PART TWO: Our exclusive Troy Cassar-Daley interview
AFTER a sell-out show at Coutts Crossing at the weekend, and many more to come on this Greatest Hits acoustic tour with his daughter Jem, Troy Cassar-Daley's career is motoring along nicely in this pinnacle year for the artist.
Turning 50 in May, the prolific Golden Guitar winner and Roll of Renown inductee is enjoying where life has taken him, a journey that has been as organic as the down-to-earth performer himself.
Troy remembers starting out as a teenager full of passion for music but no real plan about how he was going to turn that love into a life-long pursuit.
"I've never really been ambitious, never really had a plan, but I've always been one for adventure. I've always been one to go, 'Well, if this is the way it's going to fall today, I'm happy with that'. That's kind of how I've been my whole life and career."
Even when he met his wife Laurel (Edwards), who had a successful radio career, he had to do some explaining about his approach to things.
"It took her a lot to understand that I wasn't the sort of ambitious artist that thought ahead about what my next record was going to be. I would sort of sit around waiting for it to fall out of the sky and she always used to say to me: 'You're such an old North Coaster. You wait for things to happen and it happens when it happens'," he recalls.
"I think that's probably why it's worked, because I haven't really thought about it too much. I've always loved the getting in the car - even when you had no money and were younger, the fact it was going to be an adventure. The adventure is really what drew me into music."
Like most well-established artists, there are hard yards aplenty as they begin their musical journeys, and while Troy's talent has seen him rise to the top of the Australian music scene, the road there wasn't easy, but it was memorable, with plenty of moments he still carries with him today.
"When I was in my early 20s, when I played with Little Eagle and was on $150 a week, I don't even know how I made that work," he said.
"I remember we were all sitting at the pub at Wooli waiting to play and we all had no money. Andrew (Hegedus) and I went down and got some pippis on the beach and we boiled them up on two soft drink cans on a fire and that's what we ate before we played.
"We didn't have enough money for a feed that day. That was the reality, but I was thinking this is still good because Andrew and I got some bush tucker and went back and fed the other two boys in the band (Anthony Manahan and Michael Hatgis), and by time we got our cash we were able to get a hamburger on the way home.
"We were all part of an adventure and that was great. We didn't have much cash but we had a lot of fun."
Today, in the midst of his latest tour, reflecting upon a career that has spanned every decade of his life still leaves him in awe about how it's all panned out.
"I really never imagined anything like this happening to me. I really never did it for any other reason than for the love of music."
Of course, many other people appreciate Troy's love of music, filling out venues wherever he ventures from the place it all began in the hall at Coutts Crossing, to the 1000-seat concert he played at Twin Towns earlier in the tour.
"I did doubt myself a little by making it an acoustic show, but it's been really great so far and the Yamba show seems to be selling really well."
Troy recalled telling his friend and legendary guitarist Tommy Emmanuel that he was considering doing an acoustic show and how he was a little worried about how it would be received.
"Tommy said, 'Don't for a minute think you are giving people less (with an acoustic performance)'. He said, 'What you are actually doing is giving them more. More of yourself than ever. There's nowhere to hide, just you and your story and the guitar'. To hear that from him helped my confidence. That happens when you get older. You think, 'Do I still have it in me to do something like this? Hold a whole crowd with a voice and a guitar?'
Troy said ater the concert in Tamworth in front of 1500 people, he thought 'yes you can'. "But when I was going on stage that night I thought 'no you can't'," he laughed, remembering how unsure he felt. "I was like a nervous rookie going into a talent quest that night."
Between the tour dates this year, Troy will celebrate another milestone, his 50th birthday in May, and while he confesses he's not much of a party-goer, he does plan to come back to Grafton to celebrate with family.
"I'd like to have a bit of a gathering at home with everyone down there to say g'day, but I'm not much into parties. I might just go fishing with the family for a weekend somewhere local and that will do me. I don't want to go and have a mid-life crisis and get a Corvette or something," he said. "I'm past all that."
The rest of the year he'll be touring with his daughter, Jem, something he said was a wonderful experience for himself and his daughter, who was able to spend her gap year with him ahead of university.
"She wanted to see a bit of Australia and she will see every state on this tour."
And while the country music artist is well known for his story-telling and writing songs about his own personal experiences, he has begun turning his craft towards other people's stories.
"I've just written a song for Jimmy Barnes, which will be on his new record out in May. I think it's the first time I've ever written something completely that Jimmy has recorded. I suppose I've become a bit of songwriter for other people at times, so when I read both (Jimmy's) books I really loved his story.
"I think with my next record I want to tell other people's stories. I've never really been able to do that before. It's always been about my own, but I've been collecting other people's stories and putting them into songs. I have about 12-13 now.
"This is very different to what I normally do, but being a songwriter that's what you have to experience and experiment with too. The song I wrote for Jimmy is something I'm very proud of. It's called Shutting Down My Town. A lot of towns are facing that as well, but this one was written about Elizabeth in South Australia and how they took Holden out of there. That was the main influence for the song.
"Jimmy fell in love with it because of what it said about his life. Reading people's books gives you a good insight into them without having even sat down with them."
- For Troy's fans, the opportunity to sit down with him and hear his stories and songs is fast approaching. His remaining Clarence Valley show with special guest Jem Cassar-Daley is set for the Yamba Bowling Club on Sunday, March 24. Tickets are on sale now.