In a snap shot:
Troy Cassar-Daley is at the top of the Australian Country Music scene. He has a reputation amongst his peers in the Australian music industry as being the most loved and respected singer/songwriters in country music. This is reflected on a mainstream level by the many industry awarded accolades for his work as a successful recording artist.
Troy’s career has spanned 8 studio albums over 20 years. His latest album HOME, released in March 2012 debuted on the official ARIA album chart at #9 and the National ARIA Country album chart at #1. The album won the Deadly for Album Of The Year in 2012 and 4 Golden Guitars, including Male Artist of the Year and Album of the Year at the 2013 CMAA Music Awards.
Throughout this time he has been awarded numerous accolades including 4 ARIA’s, 25 Golden Guitars, 2 APRA Country Song of the year awards, 8 Deadlys (Australian Indigenous artist awards), 4 CMAA Entertainer of the Year awards.
IF you take the time to study Troy Cassar-Daley, a number of contradictions will surface, quicker than the flash of bass in the headwaters of his beloved Brisbane River in south-east Queensland.
He’s the kid from Grafton in northern NSW who did it tough with his mum, Irene, after his parents separated when he was an infant. Yet he writes and sings more poignantly about family life than anyone in the business.
He was shy and sensitive as a teenager. Yet today he can hold in thrall an audience of thousands.
He’s been plying his trade for a lifetime (it began, according to family lore, with young Troy entertaining the dinner table with sets on a ukulele before securing a hand-me-down guitar aged 9) and has earned the right to be jaded. Yet he maintains an undiminished enthusiasm for his craft, and each album – you can sense it, feel it coming off the music – is a new adventure.
As an example of this, Troy made the conscious decision not to play on Home, but to concentrate on that magnificent, evolving voice of his. It has, as is evidenced on this album, become an instrument unto itself.
Troy’s method of song writing also took a new direction – he stopped touring for a year prior to recording, and in between his children’s school drop-offs in the city, and fishing for bass in the waters near his family farm, and cleaning up the property after one of the worst natural disasters in Queensland’s history, he composed.
“Right from the initial planning stages, I wanted this album to be done completely differently to anything I had recorded before. I knew that I was going to be working with the best musicians in Nashville. With this in mind it really inspired me to write songs and co-write songs that I’d be proud to record for my album. Not only that, I wanted the guys I was recording the album with to really enjoy playing on the songs and deliver the goods musically.”
Those remarkable players included: Biff Watson – MD, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Brent Mason – electric guitar; Eddie Bayers – drums; Michael Rhodes – bass; Steve Nathan – keys; Bryan Sutton – banjo and acoustic guitar; Stuart Duncan – fiddle; Paul Franklin – steel guitar; and John Wesley Ryles – background vocals. Ed Seay was the engineer on Home.
In another departure, he produced the record himself. “I might be punching above my weight, however it’s great to challenge yourself and with these players you deliver them the song demo and the chart and they add the magic,” he reflects.
What is most extraordinary about Troy, and Home (recorded, ironically once again, at Starstruck Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, between October 17 – 19, 2011; starstruck he is not), is that the more successful and accomplished he becomes as an artist, the more his subject matter and perfectly attuned musical instinct turns to those small, universal things that constitute a meaningful life.
It is said that in art it takes a lifetime to make something appear extremely simple, and this is what Troy has achieved with Home. It is music honed so beautifully, and craft so seemingly effortless, that you will somehow recognise a song halfway through, or feel you’ve heard it before even though you haven’t, because the music is honest, and it is true. And it is about all of us, in one way or the other, and those emotions and remembrances and yearnings we all experience as human beings. Troy is, amongst many things, a great chronicler of the human heart.
Above all, though, he is a superlative storyteller. He can, with a few deft flicks of the brush, paint little pictures that you’d swear belonged to your own life. He can take us back into our own childhood, or the pain of a long lost relationship, or a joyous moment with our parents or siblings that we thought had been abandoned to time. He ignites vignettes of another way of life, simpler, truer, and one increasingly left behind by globalisation and the commodification of our daily existences, and in turn our futures, and those of our children and grandchildren.
His songs teem with cousins visiting from the Big Smoke, backyard football, a father whistling tunes that are sung by the son, greasy hands working on a truck, swinging gates that no longer latch fast, dreams and hopes and love.
In the title song, a childhood home is recalled: “My world was in that street/ I thought I had it all.”
Then in the next breath he sings of a teenage son, and a little daughter, and a wife he loves more than anything or anyone else. “We build our dreams with love/and memories of home.”
Combined with Troy’s hugely emotive voice, one whose tones and timbres preternaturally connect not with the head, but with the heart, you begin to sense the enormity of what he has created here.
He is singing life, the cycle of it, the passing of time and generations and all the pleasure and heartbreak that this thing called life entails.
Most significantly, I think, through his generosity of spirit as a man and an artist, as a husband and father and son, he reminds us of what is real, of what matters and what doesn’t. To be able to take the essence of that away from a collection of songs that are wonderfully uplifting and toe-tapping and radiant and thought-provoking and that cloy on the mind and, in some cases, demand to be sung along to, is no small achievement.
Home, by definition, can be many things. But one is as an abiding place of human affections. That – thankfully for us as people, and as music lovers – is precisely where Troy Cassar-Daley lives.
HOME – Track By Track
My farm has been a huge part of my writing since we’ve owned it. After the floods went through in Jan 2011 we thought it would never be the same but we were wrong. Even with a bad flushing dunny, no carpet and mud stains still on the kitchen floor Col Buchanan and I wrote some tunes we are really proud of. This song is about what Country is to us and what it does for your heart to have warm loving people who would give you the shirt off their back. That’s what Country is to me.
LIVE AND LEARN
When I first met my wife a great journey began between two hearts. Right up to this day I still come undone at the sight of her and we still live and learn together.
GOOD THINGS IN LIFE
Life throws you so many things both good and bad. Sometimes we take more notice of the bad things and over look the good. Just human nature I guess. One of the good things for me is each night when I sit with my family at dinner and say Grace. The love and compassion that comes out when the kids have their turn is amazing for me and Laurel to hear, they are two very special kids with big hearts and beautiful minds. And I am sure they will make the world a better place. Clay and Jem I love you.
I’ve played guitar now for 30 odd years and I’m still learning. The pleasure it has given me to this day I can’t begin to tell you. I spoke to Keith Urban about the guitar passion thing and you know, at any level of your career, it stays with you. I hope this song inspires some other people young and old to pick up that guitar and play!!!
Being the title track this song has a special place with me. Even the word Home is something we all have a different meaning and feeling for. When I started writing this track I was about to go back to Grafton with my kids for a family catch up so I wrote this song to prepare me for it. I got as far as “two loving arms” in the lyrics and broke down crying. I guess you know the rest. This song goes from 2 Vincent St Sth Grafton to our family homes in Queensland, where we live and everywhere in between, it’s been quite a journey so far watching this Life evolve before my eyes and I still yearn for home everyday I travel.
A SIMPLE SONG
Last year we spent three months in Nashville as a big family experience. I wrote and played. With the wonders of technology my wife Laurel was able to keep doing her breakfast radio show in Brisbane from there, the kids went to school and Roxanne my manager put up with the lot of us in a small rental house! I wrote this song with Robert Ellis Oral down on music row.
It’s about keeping a song very simple and making the message really simple as well and I reckon it worked. Robert
was great to write with and we wanted this song to get your fingers tapping and feel the sunshine. I love it!
THE RIVER RUNS
I had this song tucked in the drawer after the Queensland floods in early 2011. I had been given a banjo for Christmas from Laurel and loved it.
The song came about while we were were in the middle of the biggest clean up of our lives as the farm copped a lot of water from the Brisbane River.
After each long day of cleaning up, we’d head back to our Brother in law Hadyn’s farm. I would pick up the banjo and think up some lines and write some lyrics down about how we were all feeling. All I can say is thank God for friends and family. It was also amazing to be reminded of the fantastic Community we live in and the support around us. I hope we all keep a piece of this flood in our hearts as a small reminder of what being Australian is about.
Laurel, you worked by my side day in day out. With a lot of tears and laughter, we battled on together. I love your spirit and you very much baby.
TALL DARK RINGER
Up in Far North Queensland, the Aboriginal ringers were legendary. As well as their knowledge of Country, they taught the white cattlemen essential bush skills. How to survive when you ran out of tucker. The importance of their spiritual connection to their land up there. These ringers went missing for a while in an ever changing world but are starting to come back and find purpose and be great contributors to their Communities, Col Buchanan wrote some beautiful lyrics with me on this. Long live the Murray Ringers in the Cape FNQ..
I had an EH Holden for many years that I had to fix myself on a lot of occasions because I had limited money. When something major came up like a carby rebuild, brakes or something too complicated for me to tackle, enter my Uncle Gerry Daley. He could fix anything. One day we tackled a new manifold and new Holley and when it started I stood back and thought to myself “WOW, we fixed that!” Happily I still hear about him from people that knew him and they all reckon that that he was a just a good Man.
Sometimes we have to look within our own families and lives to see the beauty that we have around us. I did it just recently. I was feeling a bit low which is odd for me as I’m a glass half full bloke for the most part. I was making breaky for the kids and I looked at them and thought how lucky are we to have each other and a family still together. Then I spoke to Laurel when she got home and I looked at her and thought how beautiful and level is this woman I have married. She fills in all the gaps when I doubt things and is a great listener. With these three people around me, I most certainly do have a beautiful life.
THIS COUNTRY IS IN MY SOUL
I hadn’t been to Wee Waa for a long time and seeing the plains in 2011 amazed me, a bumper year, the country looked good. As we drove through those western NSW towns I played “Slim Dusty Live At The Tamworth Town Hall” as our back ground music. I emailed Slim’s wife Joy on our way through and told her what was happening to me and she got it, she has been there and done that. But having Slim’s voice as the common thread that brought this whole picture together for me was an amazing feeling. Next time you’re out near Moree or Narrabri put some Slim on and see where he takes you, I miss him.
THINKING “BOUT DRINKIN”
I love song writing and I am still learning this craft and will to the day I die. Writing this song with Don Sampson and Monty Holmes really moved me. We all confess to being Merle Haggard tragics and this is our take on a Country Ballad with full respect to Merle and all he has given us. This tune sounded old from the day we wrote it.
GOOD TIMES STARTING OVER
My girl Laurel is not fond of Sunday afternoons. She calls them “the carnival is over” afternoons. She had a real bad one on this particular Sunday. She asked me to invite some friends over for a BBQ, so we did and we drank, played guitars and sang our carnival is over blues away. Laurel got onto the Margaritas with the blender. I will never forget the sound of that thing whizzing up batches of the stuff as we sang into the night. It was a classic night. Go Blender girl!!!!!