"I came down from the country on a long and lonesome road/ I was running from some trouble over horses they say I stole/ I never fired a shot in anger, there is no blood on my hands." - Wanted Man - Troy Cassar-Daley-Don Walker.

Australian folkies and country artists have frequently milked the long deceased legend Ned Kelly for their outlaw song phosphate.

Smoky Dawson, 92, chose Ben Hall for his new disc The Homestead Of My Dreams and Troy Cassar-Daley shopped locally in the Clarence River estuary near hometown Grafton for Thunderbolt.

The genial horse loving bushranger galloped into Troy's sixth album Brighter Day in the song Wanted.

Cassar-Daley plays mandolin and is joined by a vocal cast headed by co-writer Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers and Jimmy Barnes on his highly accessible disc produced by Essence label boss Nash Chambers on the NSW Central Coast.

But Troy, now 37, draws inspiration for most of his 13 original songs from his roots further north on the banks of the Clarence River at Grafton.

"I thought is there someone I would find interesting enough to write an outlaw song about so I started to do research about Thunderbolt," Troy, 36, told Nu Country TV.

"My co-writer Don got straight on the internet and found all these stories. He wasn't one of those Ned Kelly guys able to kill. He never killed, never killed in anger. He was living not far from Grafton. He was seen around Grafton races in Cup week. He would stay at the Blue Goose hotel and leave all his bits and pieces there and dressed to the nines. It was mainly in New England that he was wanted. He loved to steal thoroughbreds. Smoky has song about Ben Hall. I'm fascinated by all our history and to showcase that in song."


"Now something's wrong, I don't feel the best/ something cold and heavy inside my chest/ I say keep driving, you say don't let go/ in this getaway car on the northern road." - Getaway Car - Troy Cassar-Daley-Don Walker.

But it was a more fictional local outlaw couple who inspired Getaway Car - a tune also penned with Walker.

" I watched a few movies the week before I wrote that song," Troy revealed.

"Nash rang me about looking for songs for Kasey. I played it to Nash but wrote it for Kasey but it became my song. She became the other character, an important role and made the song her own. She listened to the lyric - she really understood the song.
I want to make this a single with a film clip.

I want to make it a dark, mini-movie thing. I put it across in movie style way - she (the accomplice) was driving the car when he came out on his last job and was shot. The line that hit Kasey was he says keep driving - she says don't let go. He's saying go, go, go - he got shot and didn't intend it that way. It's an interesting take. Maybe in the sequel we could bring him back to life with a happy ending. Don drove around NZ with the demo for two or three weeks and emailed me said I get it added the loaded gun line."


"I left my home in a hail of blows/ and I went as far as I could go/ in my ears Daddy's words still ring/ if you walk out now, don't come back again." - Lonesome But Free - Troy Cassar-Daley-Paul Kelly.

And real life outlaw - former convict country star Merle Haggard who turned 21 in San Quentin after a botched armed robbery on a Bakersfield restaurant via kitchen when Merle's gang thought the eaterie had closed - who inspired Lonesome And Free.

Cassar-Daley wrote the song about a conversation with Merle, now 68, on The Hag's 1996 Australian tour when he was one of the legend's local support acts.

"He said that he had been lonely on the road and I said 'but at least you were free'," the singer recalled.

"I have this shed and went to get a shovel and three hours later came back with the song.

It was half started but there was something missing. I went to Paul Kelly and I was nearly happy. He loved the theme and melody and helped with the finished song. It would never have been complete without Paul. He said did he leave home - he had a fight with his dad.

So many people have unresolved issues like that - life's too short. It had to be written in. He understood it completely."


"We're getting ready to say goodbye to this fourth generation farm/ and all that's left of what we have is right here in my arms." - Walking Away - Troy Cassar-Daley-Don Walker.

But a different style of rural robbery inspired Walking Away - where a bank seized a farm from the family of co-writer Walker.

"It's almost a follow-on from Born To Survive for me," Cassar-Daley recalled.

"Walking Away is where other peoples' dreams are shattered. People try to stick it out but the drought is so relentless. People tried to diversify, tried every trick in the book to make it stick. I wrote the original lyric late one night in Nashville. I was cranky the bank has so much power over people's lives. I emailed it to Don. What really hit was he went through the same thing with his family's farm. He said I've been through this as a teenager - I've got a fair bit to offer.

His family's farm was outside of Grafton at Fyanflower near Baryulgil on the way to Casino. Mark Punch played guitar as Jimmy Barnes sang on a rocking song driven by drums, guitar and harmonica."


"I rode the boundary of our place for the very last time/ then I was leaving for Sydney on the mail train I'd made up m mind/ when dad died in June never seen my mother so frail/ and three months later we had to put the family farm up for sale." - Family Farm - Troy Cassar-Daley-Colin Buchanan.

But the singer reversed the role in sibling song Family Farm - the tale of how the late Slim Dusty bought back the family farm at Kempsey from proceeds of his career as a bush balladeer.

"It took Colin Buchanan and me about four days to write," the singer revealed.

"I had the Aussie Post in my bag with the story. It's a dream come true to walk in and buy your family farm back. I really wanted to write song about it but I didn't want to get into too much tintacks with dates. I wanted to keep it loose. The sentiment is right, about lot of people going back and doing the same thing. It's full circle, going to local real estate agent and say I want to buy it back. I later played it for Slim's widow Joy (McKean) and she understood it."

Like Haggard, the singer returned home - his Clarence River roots for inspiration - for My Town, Going Back Home and River Town.

And, of course, mama - matriarch Irene wed her childhood sweetheart after they met while working in the Sweetacres (Minties) factory in Sydney at 16.

"My mum was very special to me, she inspired a lot of my songs," the singer recalled.
"Don knows my mum, an artist, well and it helped capture it from my perspective. It was one of those core songs. It's also about how integral a saw mill is in a small town. People get flack for taking trees but it's also a source of living for a lot of blue-collar people. It's about my uncles who worked in mills and it felt homely to me."

And, sometimes, living away from home accentuates the pull of the artist's roots - such as Going Back Home.

"I was living in Maryborough and had a 64 Holden," Troy recalled.

"It was the only thing that mattered apart from my family. I was away in Tamworth and Sydney it proved the importance of the feeling of home. I wrote it on the back of The Long Way Home."

But it was an adolescent fling with a fisherman's daughter downstream at MacLean that inspired River Town, replete with a Cajun undercoat.

"I was in love with the girl but she had a burly big dad," Troy revealed.

" I was just on cusp of 18. We went out for about six weeks. I was just starting in a band and on the road. She lived in MacLean that had been devastated by the 1974 floods. I think the Cajun influence came from the Harvest fest there."


"Well, there's not much to mention about the fishing these days/ cause my license and living have been taken away/ so I sit on the veranda and look across the bay." - Fisherman - Troy Cassar-Daley-Ross Hunter.

Another teenage crush inspired Time Is A Friend Of Mine, penned with Kelly but a TV show created Fishermen.

"There has been a lot of debate on fishing licences and I have been a big advocate for keeping waterways clean and easy to fish," Cassar-Daley revealed.

"I went out on a shoot for Andrew Ettinghausen's TV show. I met Ross Hunter - a professional fisherman who had a different view - that people's livelihood is taken away here. Things come at a cost - me being a keen fisherman I wanted to shed a little bit of light on that as well. It really made me happy to dispel the myth it's just about recreation anglers - it's also about people whose lives based on rivers and seas. Ross lives in Sydney - he built the boat we went out on. He's now a guide on tours and has a lot of friends in the fishing industry. It gave me a couple of ideas. Everywhere I go I like to take a fishing rod - nearly every seaside town has a fishing estuary."

Troy headlines the Whittlesea Country Music festival from February 10-12.

CLICK HERE for full dates in Tonk Girl's Gig Guide.

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