While Troy Cassar-Daley has built a stellar career performing his music – picking up multiple awards over the past 25 years, including 27 Golden Guitars –, he has never forgotten that he grew up in Grafton.
Last week he spent a day in the valley promoting his upcoming concert at the Saraton Theatre on Friday November 13. It’s a concert with twist. Dubbed ‘A Big Country’, Cassar-Daley will close the show with a tribute to the swing era. He says he can hardly wait to don his suit and bow tie, sans guitar, as he fronts a big band and sings standards like Fly Me to the Moon and What a Wonderful World.
The Independent caught up with Cassar-Daley at Yamba’s community radio station, TLC 100.3 FM, following his on-air interview with presenter and devoted Cassar-Daley fan, Kellie Jones.
Clarence Valley Independent: Your first single, Dream Out Loud, topped Australia’s country music charts in 1994 and in 1995 you picked up the ARIA award for Best Country Record. There must have been some hard slog to arrive at that juncture in your career. Was there a moment when you knew you would make country music your mission?
Troy Cassar Daley: It wasn’t really a particular moment; I think it was a bit of a big old transition thing. I’d listened to country all my life and then I’d played sort-of-country rock in cover bands all around the north coast. I’d always found myself leaning towards the Eagles and stuff like that. I always thought they were country; I never thought they were rock and roll. I think when I first came home from a gig – I was playing down at Red Rock somewhere and I had earned about $50 or $60 – I thought to myself; I could actually make a living out of playing music. I got quite inspired and, as I got home, I thought, even if [I] was covering things such as rent or car rego, [maybe I could do] this music thing as a living. I think that was the turning point for me; to give it a bit more effort than just making it a weekend thing.
CVI: When was that?
TCD: That would be about 1986. I got out of school in 1985, went to TAFE and did a lot of odd jobs. I was doing home economics to learn how to cook so I could go and work at some restaurants. While I was doing that I was cutting fence posts with the fella next door – that was hard yakka. I had to get out and work so I could make a living, because music most definitely wasn’t going to pay all of the bills.
CVI: Your new video for Another Australian Day includes mobile phone footage. What’s going on there?
TCD: We spend most of our touring lives Australian towns, and I really love the fact that we can wake up in Dubbo, Kununurra or Alice Springs. I love the travel just as much as I love the music. I thought everybody totes their phones around all of the time; wouldn’t it be great for people to just take a photo or a little bit of video of their town. I said to my manager, I’d like to do a phone film clip. It really worked lovely getting all of these [clips] in from Facebook and through the website. We just got inundated. We thought we would just hand-pick some of this stuff, make sure everybody has a chance to get a little flash in and make a video
. A mate of mine, who does the actual shows, cut it all together. It worked, I don’t know how, but it worked.
CVI: What’s the go with splitting your show in two and doing a swing set?
TCD: I’ve only done it a few times, but it worked really well. That’s the reason for doing the last four [Freedom Ride tour shows] the same way. This year we did one of the shows at a casino in Melbourne and it sold out. I never do gigs in the city of Melbourne; I always go to the suburbs or go to Geelong or something like that. But because it sold out, I thought, wow maybe people really enjoy the country aspect that we do in the first set. They like the familiarity of the swing because of the type of songs that I have chosen. They’re the type that I would sing along to on a tape player as a kid. [The swing set] covers a lot of ground, even some old country things done with a big band arrangement, like the Willy Nelson song, Crazy. The last four shows are worth celebrating, because 2015 has been a great year and I’d like to go out with a bang.