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Why Cassar-Daley Loves the Blues-interview

Troy Cassar-Daley plays Bluesfest this Easter.

Bluesfest | 9–13 April

Bluesfest is loved for its ability to bring music of all genres together. This year Nash Chambers presents the Australian Americana Music Honours Music Awards with John Butler, Kasey Chmbers, Ash Grunwald, Hussy Hicks, The Waifs, The War and Treaty, Henry Wagons and Troy Cassar-Daley. Troy spoke with The Echo about just how much he loves being part of the Bluesfest program.

‘I love being included in Bluesfest’ says Troy. ‘The program is so remarkably broad. I love the anonymity of standing shoulder to shoulder with other punters, watching someone like Buddy Guy rip into it, or watching a new and up-and-coming act like Marcus King Band. I am a very happy man in that situation!’

It was Archie Roach’s show at Bluesfest last year that left a lasting impression on Cassar-Daley.

‘It was one of the most inclusive shows I have ever seen. It was Archie Roach on his own, and I was sitting down the front with my wife and my daughter – it was like being in church. He made everyone feel like they belonged. It really was the most inclusive thing I had heard in a long, long time. If you are born here – whether black or white, you are part of this country. He told a story that I hadn’t heard before. People say, I am glad to be home – even if they are not Indigenous – they have a right to say that they are glad to be back on country, because it’s their country too, and they need to take care of it as well. I wanted to go backstage and give Archie a hug – I didn’t have a backstage pass, so the only way I could get to him was to go and buy a best-of album and line up in the signing line. He saw me and said “Fucking Hell! What are you doing in this line!?” I got so much pleasure seeing the shock on his face! I said: “We are here to give you this…” and I gave him a big hug. He’s just amazing. It blows my mind to think of what he went through with being stolen, and living on the streets, and to still be an Ambassador for Peace! He carries the scars, but you won’t hear him complain.’

Troy also reflected on seeing another inspiring elder in the music industry with a strong message of connection and unity: Mavis Staples.

‘Mavis Staples is the real deal’ says Troy. ‘She’s been there, and done it. All you want to do is get engrossed in the moment – it makes us feel powerful. It was amazing watching her on stage. I was so blown away by the amount of acts that were inspiring that I went back to Bangalow, where we were staying in an Air BnB, and got the looper out and started playing on the guitar and handed it ‘round to the family – that’s what Bluesfest is – it’s inspiring to be part of it, to feel so privileged.’

It’s not just the music – Troy feels a great sense of connection to country when he comes here. 

‘My great-grandmother was a Bundjalung woman. I feel connected to the north side of the river. You feel this big connection to be on country and feel the love. My set list will be different at Bluesfest – that’s what playing a festival like that is all about.’

Along with shows with his band, Troy is part of the group Americana show where he has chosen to play Shadows on the Hill about a massacre around Grafton.

‘It doesn’t need explanation’ says Troy. ‘I just play the song, and tell the story. I have always been a story-telling guy. It starts, I think, with family. Maybe it’s from sitting around a camp fire. There’s no rehearsal for it. You get in front of audiences when you are young and people understand what you are talking about’.

Troy believes that the education system in the past has let us down, but is positive about where it is going now.

‘I think we are in a good place where more rational thinking people are prepared to talk about what actually happened. When I was at school, I was taught that Captain Cook discovered Australia. I used to laugh with my cousins, because we were pretty sure that we were here before Captain Cook!’

Troy loved reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.

‘I am becoming hungrier for knowledge. You know stuff, but you still have so much to learn.’

Now that’s the humility and thirst for knowledge of a great storyteller.

Troy Cassar-Daley plays Bluesfest this Easter. Tix and program info from bluesfest.com.au


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