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Q&A with Troy Cassar Daley

Troy took a break from editing his book The Things I Carry Around – out later this year – to chat about the stories he’s shared on his latest album Freedom Ride, and why he loves visiting the Top End.

By Liz Trevaskis

You’ve been a regular visitor to the Top End throughout your career. What’s your greatest memory of visiting here?

I’d have to say going to Gunbalanya for the first time when I was about 21 years old. It was the first time I caught a barra up there, I met some amazing people, and it really opened my eyes to what our country is all about. Eating barra off the coals is something that I’ll never ever forget – the taste of it was something very special. You know, me being an Indigenous bloke, I’ve had turtles and everything else off the coals – but that barra, is one of the most amazing memories I have. That was the first time I’d played in Arnhem Land, we played Cooinda and all over the place on the way there, but that was the crescendo. My son's been up there once too, and he still nags me to go back!

You’ve won a staggering 35 Golden Guitar awards, not to mention four ARIAS and nine Deadlys – where do you keep them all?

There are special places throughout the house and in the studio. I don’t write music to win Golden Guitars that’s for sure, I think it’s just a bonus if you do win. The thing I do love about them is they’re a good reflection. You look at the album title or the song title you won an award for, and it takes you back to a moment in time. To the certain age when you wrote the song, and who you wrote it with.

Six of those Golden Guitars were for your latest album Freedom Ride. Why did you want tell that story – Charlie Perkins’ trip around NSW in 1965 fighting for the rights of Aboriginal people – and why now?

It started out as a school project – I’m talking in my teenage years – and I remember getting a good mark for it. I was very inspired, but I was also very saddened by the fact that at the time, 1965, my grandparents couldn’t vote. It just so happened that I was looking through old stuff at home, and I found bits and pieces that I had collected for that project and I remembered asking my mum about it, and it just awoke something in me. I thought maybe I need to share a little bit of my education with people now, because music’s a great medium for that. And it just so happened that it was 49 years since the Freedom Ride then, and it was the 50th anniversary when the record came out. I ended up going back on the road with Paul Kelly – who I wrote the song with – through some of the original places the Freedom Ride went to, and to say that was inspiring would be the biggest understatement. To meet some of those original Freedom Riders was something special because they were so full of love and knowledge and so willing to impart it to us all.

You’re focusing on a different kind of writing this year – writing a book – tell us about that.

I’m due to finish at the end of this week, and I must say – I’m not a book writer. It can be like pulling teeth. In fact, I am getting two wisdom teeth out this week so it will be a good comparison! But I do love telling the story, because it’s been like living my life in slow motion. A lot of the Northern Territory is mentioned in the book too, because of the enlightening that I got up there as a young kid.

Railway Club | Fri 20 May, 7pm | $40+BF

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