“Used to meet Main St/ you were pretty and so sweet/ my skin was dark and yours was white/ we thought that was alright.” - Since You Left Town - Troy Cassar-Daley.

Grafton raised singer-songwriter Troy Cassar-Daley has long been a supporter for credible causes in music that has won him 26 Golden Guitars and ARIA awards.

The one time Nu Country TV host harvested hay from racism he discovered as a teenager in the river hometown he shares with The McClymonts and Cold Chisel pianist-writer Don Walker.

Since You Left Me and the title track of ninth album Freedom Ride , recorded in Nashville , echo two major events in Troy 's life.

And, equally importantly, he recorded another song in the same sessions for an indigenous cause close to his heart and family.

Troy , 45 and father of two, wrote I Can Hear Now after being reduced to tears after watching a TV show on a married couple regaining their hearing after Cochlear implants.

“I have a lot of relatives and friends in Grafton who had trouble with middle ear infections when they were young,” Troy told Nu Country TV .

“I saw my father-in-law (father of 4KQ radio host and singer Laurel Edwards) who had better quality of life after he got his hearing checked. He was a bloody labourer on the steel all his life as a fitter. His quality of life improved markedly. He can now hear a conversation and TV at same time without turning the TV up to ten. It woke me up. I try to get involved. I have a song on these sessions I Can Hear Now that I wrote after watching the TV story about the husband and wife who got their hearing back after heaving Cochlear implants. We cried like little girls on the lounge watching that.”

It triggered the singer's indigenous health support.

“I get offered so many ambassador roles,” confessed Troy who also headlined a Federation Square World Youth Day concert for Vinnies.

“I thought you've got to be able to make a difference, change someone's life.”

But it was an encounter as a teenager that inspired Since You Left This Town .

Troy was invited to dinner at a girlfriend's home - the girl's father then banned her from seeing him.

It wasn't Troy 's table manners.

“It was a pretty awkward dinner at the time in Grafton proper,” says Troy who was raised by his artist mother.

“I knew I was being judged and didn't mind about that. It was their beautiful daughter but I wasn't a bad kid. Even if you come from South Grafton you're not a bad kid. She went to a private girls' school in Grafton. I was going to TAFE. She was in year 11 and I was 17. Although it was an awkward dinner I look back on that and they make you strong. It was a little bit heart breaking at the time. I knew I was bigger than that. The other half of the story was a close friend's girlfriend running away from Grafton. It ended up having a happy ending, they ended up together and proved everyone wrong. The other girl took ages to come back but when she did, she came back with the bloke. It was all good. There could be kids going through that now. Even though it happened 25 to 30 years ago it's relatable to now.”

Troy used Nashville session players on his album but did a guitar solo on Since You Left This Town thanks to his little expat superstar mate Keith Urban.

“I had Brett Mason playing guitar on all the songs,” Troy recalled.

“But I play guitar on the second song on the way out. Keith Urban loaned me his guitar. I plugged it in and off we went. I did it because I could.”


“On a blazing summer's day/ Charles Perkins led the way/ at the public pool in Moree/ step back said the man, you can't get in/ you've got the wrong colored skin/ we don't want no trouble here you see.” - Freedom Ride - Troy Cassar-Daley-Paul Kelly.

But a more historic and famous event inspired Troy 's album title track and second single.

“The Freedom Ride took place in 1965, I was not born until 1969,” Troy recalled of the bus trip by Sydney students led by indigenous leader Charles Perkins that climaxed as Aboriginals were banned from swimming at Moree pool in western NSW.

“Later I was 13 or 14 doing indigenous studies. I had a whole list of people that I wanted to do Lionel Rose, Jimmy Little, people I loved. My teacher said ‘everyone else is doing them and Eve Goolagong. Why don't you pick someone else? What about Freedom Ride in 1965? As I read about it I learned a few interesting things. At the time my mother and grandparents couldn't vote. That was not until the referendum in 1967. It was pretty confronting to me. I thought we got a fair go as kids but our grandparents broke a lot of cycles for us. I'm glad it's changed for the better.”

Troy is working on the video of the song he wrote with Paul Kelly.

“We're releasing Freedom Ride for the 50 year re-enactment this year,” Troy revealed.

“We'll use a bunch of footage of Paul Kelly and me singing on stage. There's also vintage footage from Rachel Perkins - Charles daughter. We'll also have a simple little hero shot. I want to make sure it's literal. I said to video director Duncan Toombs ‘it's not about me. It's about Charlie and the ride and reenactment.' We've got about 80% of it done already.”

It's a complete contrast to single Take A Walk In My Country penned with Col Buchanan.

“ Duncan filmed that at Cave's Beach in Newcastle ,” Troy recalled.

“It was a spectacular day - the first time Duncan had used a drone camera. He sent the drone out over the water, he was still working out if it was viable. It was wonderful to have that story line with the little indigenous girl and the other girl who was not. It was nice to see she was saying ‘come and have a look at this.' Some people say it was irresponsible parenting - we laughed about it.”


“It's a dirty job up here in Carosue/ I'm just doing what I gotta do/ just another high-vis cowboy coming through/ I never saw much of my old man/ he was a railway worker out on the Ghan / I promised I wouldn't be like him but here I am.” - Two Weeks On, Two Weeks Off - Troy Cassar-Daley.

Another social comment song is Two Weeks On featuring former Grafton lad Don Walker's Cold Chisel band-mate Jimmy Barnes.

“A friend of mine's dad worked on the Ghan train, he said he would never do the same as his dad because he spent so much time away from the family,” Troy said of the songs about the dark side of fly-in fly-out miners' isolated lives.

“It's so remote. I sat next to a young bloke on the plane from Karatha on the Perth-Brisbane flight. He said he worked up at Karatha. He said he had a cushy job - two weeks on, two weeks off but most of the boys up here do three weeks on, one week off. He said ‘you are at ransom for a fortnight. I have never fought with my wife as much as when I started the job.” I asked him about depression in the camps. He said it's rife, so many people yearning for home. It's covered up a lot because they don't want to raise it as an issue. It's prevalent, people living in depression for two weeks while you're working your ring out for big money. It sounded too much like something I'd written, then I rejigged into a miner thing like something like Chisel would do. I thought I would ring Jim - it needs his blessing to make it a blue collar song so he sang on it.”

Equally powerful is Black Mountain , based on a family experience in Grafton.

Black Mountain was like an urban myth for a long time,” Troy a Bundjalung man revealed.

“My uncle Buddy, Auntie Mary and Auntie Joannie all went on a trip to show these people from Wirradgerry country this place called Black Mountain just outside of Grafton. They realised when they got hunted way by a storm it was a place of taboo. Some people think there was a big massacre there - one bad vibe. The other is it's a sacred site you're not to go to. A lot of non-indigenous people told me about the massacre there – it's part of why you are not welcome. I thought what if it was a love affair between this bloke and the mountain - she was trying to hold him, promising him eternal love. I just wanted to stretch the story out a little more. I suddenly realised I had this ongoing spiritual theme between this bloke and this mountain. She was trying to woo him to keep him there. Some places have that effect on me, that hold on me.”

But since news of the song broke Troy is keen to do more research.

“A lady mentioned it to me on a personal message on Facebook ,” Troy added.

“She had this additional information on it. I'm going to chase it up. When a storm comes up out of nowhere you are not welcome - you just get out of there.”


“Hanging by the door way/ the working day is done/ ben out drafting cattle/ the dust, the heat, the sun/ the stitching in the front might give it one more year/ but it's still here.” - This Old Hat - Troy Cassar-Daley-Peter Denahy.

Troy also credits his maternal grandfather for This Old Hat - penned with Peter Denahy.

This Old Hat was inspired by my mum's dad,” Troy recalled.

“Every time I see that hat it takes me places, his hat hanging on the chair. It's bad luck to put a hat on the table so it was always on the chair. He used to break horses and used the hat as a calming influence on the horses. Peter rang a mate who was a horse breaker and verified it. Pete's a real wordsmith, not just for comedic stuff. I wrote eight songs with him - we used three on the record.”

They included Something About Trains , also inspired by family.

“The male in the song was my Uncle Jerry,” Troy explained.

“When I was a kid we used to put a penny - the old two bobs on the railway track. We flattened any coin we had. You always got watched by the station master and get queried. It started with me walking along the track at Half Way Creek . We would shoot for rabbits as young kids 12 or 13. I took it up to later life. There was an overpass in Grafton and I remember talking to this girl - Jacaranda Thursday it was. Everyone out was hormonally charged those days. You have your kiss under there. As we had a kiss this train ran right over the top of the overpass, rumbling.

It was just amazing - every time I hear that now I recall kissing that girl. I wanted to paint that that. I said to Pete let's finish it so it could be anyone's story. Make it so train's gone and she's gone with it. I half wrote the song in my EH. I was waiting at the airport for Pete to get off the plane. He was coming up from Yackandandah. I sat there writing the chorus. When Peter arrived he had a vomit bag full of titles. Talk of showing up at someone's place with biscuits - he made sure he didn't turn up empty handed as well.”

But Kim Richey, who first toured here with Jim Lauderdale and Fred Eaglesmith in 2002, didn't bring an airline vomit bag to her writing session with Troy for This Day in Nashville .

“Kim Richey came over to our rental house, she said what do you want to write about?” Troy recalled.

“I said I get a kiss from my daughter - that's my alarm to wake me up and get her breakfast and put her on the little yellow school bus in Nashville . She said what about the end of the day. I said getting a kiss from Laurel - it was full circle. She said let's write it, just the smell of the jasmine bush growing outside the house. Even though I was on the other side of the world where does it take you - back to 2 Vincent St, South Grafton - it reminds me of my nan's place.”

Tennessee Rain - penned with Kelly - also had a Nashville source.

“When I lived there I had never seen rain like it,” Troy revealed.

“It reminded me of Forest Gump saying it was a big old fat rain. I met a local booking agent who lived down the street. He had the saddest weekend. His brother divorced his wife. It became final. It was pouring rain as he drove out of his drive way. All he saw in his rear vision mirror was his daughter waving to him in the rain. I told Paul the story. He said this is going to be sad - normally sad songs don't make records.”

But Drive It - penned with Buchanan - had a hedonistic flavour.

“It's based on a small town where blokes go out and test their cars, like at the old drive-in. The mechanics and always a girl. I said to Col I still have my old EH, this little inkling of rev-head I can't let go of. I've got to write something that will get kids jumping - a guitar hero song. I had Brett Mason playing guitar.”

Freedom Ride is released by Liberation Records .

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