a lot of these songs are about loss and death. Was this album a way of healing from the loss of your Mum? 

Very much so. It was a way out for me and like when you are playing monopoly, you need that get-out-of-jail-free card and music was that card for me. I am hoping that people can hear a little bit of the way out for themselves when they hear some of these tunes. When we released Some Days maybe a week ago, so many people jumped online and  were talking about how the song resonated with them. I am hoping that other people find that little bit of healing through the songs on the way through. Most of the songs are written around a fire. I got my acoustic guitar out and sometimes set my recorder on a little stool out there in the beautiful summertime evening. Here I was just making up ideas and songs  and then it turned into the record. Recording this at Mum’s house was something I never expected to do, but it seemed obvious that it is the place I should be making this next  project. I really feel like it sounds like Mum’s home, and it also sounds like a studio. 

Did your Mum’s home have a studio already or did you have to set all of that up to make this happen? 

No, we had to bring all the temporary gear in there. Mum’s place is just a basic bush house, and we moved things around to make them sound okay but because it is an old-style home – none of the walls were really square or added up and that is the perfect studio really. 

What are your thoughts on the afterlife after processing the loss of your Mum?

I do not believe in the ‘heaven and hell’ thing. I think about where I come from with my Indigenous background. We just believe in heading off to the Dreamtime and I like that feeling. That makes us feel like we are going to go away and maybe inhabit some animals bodies when you are gone and if there was ever a chance I would love to come back as an Eagle to have a look at what is going on from above. Especially a Wedgetail Eagle, they have been a big part of our life and of our Dreaming up that way. Every time I see one, I think to myself what he is looking at up there. 

In the track We Still Have a Chance there are some lyrics in there “in the school yard  where you find sweet justice with a punch to the face”. Did you have a lot of school yard scraps growing up? 

I think we all had a bit of push/pull in the school yard and when I realised that there is a  chance to not be divided it does not have to come down to that stuff anymore. We should be celebrating our differences instead of letting them divide us. That diversity that we have  gotten in our country should be something we hold in high regards and celebrate. Whereas there is a minority set of people who tend to think it needs to divide us and I just do not think there is any place for division. I reckon the only thing to do is to look forward and bring  people together. Music is a great glue for that. 

Yes, I totally agree. I have been to a few CMC Rocks events and the vibe there is very much about everyone is just loving life and getting along with a bunch of strangers who all have come together to see the music they love.

That is right. It does not matter what walk of life they have come from or what political party you think you need to follow. It all goes out the window when you go in the gate and check into CMC or Gympie Muster or Tamworth Music Festival. Music is actually a tribe of people.  

The song Thankful was this song written about a particular person? 

Oh, it is definitely written about my wife (Laurel Edwards). I wrote a song on there about the troubles we had a couple of years ago when I lost my Mum. I just sort of shut down and pushed everyone away for a while whilst I tried to get better and push through the grief. Congratulations was a song that is quite sad that is about that. Thankful is the bookend to that one which is the other end of the grief, and we were so thankful that we got through. 

I listened to Congratulations and I was trying to work that one out as it kind of  sounded like you got divorced, but you never got divorced. That makes so much sense  now. 

Very much so. You can interpret it in any different way – for me it was pushing each other away and ignoring the relationship at different times because sometimes you are not on the same page. I think that the time comes in a relationship where you have to agree to disagree at times and we could not even do that. So, we were pushing each other away and  it felt like it was a complete battle all the time. But then when Thankful came along as a  song that was the other end of it where we woke up and were so thankful that we stuck at it and repaired what we had. 

Yeah, life is like that sometimes. I have lost a lot of people close to me and I totally get  that feeling. I lost my Brother 12 years ago, he was 29 and going through that process. I guess you have to process it in your own way. 

Everyone that has heard that song had some sort of a little story they wanted to share with me.  They felt the need to talk about the people they had lost that were close to them. I think it’s an important adjustment in life to acknowledge because we sometimes roll with it and  think that it’s normal to feel that sad, but it’s actually something you have to allow yourself  to have a down day every now and then. No one can tell you at what speed you need to get over it. I am sure your Brother is around you in spirit and that’s the thing I recognise when  we were making the record as I felt Mum was just sitting in the corner with us, listening to this music being created in her lounge room. I am sure your Brother would be looking down on you and being proud of what is going on. It’s shit that sometimes you look at your phone  and you think to yourself for a minute I was just about to go and call my mum, but then you  realise you can’t. Mum’s number is still in my phone… I know it’s disconnected but it’s not  disconnected from my heart.  

Do you have a particular favourite song from the album at all? 

I think Some Days for me really is a really personal song for me. It’s one of the only three  co-writes on the whole record. Some Days and Good And Bad are really the defining moments for me in the record where you look in the mirror and have a look at where you are going and are you really happy. That’s what I think a lot of us may take from those two songs. When I look in the mirror, I can see I am looking like my Dad now. I think of all  the old photos of him and when I look into the mirror now I can see that I am just turning into my father. I love that because I really loved him and he had a great zest for life. I feel that every time I step onto stage now, I put a Harmonica on because my Dad played Harmonica for me as a kid. Those two songs for me would be right up there for sure. 

You are about to embark on a five month tour for this album playing big gigs as well as small gigs. Is there one style of gig your prefer more than the other? 

I love the ones that are in the small theatres where you are right up close to people. For the front three rows there is no escape, you are stuck with me for the next two hours. I am doing a town hall in a little town called Coutts Crossing (NSW) where I started my career and it only holds about 150 people. The reason I love it is because the lady that books it use to book me when I was 12. So it doesn’t get much more full circle than that for me. She is well over 80, but she is still a champion for the town and she still collects the ticket money one by one. That will be a cracker of a gig that one. 

Oh wow, that’s so cool. I have had a full circle moment as well. I photograph under Tamcam Images and when I first started photographing in one of the little venues run by the Ipswich City Council just doing it for free and now they hire me  to do their events there. 

Thanks for sharing that Tam because that is exactly how I started. We played her relations’ 18th or 21st Birthdays and we were only about 12 or 13 and we did it for free. She would feed us and give us cordial and encourage us. As time went on she started booking us as a band and started paying us to come and play at the hall and that really is the true evolution of a career. I bet you don’t even feel the same pressure now, when you are putting your finger on that shutter thing, I bet you feel a sense of pride because now they are paying you for your services now. 

Yes, most definitely. You’re playing at the Ipswich Civic Centre later in the year and  that is one of the venues that I photograph for them. 

Oh, I love that venue. I have done some amazing fun shows there on the odd occasions and the people in Ipswich just get really involved in the shows. I really want to say, we don’t have a lot of places we play where there’s that country thing that is really ingrained in  everyone. Ipswich to me has always been like a country town. We lived out near Fernvale for a while there and Ipswich was our big town to go to buy stuff. *Chuckles*

With physical music sales declining, how important was it for you to still release a CD and Vinyl instead of just a digital release? 

Our pre-orders said to me that my following still do love the physical copy in their hand.  The resurgence of Vinyl has really blown me away. We had one carload of just Vinyl pre-orders. A lot of people – young and old – are wanting to go down that nostalgia route of putting a Vinyl record on a player. I have seen so many people post on all the forums saying they  have received it in the mail, and they have listened to it twice. For me to hear that, it means a lot to have a physical release.  

Funnily enough, I actually work at JB Hi-Fi and I saw your post the other week about your Vinyl. You better believe, I got straight onto your website and purchased the Vinyl direct from you. It arrived in the mail whilst I was on holidays, so I listened to that last night.

*Chuckles a lot*. We even got a chance to put some of the demo songs on the Vinyl and that was great to share with people because that is where the seed is planted. There is a place in Brisbane called Suitcase Records and they pressed the Vinyl and they showed me their whole process of making a Vinyl. I had never seen that process before. I was just blown away. Thank you for your support Tam, that is an awesome thing that you are doing! 

Has the way you write songs changed at all over the many years of writing albums? 

Yes, it has. For a while there I did not really think I had an album in me for a bit as there was  a bit of grief going on around me and there were a lot distractions. Trying to continue to  work and play festivals. I did the Red Hot Summer Tour last year with Ian Moss and we spent every Saturday morning in a different town for five months. I never woke up in Brisbane once on a Saturday morning. I didn’t feel that I was up to song writing because I  was so busy running from place to place. It was the run with Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins and  Bernard Fanning on and it was one of the most amazing line-ups to be a part of. When I got to the middle of that tour I sat down and started to write songs and that was really a big  part of where this record came from. Once the river started to flow, that was it, I just couldn’t stop it. 

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Before we go, do you have any words  for your fans? 

The last time we played around the area I did it solo with my daughter Jem Cassar-Daley back in 2019.

This time, it is going to be so wonderful to share the experience with a band this time. And to showcase some of these local acts that we are taking with us on the road will be great as well. A lot of those local acts that we are dragging around the countryside with us are going to come up and  feature in the middle of the show to give them a secondary introduction to our crowd as well.

I think there is some exciting times, there is a lot of guitars playing and I am just so proud to be able to take this younger generation around with us. An important part of this tour is nurturing the next generation. This is really, really important to me.  

Thank you for sharing that personal stuff with me today Tam, about your brother and your  photography. That is really important, so keep it up!


With thanks to Sony Music Australia

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