Troy brings a little bit of country charm to Bluesfest
TROY Cassar-Daley is on a mission to convert a few blues stalwarts into country music fans when he takes to the stage at Bluesfest.
The Australian country music legend, who has a staggering 37 Golden Guitars and four ARIAs to his name, is a long-time festival goer and relishes the chance to perform at one of his favourite events.
"I always go as a fan anyway, so it's 'OK now we're going to play'. The kids love it, (my wife) Laurel loves it. We are music fans to start with," he says.
"I know I'm a country act and I carry that flag very proudly, but I'm also proud to carry people to our music. I make it part of my mission that we make music inclusive. If they walk away with a different idea to what they thought county music was, then I've done my job."
Cassar-Daley will perform two solo shows as well as take part in the Australian Americana Music Honours, an annual awards ceremony and showcase which is taking place at Bluesfest for the first time.
"I'm so proud to be in the Americana line-up too," he says. "As (host) Henry Wagons called it, Americana is the gateway drug to country. He said it, I didn't (laughs).
"It really is an amazing genre with people like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton classed as Americana. The thing I like about it is they're honest musicians who have heaps of lovely stories to tell."
As for his own shows, one with his band and the other acoustic, the Grafton native promises a more diverse mix than his traditional country set list. The talents of his musical family - wife Laurel, son Clay and daughter Jem, who toured with him last year - are also sure to feature.
"I'm writing an interesting set list for the festival as we speak," he says.
"You can take the time to sit down and tell the full stories associated with certain songs that you might not play at a big, loud festival. In this format, you can sit down and play some harmonica but it can still rock when it needs to rock.
"Take a song like Away From Here, which is quite a dark song about abusing your spouse. Those (types of) songs are very confronting, but I want to put it in because it's an issue these days. You can get very deep and meaningful at Bluesfest and I love that."
The festival, now in its 31st year, even inspired a song set to feature on an upcoming Australian TV series. While Cassar-Daley won't name it, chances are it's the highly anticipated second season of the ABC's outback crime drama Mystery Road.
"When I'm at Bluesfest I want to write more songs when I come back to the motel. We get the looper going for some guitar loops and hand the microphone around. You end up making up songs on the spot - that's what Bluesfest does to you," he says.
"One of the songs made it on to a TV show that's not out yet. Wayne Blair, the fella who directed The Sapphires movie, asked me for a song that would suit a particular scene. I said 'I'll send you this crappy phone recording I did at Bluesfest'. I think I even had a few beers it was that rough, and he said 'It's absolutely perfect'. I never expected that in a million years."
After spending much of last year on the road with his Greatest Hits Tour, Cassar-Daley will dedicate most of this year to penning songs for a new album.
"I'm only doing festivals this year; the main thing for me is no touring," he says.
"I went down to write with Shane Howard, who's a good friend, and I wrote with Paul Kelly again. Every time I'm with Paul I feel like I'm going to songwriting college. I was walking out the door almost and I say 'Thanks for your time' and he says 'Have you got time to write one more?'. I played him a motif on the electric guitar and the next minute we're finishing another one. I got two songs for the price of one (laughs). I find him a constant source of inspiration."
The Australian Americana Music Honours play at Bluesfest on Saturday, April 11. Troy Cassar-Daley plays on Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12. Playing times will be released two weeks prior to the festival.