Troy Cassar-Daley on his autobiography Things I Carry Around & how family has linked into his music

Up at the Deni Ute Muster this year, Mallory was able to sit down with Troy Cassar-Daley to chat some more about his autobiography Things I Carry Around, family life linking in with music and more.

It’s such an honour to be speaking to you. Your album Almost Home was the first country music album that I ever bought – so I thought I would start by asking you what the first country music album you ever bought was?

My first little single was this really obscure thing, but when it came time to buy an album I think it was Slim Dusty’s Live at Wagga Wagga. What I really enjoyed was thinking that it was written about me. I said to my Mum, because I heard it on the radio, “I want to buy this Slim Dusty record because it sounds like he’s written it about our home, our place and where we live in the bush.” That was the reason for that.

I’m currently reading your recently released autobiography, Things I Carry Around. It’s really interesting to me because, when reading it, I really connect the stories in your life to the songs you’ve written.

I’d had a lot of sadness in my life and I felt the need to write about it in songs, so a lot of my records sometimes fell into a bit of a darker place. I just had to break out of it. It’s been it’s been an interesting one, because it goes through the stages of your life and you realise what’s been the most inspirational thing or the turning points, and there’s a stack of them. The champions, the people that have changed your life when you least expected, stuff like that.

I think it’s really important to have a look at your life and try to capture it properly. You only get one crack at a book, but doing the record with the book for me, it’s even more thrilling, because I didn’t want to make a commercial record because my life is far from commercial. I wanted to make an honest, true account of what the book was about on a record, so I was really keen to capture that.

There’s a photo in the book of someone in a hot pink Speedo with no explanation as to what went on which lead to this photo being taken.

That’s me. They’re not Speedos – they’re undies. There is nothing and there shouldn’t be an explanation there – because it’s almost embarrassing. But I was 20 years old, I’d been given these five days Rio undies, and I thought they’re going to be under everything, no one will ever see them. There was the hot pink, the hot yellow, the hot blue, hot orange – and I wore them all over the place because no one ever saw them!

We got bogged up in the Golf and when we went to push the bloody car out, all the mud was splattering up all over us! So we quickly just took our clothes off down to our jocks to keep pushing – just with our boots on and that was how the people who came to winch us out found us. The most embarrassing thing I’ve ever had happened in my life, but what a shot! I’m sure that’s burned real bad in your brain isn’t it? That was me. I’m really glad it’s blurry.

There’s also a really amusing story in the book about a topless service sign at a petrol station, which I think is really funny and should be shared in the interview for those who have yet to read the book…

Fill up your car – topless service … my Dad goes, ‘Hey, this is alright, isn’t it?’ He’s turned up expected to see the booby girl, and there’s this big guy with the big gut hanging out and hair all over his back. He was filling it up!

My Dad, he’s always been a prankster and it’s wonderful to have a chance to tell his story as well. He was not in my life 100% but the time I did spend with him was always really special. It was also great to be able to paint him in the right light as well. My parents did a good job for a divorced couple and I was proud to be able to acknowledge what they did for me.

That definitely comes through in reading your book.

I hope so, because Mum was happy with the read. She learned things she never knew about me. So did Dad. That’s life – you don’t tell your mother everything. I’d almost love to be able to get them to write their own story, all my family, and chuck it into a book too. I’m sure I was a big pain in the arse to them in a lot of ways. I had some great relationships with all my cousins and they were all absolutely mad, but great to be able to reflect on a childhood that you’re really happy with.

Your family also sings with you on some tracks on the album. How was that experience working with your family?

My daughter’s part of the choir on “Down the Road”, and I was really proud to have her on as part of that because she’s a beautiful little singer. I thought, why not put her on there and make the choir ourselves. I wanted a choir but I never got around to recording one in Nashville, because we recorded so fast. My [sound] engineer thought it was a room full of people and I was thrilled. Gem, she first of all wanted to know how much she was going to get paid as girl’s normally do when they’re 15. [But] when she heard it back, she could hear her voice poking through the little mix and it made her really proud. I like to see that they can get some confidence out of it as well.

Laurel [my wife] singing on “Brighter Day” was a thrill because I’ve always loved that song [and I’ve] always wanted to jag her into doing it like we do it at the farm – we sit and play that a lot. I had to con her into sitting down and singing her part.

How was the overall experience working on the album?

It was just a great experience this record and I feel it was the most relaxed record I’ve ever made. All I had was a big bunch of lyrics and a bunch of songs that I had to choose out of when I got over there. There was no pressure, didn’t have to worry about what was going to be a single – I just wanted to make an honest record and I feel like that’s what we’ve done. That’s why I didn’t put my scone in front of it actually.

I really enjoyed putting the guitar case on the front. To see all those little towns that we flew into the first couple of times, I look back at that guitar case inside by keeping all those flight tags. I remember Laurel opened up the guitar case one day and said, ‘Do you collect all these [stickers], do ya? If you put it on the outside it’ll wear off or they’ll send it to the wrong town,’. I said ‘I’ll put it on the inside of the case and have a look where I’ve been.’ My first trip to Adelaide or my first trip to Gold Coast or wherever, it was all documented in that case. I lost the case in the flood but I had photos, thankfully. That’s pretty much my musical life in that case, I reckon.

When you look at all those towns I think, ‘First trip to Brisbane, flying in.’ I didn’t do a lot of flying in the early days because I was driving everywhere. But you’ll see Coolangatta, Perth … these were places I was going with with The Highway Men and with Merle Haggard. That was when I signed up with Sony [and] started to actually fly everywhere – I felt like a real big shot. It was really cool fun to document that on this really cool record cover without your head on it – I’d never done it before but I thought now, it’s time.

You recently went on your Things I Carry Around book and CD launch, which included some kind of Q&A segment as well. How was that?

The launches have been great. The Q&A thing’s been really interesting because they’ve been different from every one. I had a mate called Matt Condon, who is a book writer up in Brisbane, who he did one of them. Anita Heiss, who is an Indigenous writer, did one of the Q&A’s. They all had this different take on the book. A lady down in Melbourne was amazing and she just asked phenomenal questions – real ‘peel back the layers’ questions.

I was just really chuffed to have different Q&A’s with all of the people who bothered to put the launches on for us. Other ones, I’ve had to run for myself – I had to write down my pointers and go through and just run the show. We did this show at this tiny hall, where I first started playing music, and it was mostly full of people I knew and was related to. Really emotional, just a beautiful … I don’t think I’ll forget that gig in a long time. It’s been an experience.

You’re going on tour again in the next couple of months. How will next year’s tour compare to your last in September?

We’re going to be on a lounge – myself, my keyboard player and my bass player out on this acoustic tour, where it’s going to be songs and stories. There’ll be a little more details about the tunes we play, because when you’re on stage, it’s very short and sharp and you just go bang, bang, bang, bang, do your thing, tell a bit of patter, have a bit of a laugh or whatever but this’ll be an in-depth tour.

I’m liking the vibe of it because I want people to feel like they’re sitting at a table, where it’s like a barbeque, sitting around playing. That’s going to be awesome fun. I really want to put a fair bit of effort into preparing this tour to make sure it’s produced up well – that’s the most important thing giving people something to remember. We start in February, so pretty much off the bat of Tamworth.

You recently celebrated your wedding anniversary in Hayman Island with your wife. What do you think the key to a happy marriage is?

Yes, best week we’ve had in I think 10-15 years. I think the secret for me is getting back to being a couple again. You sometimes loose sight of being a couple and your life changes. We have two teenage kids now that don’t need us as much. They’re not toddlers anymore and we just decided to get back to focusing on ourselves again.

We hadn’t been there since we got married and that was our honeymoon. We even did the wedding a little cheaper to make sure we could afford to go Hayman Island, because that was bloody expensive for us. (Laughs) But God, it was good and it was a bit of trip down memory lane. Not much has changed up there, same walks across the hill; you can do a two hour walk and go for a snorkel all that stuff that we used to do so we’re not that old yet.

20 years, it went pretty quick. I told her I’m not going to leave it that long ever. We’ve got to make it a yearly trek that we can make it up there again – it’ll be something special just for us. I’ve never been so chilled. I never thought about work for a minute, which was great. I think we both grew a bit more having that one week out like that [and it] made us appreciate what we’ve got and how long we’ve been together too. So it was good. It was awesome. I can’t rave about it highly enough, so it’ll be happening again. (Laughs)

Lastly, using a title of one of your songs – how would you describe the Deni Ute Muster?

“Country Is”, because when I think about the song “Country Is”, country does – which I stole from Forrest Gump, of course. This is what country is to me. Seeing people all ages, all colours [and] econometric situations come together. I think it’s wonderful. Any walk of life is welcome at a country festival and that song really typifies what we look out into [from up on the stage] – and it’s a lot of love. They really are embracing and you feel it from the perspective of being on stage as well too.

The Things I Carry Around book and CD is out now.


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