Troy Cassar-Daley
Troy Cassar-Daley reflects on the death of his mother Irene on his new album Between The Fires. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
  • arts, culture and entertainment

Cassar-Daley finds a way after losing his ‘lighthouse’

Stephanie Gardiner May 11, 2024

Troy Cassar-Daley sat on a stool in his mother’s kitchen and played a new song for her, just as he had always done.

The sound of his guitar rang through her house at Halfway Creek, in the NSW Clarence Valley, but this time she wasn’t there to hear it.

Cassar-Daley’s mother Irene died in 2022 at her home on Gumbaynggirr country, leaving the singer-songwriter without his “lighthouse”.

Troy Cassar-Daley
 Cassar-Daley recorded the album at his mother’s home in Halfway Creek in NSW. Image by HANDOUT/SONY MUSIC 

The country music veteran lays bare the depths of his grief on his new album Between The Fires, which was recorded in her home.

“What you hear on this record is that lounge room, and that’s where she passed,” Cassar-Daley told AAP.

“On the lounge, watching TV with the heater on, warm, where she should have been, where she wanted to be.

“I let her spirit do the talking on this record.”

Cassar-Daley lit a fire on the property every day during recording, his band solemnly walking through the haze before getting to work.

The closing track, Moving On, is a stripped-back ode to Irene, recorded in the kitchen.

Each note warmly reverberates off the walls, bringing a listener into the room with him.

“There’s a hole in my heart the size of the Clarence River, it runs deep and wide, it’s impossible to fill,” Cassar-Daley sings.

The recording was captured live after he couldn’t replicate a first take played in the lounge room.

“I have flaws and so does that recording.

“That’s the most important part of that song for me: the vulnerability.”

Cassar-Daley is an open book on his 12th album, also revealing heartache over ructions in his marriage to Brisbane radio and television presenter Laurel Edwards.

“I was between two fires,” he said.

“I felt like I was down there grieving mum at the house at Halfway Creek, but there was the other fire up in Queensland that was dwindling too.

“I was losing two at the same time, which was really confronting for me.”

Lighter moments also shine through, including road trip track Let’s Ride, featuring Kasey Chambers.

On several songs Cassar-Daley – a proud Gumbaynggirr/Bundjalung man – reflects on Indigenous history.

Backed by the thrum of a banjo on Windradyne, he tells the story of the Wiradjuri warrior who resisted colonial expansion during the Bathurst Wars.

It was a piece of history Cassar-Daley didn’t know much about until he saw a tattoo of Windradyne on a cousin’s skin.

“The more times I sing the song, the more embraced the story is,” he said.

Troy Cassar-Daley
 A proud Gumbaynggirr/Bundjalung man, Cassar-Daley reflects on Indigenous history on several tracks. Image by Peter Lorimer/AAP PHOTOS 

We Still Have a Chance offers a note of harmony after a divisive chapter in Australia’s history.

Written before the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament, the track has a poignant and universal message.

“We want the same things, we cry the same tears, we bleed the same colour,” Cassar-Daley said.

“I always refer to crowds being my family.

“I always say to people ‘thank you, you’re like my family, I want you to come closer to me’.”