Troy Cassar-Daley has a new album The World Today being released on March 19. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Troy Cassar-Daley has a new album The World Today being released on March 19. Picture: Tim Hunter.

‘S***ty time’: Troy Cassar-Daley’s heartbreak

TROY Cassar-Daley has never cried as much as he did recording the songs for his new record The World Today.

You can hear the croaky rasp that grips the throat after sobbing on songs about the death of his father Tony, who took his life after suffering two strokes in 2019.

Or the love song dedications to his radio announcer wife Laurel Edwards, written as they endured a rough patch in their marriage.

And again in the songs the award-winning artist penned for his family about the scourge of Indigenous incarceration in Australia and the realities of life after prison.

 

 

 

Cassar-Daley turned to music when he found himself stuck in a dark place. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Cassar-Daley turned to music when he found himself stuck in a dark place. Picture: Tim Hunter.

"Losing my dad was hard enough but then going into COVID was a darkness I didn't need," he says.

"Every day was another email from my manager saying this is cancelled, that's cancelled … all my purpose was going down the drain.

"As a musician, you either go into depression because you've got no gigs and you're losing all your creativity in one hit, or you decide that if you can't play, you'll go and make some noise yourself."

Troy and Laurel fought through some tough times and worked together on the record. Picture: Supplied.
Troy and Laurel fought through some tough times and worked together on the record. Picture: Supplied.

Edwards gently encouraged him to channel his heartbreak and despair into writing. Instead of starting on the guitar, he started bashing away at the drums and bass in his home studio, instruments usually only played by his son Clay or daughter Gem or bandmates during rehearsals.

"That was my mental health saviour when I didn't know how I was going to write my way out of the shitty time I was in. It was very, very dark," he says.

"Laurel would come home from work, and even though we were having our hassles, she knew to leave me alone for a bit while I was sorting myself out. I didn't know then how music was going to be my therapy again, just as it has been since childhood. I had to purge it all out of me."

Troy worked with Paul Kelly and Don Walker for the record. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Troy worked with Paul Kelly and Don Walker for the record. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Songs like My Heart Still Burns For You, on which Edwards sings backing vocals - and Broken Hearts Can Fly, are about as vulnerable as a man can get.

The country music star, now 30 years into his career and three decades into his marriage, says they were the toughest to sing.

"The glimmers of light on this record are songs like My Heart Still Burns For You which I wrote because I couldn't be home with Laurel on Valentines Day - it's her Valentines Day card," he says.

"We were having dramas and I sent her Paul Kelly's handwritten lyrics of the song and it was me telling her I'm not done, I'm trying, I'm still fighting for us.

"Dynamics in a relationship change when your kids grow up, they don't need us anymore and you're back to finding who you are as a couple; we've raised them to be independent people, that's our job, and you have to be OK with that."

Troy Cassar-Daley with his father Tony Cassar who passed away in 2019. Picture: Supplied.
Troy Cassar-Daley with his father Tony Cassar who passed away in 2019. Picture: Supplied.

Coursing below the surface of The World Today is also a seam of anger.

Cassar-Daley is still grappling with grief after both the death of his dad and close friend and musician Glen Hannah, whose suicide devastated Australia's country music community in mid 2019.

Like so many who lose loved ones to suicide, he wrestles with the questions that have no answers.

"I felt angry at myself at first for not understanding what my dad had been going through. I thought I could have read that better … but you can't. He'd had a couple of strokes, he just wasn't the same person and I get that and I saw it when I was sitting with him in Liverpool hospital. I thought he was sick but he could get better," he says.

"And Glen, that knocked me and a lot of people for six … the instrumental Drive In The Dark came from the depths of trying to understand why people do what they do and what I could have done to help."

Troy with daughter Gem who is also a musician. Picture: Supplied.
Troy with daughter Gem who is also a musician. Picture: Supplied.

 

 

 

A longtime collaborator of Cold Chisel's Don Walker and Jimmy Barnes, Cassar-Daley wrote the song Be A Man after re-reading the frontman's first memoir Working Class Boy.

Walker had wanted the song Parole for a Chisel record but the country artist reclaimed it to honour the cousin who had inspired its lyrics.

The Gumbaynggirr/Bundjalung man and his relatives regularly head out on country near Grafton for "men's camp" to reconnect and support each other. These gatherings have often inspired songs for Cassar-Daley.

He wanted to include a clutch of "prison" songs - a fertile theme for country artists - on The World Today to highlight the disproportionate rates of incarceration of First Nations people, a theme he first addressed on his debut album more than 25 years ago.

Cassar-Daley also chose to read the Uluru Statement From The Heart stanza calling out this inequality for Midnight Oil's Makarrata Project.

"We haven't come too far since I recorded Beyond The Dancing more than 25 years ago. We're still fighting for equality, we're still over represented in jails, that's why I wanted to tell these stories because they are important for all of Australia to hear," he says.

"If you're three per cent of the population and you're over-represented in incarceration rates, there's a bit of a drama going on there, you know."

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there is his hope for Australia, as beautifully captured in the opening track Back On Country and its lyrics about joining together to find common ground on this land.

"I do have hope for this country and Back On Country is that guiding light after wading through all the darkness and despair," he says.

"It's been a hell of a rollercoaster ride to get here but it was worth it."

The World Today is out on March 19, you can pre-order the record via troycassardaley.com.au

Anyone who may be feeling distressed can contact the following organisations for support. Lifeline 131 114 SANE Helpline 1800 18 72 63 Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

 

 

 

Originally published as 'S***ty time': Troy Cassar-Daley's heartbreak



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