Cassidy-Rae has released her latest single Ton of Bricks, a contemporary country-pop song that’s as powerful as it is fierce. An unconventional take on a love song, which bypasses romance to celebrate the bonds shared between two friends. Given Cassidy-Rae’s history as a travelling songstress, who has performed across the world including featured performances on a Caribbean cruise liner, it’s understandable that strong friendships play such an important role in her life.
The release comes off the back of her single I’m On Vacation, which was added to full rotation on CMT, achieved 70,000 views on YouTube and debuted at #2 on both the iTunes Country Singles and AMRAP Metro charts. It follows numerous highly streamed and charting singles including Throwback and More, which hit #6 and #3 on the iTunes Country Singles chart respectively.
Congratulations on the success of your latest single, Ton of Bricks. Recorded at Sydney’s Love Hz Studio with Michael Carpenter, you’ve described it as ‘the jam you’ll stream when you’re in the mood to kick arse. It’s the words you wish you could say, the extent to which you wish you could go, all to protect the hearts of the people you care about.’ While listening to it, I couldn’t help but hear similarities in attitude with Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats – was that song an inspiration for Ton of Breaks or an organic part of the recording process?
I love the way Carrie Underwood sings so powerfully, and that is a huge inspiration to me, but it wasn’t intentional to sound similar, but to even be in the same league or similar to Carrie is a compliment all the same. I always end up writing based on experiences – life or relationships. I find a piano and 20-30 minutes later there’s a song and then it’s about analysing it to see what I actually meant. That’s how I wrote one of my first singles called More. I was still with my boyfriend at the time and it was my subconscious going, ‘this relationship is unhealthy’ and I didn’t notice until months later.
Of More, you’ve said, “when words fail, music speaks. More, is more than just words put to music; more than the angelic vocals and heartfelt lyrics you’ll have on repeat; this uplifting song connects with everyone reminding them that they are more than the opinions of others.” I also heard you talk on radio about your ex-boyfriend who would find flaws in everything you did and criticise you for the smallest of things. And to put it bluntly – he sounds like a total jerk.
Everything happens for a reason, and I got a lot of reasons out of that. I’ve had people that go, “It’s fake. It’s a show.” It’s honestly truly me. And there can be bad days, but I choose to look at the good and focus on the positives and experience the heartbreak and turn it into something that can be good.
I have this amazing song that I’m able to connect with thousands of people around the world that have been on that same level and haven’t been able to explain themselves or be able to elucidate their feelings – and that song is exactly that. And I’m grateful because there are a lot of good moments from that relationship as well that I write in other songs. Us sisters got to stick together, and I think that’s why I write, to stick with my fellow girls and boys that are going through the relationships that can’t use words and music to be therapeutic.
So, if I was to say song writing is like therapy for you would it be an apt statement?
100%. It’s definitely therapeutic and honestly cheaper than therapy [laughs]. I look back and all of my songs were telling me what was going on in that period of my life.
I have always loved music and I couldn’t explain it. It first started with a friend of mine. I was 15. She was 15. She was in the Australian Girls Choir and had Type 1 diabetes, which you’re born with. She passed away one night to a syndrome called dead in bed, which is self-explanatory. But basically, her levels went so low that she went into a coma and passed away. I found out from Facebook – which is the worst way to find out one of your best friends has passed. I couldn’t handle my emotions any other way, so I turned to the piano and I wrote a song from it. I didn’t ever mean for it to be something for anybody else – it was never my aim – that was me understanding, handling and grappling with my own emotions dealing with that grief – but it got turned into this anti-bullying anthem and shared with hundreds of thousands of people. It’s been made into this positive thing that, even though there’s so much grief that started from this beautiful, blossoming flower, that turned into something that’s rational and good and is able to unite people that feel alone and feel out of touch.
Are you currently working on any new music?
I’m trying to get ready for more music to come out. I was covid delayed this year. I was meant to be in Hawaii right now, travelling around America on a cruise ship, but, instead, I ended up writing a lot of music. I don’t want to wait for years until I can release, so I’m getting ready to release as soon as possible and keep this excitement going. Next year, there’s gonna be so many songs that I will potentially have to release an album. Especially when I end up writing all my plans down on pieces of paper and sticking them around my room – I feel like an evil genius with all these plans [laughs].
[The songs] are all country/contemporary pop but on the spectrum of love. I thoroughly find the whole spectrum of love fascinating – falling into, falling out of, learning about it or even just between friends – so I can’t help but write it out. It’s the heartbreak, the flirtations, lust and desire, or it’s the sarcasticness of love. It doesn’t have to revolve around sex. It can be the innocenceness of it and being able to have fun and feel romance without having it be so explicit.
The past couple of songs that I’ve released – More was vulnerable, completely heart of my sleeve and bearing a heartbreaking moment; Throwback is full of love and gratefulness; I’m On Vacation is just joy and upbeat; and Ton of Bricks is me understanding what can happen from a relationship and sending out a warning – so these next songs I have written are all other factors of me evolving.
Will there be a music video for Ton of Bricks?
I’m not sure. Ton of Bricks is showing the extent I’ll go to protect the friends that I care about, but I’m not a person that swings bats and handles knives, and I didn’t want to look like a mean person because I’m not a mean person. So, the video concept for Ton of Bricks was hard for me to consider and choose a right path to extrapolate the correct meaning of it. And also, I wanted to do it with other sisters and, at the time I was meant to be shooting the music video, it was covid, when I couldn’t get with my friends and be in the same room with them to show the sisters got to stick together idea.
As well as being a singer-songwriter, you work on board Carnival Cruise Lines as a piano bar entertainer, entertaining thousands each week around the United States, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. I’ve spoken to other artists who have mentioned how easy it is to get caught up singing covers and receiving a steady pay check that it stifles their own motivation and creativity. Has working on cruise lines been an incredible place for collaboration or have you found that you rarely work on your own music when on board?
It’s very creative experience. I ended up having this conversation with my parents in my last year at university and they went, “what do you want to do out of life?” I went, “I just want to travel the world and perform and do music.” A month later, I got offered Carnival Cruise Lines. On the very first night, I had some hiccups with some covers because I thought they’d want Adele, Delta Goodrem, Billy Joel’s Piano Man every now and then, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, like I got all the classics covered. And I went in there and they’re like, “So Elton John and John Denver?” But, on that very first night, hiccups aside, people asked for my originals and they wanted to hear the stories behind it.
It’s been an opportunity for me to grow, understand my own stories better and analyse why I wrote these songs. Seeing moments on a cruise ship that are full of such emotion – from people getting engaged to these beautiful sunset moments between couples – I write about that. I ended up playing one of my own songs for two engaged couples and they both made it their first dances at their wedding.
There are thirteen musicians on, minimum, at one time – a band, soloists, duos – and even though they do their own shows, it becomes so much fun when the soloist or duos walks in and start harmonising to Shallow, Wagon Wheel or you’re jamming out to Party in the USA because a little child has requested and it and wants to get the entire room – ages eight to 60 – all singing: “I got my hands up. They’re playing my song!” [laughs]. It’s amazing! It’s even better when they come in and know my own songs and they sing them with me on the guitar or harmonise with me.
So no, I find it extremely creative. I get to call all the pianos on the ship my own. I have so much time on board the ship. They treat me very well in the sense that during the day I’m either climbing up or jumping off waterfalls, going to visit ancient Mayan ruins or swimming with wild stingrays, and then, at night, I get to share the stories or experiences I’ve had with my new friends, because I can’t call them guests anymore. Once you both try and feed a wild stingray, you become friends [laughs].
Have you had any other day jobs apart from working on cruises or creating music?
I was the Youth Ambassador for my council for a year where I got to attend council and community events, be the voice for the youth and fill a need if I saw one. With that, I ended up starting a choir called the Sydney Hills Youth Choir. They ended up being successful for about five years and got to perform around New South Wales, which was incredible. So, they took up my time for a little bit there.
But otherwise, I’ve gone off the mentoring from my parents in the sense that they raised my brother and I on the statement, ‘if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life’. So, I’ve always tried to just love what I do every single day and that in some way always revolves around music.
You went on to become a leader within the prestigious Australian Girls Choir and some of your more exclusive, noteworthy performances include former President of the United States, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Hugh Jackman at the launch of the Les Misérables premiere and the Pope in Rome. Surely, that’s an incredible experience as a young performer?
Well, as a 15-year-old, I never fully appreciated it. One day, I was getting up at 2am to go to the airport – I’ve never seen it more packed – just to welcome Ellen DeGeneres and then drive back to school and take a math test. It was these ‘pinch me’ surreal moments. I’m so grateful for the privilege of getting to sing alongside, meet and talk to former President, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. They’re words that not a lot of people get to say. I wish I could go back, pause and relive those moments again.
My dad has this statement that he now uses, which is ‘pics or no proof’ because I was in Italy to perform for the Pope with the Australian Girls Choir. I had taken all these amazing photos and my camera got fuzzy. And, as a 15-year-old that is technologically not quite there, I tried to fix it by pressing all the buttons. I ended up pressing the button that says, ‘format disk’, which I thought would get it out of going fuzzy, but no, it just deleted every single picture I’d taken. I immediately called my parents, like, “I’m so sorry. I’ve lost all these photos.” My dad just had to laugh [and said], “pics or no proof!”
Now, every time I get a packed room on a cruise I always end up taking a video and get literally hundreds of my new friends in this room to say hi to my dad because it’s pics or no proof so I’m showing him that they’re all there [laughs]. I’ve travelled so much with Carnival, I come back home, and my dad and I have a new competition about who’s been to more countries or places. And even when I bring up, “I’ve been to Italy. I’ve been in the Vatican.” He’ll still say, “Pics or no proof. I don’t see the proof you weren’t there.” It’s very funny! My Dad was in the Navy for 12 years and the moment he found out I was going to be working on a ship as well, he was so proud.
You started singing before you could talk and followed in your brother’s footsteps by learning piano at two-years-old. But is it true you first got your start in school musicals?
I did. I started in this school musical in year five called Go Noah! I was Mrs Noah, who wasn’t excited to go on the boat and didn’t believe her husband [about the biblical great flood]. My music teacher at the time saw I absolutely loved performing, being on stage, getting to sing, connect with an audience and share these stories, that she suggested I joined the Australian Gospel Chair and that’s how it started.
I went from choir to then being in the chapel band at school and then to performing on my own when I had this opportunity with a programme called Max Potential, which was about raising young leaders in our school district and creating a need in the community without making any profits from it.
So, musicals haven’t been this huge focus for me. I went to New York and got to see Chicago on Broadway, which was holy mackerel, amazing! I’ve gotten to see Beauty and the Beast and Legally Blonde, but I think my favourite though is Wicked.
You’ve noted you’re inspired and influenced by artists such as Taylor Swift, Delta Goodrem and Carrie Underwood, which is all evident in your own blend of country pop music. What is an artist or genre that people might be surprised to hear that you listen to?
I used to come home from my school and my dad would be singing Michael Bublé because he thought nobody could hear him and I fell in love with that jazz side. But other than that, I had a friend of mine who was really into alternative music. There’s a [guitarist called] Plini and a band called Dream Theatre, which, at first, I found so irritating because I couldn’t find its tempo or [Plini’s] time signature because it changes time signature every full bar, and then you just get into it a little bit. It’s very weird and very odd, and people don’t normally hear that about me. It’s not something I would go to a whole lot but there’s like one or two songs that I can appreciate from the extremely alternative genre.
Lastly, out of curiosity, having an uncommon name myself; were you named after anybody?
My Mum and Dad wanted to call me Cassidy because it means ‘fun and loving’, but Rae comes from my Mum’s name Raeleen. My Dad said he always wanted me to have a part of my Mum with me. She is very much alive and well, but every Valentine’s Day he’ll point to me like, “There is your gift” [laughs].
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