Troy Cassar-Daley is back in the saddle with the most heartfelt and personal album of his illustrious career, Between the Fires.

The popular Brisbane-based singer-songwriter begins a national tour off the back of that album on May 23 and will tour on and off until November.

Prior to recording the new album Cassar-Daley envisioned himself heading to the US with an arm full of new songs. He would round up musician friends and cut an Americana album in a Nashville studio. That wasn’t to be. As the adage goes, if you want to make God laugh, make plans.

In 2022, Cassar-Daley was on tour in Perth when he received the devastating call that his mother, Irene, had passed away. An awful scenario, Cassar-Daley was stuck in a hotel room and unable to get a flight home as Irene was removed from her house at Halfway Creek on Gumbaynggirr land in NSW.

The heartbreak that ensued led to Cassar-Daley returning to his boyhood home to lay his mother to rest and to eventually write and record Between the Fires on country.

“I was flying fine,” he told me recently of his mood prior to Irene’s passing. “Then I lost Mum mid-tour. I came home and I was devastated. Ours was a single-mum, only-child relationship. We were close. Ever since I was a kid, Mum’s nickname for us was ‘the dynamic duo’. Like Batman and Robin. We knew each other like no one else in the world. When that lighthouse starts flickering and then goes out, there’s a big adjuster starting right there.

“I went home to make arrangements and lit the fire. I did a bit of healing there and sprinkled her ashes in three places. After the funeral I felt dead.”

Worse was to come for Cassar-Daley. His relationship with his wife, Brisbane radio personality Laurel Edwards, was in need of repair.

“Laurel and I hit a bit of a rough spot too,” he admits from a much happier place now. “Marriage isn’t a walk in the park. It just isn’t. You change. And your struggles change between you. We had things to address. This was it … this was a breaking point.

“It came at the most inopportune time, given I was grieving Mum. That’s why Between the Fires is such an important song. It was the first song I wrote at the fire. There was a fire at Mum’s where I was trying to grieve, then there was the flickering fire of my relationship that for some reason had big raindrops falling on it. I’d prepared for the worst.

“It was a heavy time. Enter some counselling. And that became part of the record too. There’s a couple of songs on the record, Congratulations and Thankful (that are about that). Congratulations just goes there, it’s written exactly how I felt. I felt like we’d tried every trick in the book to get things back on track.

“I thought, you win – you’ve finally done it. Then I thought … No, we’ve done it.”

Looking back on the process now, Cassar-Daley admits that the writing of the album was therapeutic.

“Initially, it was a healing thing to start writing,” he confesses. “But it was also a place to hide. When I was a kid, it was like that. If I was feeling shitty, I’d play guitar or put some music on and everything felt okay. The honesty had to come through with what I was feeling with Laurel too. The only analogy I can use is, it was like you’re driving along and you run into the car in front of you and then you get rammed up the arse by the car behind you. It’s like bang, bang. I’m in the car … dazed. That’s how it was.

“We lost Mum in July. I didn’t get glimmers of light, though I wrote a couple of songs. By Christmas I had an uneasy truce with Laurel and we could confront the demons at the fire. I was talking to my confidants more than Laurel. My first cousins – who are like brothers and sisters – were really helpful. Slowly things lifted.

“I set the date to start work. I found two people to record the album, Jeff McCormack and Jordan Powers – they’re listed on the album as co-producers with me.

“Each day my job was to find enough firewood to smoke the house and all the crew passed through the smoke every morning before we made new music together. The album is the sound of the place where I grew up, birds and all! And it felt like such a privilege for me because that lounge room was the scene of many jams with my cousins sitting around with guitars right next to Mum’s old record collection. It became the heart and soul of this record.

“I didn’t feel anything anywhere else, but I was alive when I went to that house. The house made me feel like I had something to say.”

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