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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Interview with Cass Eager

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Cass Eager at Blues on Broadbeach

Cass Eager  |  Blues on Broadbeach  |  16–19 Mary

Eager to sing

The blues got Cass Eager when she was just 16… and it was here, in Byron Bay, down at our local footy field where it happened.

Well, it was Bluesfest and Cass remembers it well. ‘I was 16 and I remember coming with my friends, and RL Burnside played in the Juke Joint. It had become this hot, sweaty version of a dance club. It is still one of my all-time favourite gigs. RL Burnside has this way of getting people into a groove!’

Getting people into a groove has been Cass’s calling ever since.

‘I pretty well work with men all the time! They become family. I did go out with a couple but that ended in disaster, but I married one, and he is family now!’

That’s husband and drummer John Howls, who plays in a band called Chase the Sun.

He also plays with his wife Cass. With two small children and two touring musician parents, a week in the Eager/Howls household is like a game of logistical gymnastics!

‘We share a calendar’, laughs Cass. ‘It’s first in best dressed. Sometimes we go and play the same festival, but we try to negotiate who plays when!’

Cass has a refreshingly easy approach to music. It comes when people are confident. When they know what they are doing.

‘My whole career I have never been weird or uptight about the music being tight. It’s about what happens when people do what they do best. I just did a festival in Melbourne and there was a new drummer who played for the first time, and he said, ‘That was so much fun!’ I have always done that. There are so many amazing musicians out there. The groove is fresh! I love the beauty of playing live. It’s the magic of the moment; it’s always changing!’

So whether she’s with her band The Velvet Rope or playing solo Cass is passionate about giving audiences a unique and authentic experience of her music.

‘I love doing band shows. I love doing solo shows,’ she says.

‘For solo shows I tend to talk more and tell stories. I want to make my audience laugh so I will do whatever I can to get rid of that barrier between me and them. That’s the beauty of music. It’s the purpose of any musician or songwriter to connect with people. You want to play your songs for other people because you want to connect and you want to remove that barrier, and when you do it’s a beautiful thing.’

Playing Blues On Broadbeach, Cass will be there with the band she calls ‘my core brothers’.

‘I have been playing with them now for 10 years. So they will be sweet. You have to keep it interesting for yourself – that’s part of the experience too. I live for those magic moments that aren’t about the whole song, just when a bit of a song really resonates with the audience.’

Cass is currently in a very prolific songwriting phase. It’s no wonder: in a few months she’ll be heading to LA to record. It came after she asked, ‘What’s next? How can I change things up?

‘I found a licensing agent in LA who pitches songs for TV, film, and ads, and I started digging into my songwriting, so she’s signed me for a few songs. I was there recently as part of a showcase where I was part of a tribe of songwriters there. They all support each other. I have never been into co-writing but now I’m doing it on Skype pretty regularly! It’s fantastic.’

At the moment Cass is writing two songs a week; one she writes for herself and the other she writes as part of what’s called The Song Game.

‘There’re only 10 people in it at once. Every Monday you get sent a word and you have to submit your song the following Monday. It can just be on your phone, but if you don’t do it you lose your spot. It keeps you writing; without a deadline there’s always a reason to do it next week. I set this as a challenge for myself!’

She’s been described as ‘Janis Joplin and Ben Harper’s love child’, and her whisky-soaked voice is lauded all over the country. She’s been a finalist for Best Group and Best Female Vocalist in the Australian Blues ‘Chain’ Awards and Best Blues/Roots Artist in the MusicOz Awards. Cass’s EP Down On My Knees was voted Top 10 Album of the year in Rhythms  magazine.

But she still has those moments…

‘The critic in my head sometimes asks who are you kidding? You don’t deserve this gig! I went out with a comedian once who said there’s a line where most people live – they live on a line so they don’t see it. Anyone who wants to write or be creative has to have a distance away from a line, to get a perspective about what they are commenting on. I thought that was kind of beautiful.’

That comedian was Carl Barron. He certainly knows a thing or two about commenting on ‘the line’!

Cass Eager and The Velvet Rope play Blues on Broadbeach, 16–19 May. For more info go to bluesonbroadbeach.com

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