Craig Cardiff: “You really live or die by how good, how real your show is”

Craig Cardiff has been writing music for over two decades, painting great melodies onto his stories and poems while connecting with fans all over Canada and beyond. It seems as Craig’s love for touring and creating unique, intimate experiences with people is what inspires him the most. There’s realness and humbleness in Cardiff’s songs and you cannot help but warm up to his art. He has recently put out a compelling new single called Okay Cupid, and you can find out about how the song came to life in our following interview where Craig also talks about his recent trip to Hong Kong and his desire to visit the UK.

Eva: You have recently released a new single Okay Cupid. What’s the story behind this track?

Craig: I was approached by a couple who’ve been coming to shows / supporting shows for awhile, and they asked me to write a song to celebrate an upcoming anniversary. They were both poets and writers in their own, met on the dating website and were soon sending each other courting notes + poems – salacious . And we were chatting about the idea for the song, back and forthing, and then I said: Send me the poems!

From that I wove in all the times I’ve fallen in and out of love, and the why’s and whats of it, and that became the bones of the song. And it’s been such a long winter – it’s finally spring, and as we were finishing the mix and release you could just feel everyone was ready for the warmth, the sun, to take off all the winter layers and show themselves.

You’ve been writing songs for a long time. Do you tend to draw from your life experiences or imagination when it comes to songwriting; or both?

Both. Sometimes you pick your own dolls up and plunk them down in other people’s lives and stories. Sometimes the reverse. Trying to build a theatre black box out of bits and pieces of conversation, how a person holds their head, and so on, and then sitting in the seat of their lives to find the heart of it.

What is your personal philosophy on putting your music out into the world, and what are your thoughts about today’s music industry?

I was stuck for the past three years – a heavy focus on touring to support the company, constantly writing, but only tiptoes into releasing content. I made a concerted effort to get Novemberish out, and each subsequent step was lighter and easier to put down the music, create and complete lyrics.

I can’t think of a more exciting time to be making music – I was just in Hong Kong for a week working with the Sovereign Art Foundation, and the whole thing came about because of Spotify. The director for the film for the foundation reached out about using an existing song Dirty Old Town for their gala / fundraiser film. We went back and forth, and collaboratively came up with the final version of the song Little Dreamers. They organized for me to go over and do workshops with some of their school groups, and I got to be part of the filming of the fundraiser piece, as well as performing at Peel Fresco (amazing music club in central HK) and actually performing as part of the gala with a string duo. All of this spun out of someone connecting to a song on spotify, and taking a chance and reaching out.

What’s your favourite thing about being out on the road and playing shows in various places?

People – the connection where a room of people starts out as strangers and leaves as a group, connected by the singing, dancing.. like church without all the serious parts.

When it comes to live shows, do you prefer an intimate setting or a bigger crowd?

Intimate setting, or at least, a very intentional audience. The balance of art + lyric + poetry versus crowd control and showmanship can be razor thin, and the odds are in your favour when the numbers are 150-200ish.

How do you stay connected with your fans and what does the artist-fan relationship mean to you?

I wouldn’t be able to make a living if it wasn’t for fans – the people who help poster, organize shows in far off places to share the music out with their friends. There is no machine big enough that can replace the humbling reality of building a listener base one show at a time. Marketing gets people to pause, maybe buy tickets, but you really live or die by how good, how real your show is.

If you were to give a lesson on music to a class of young kids, what 5 records would you give them to listen to?  

Graceland by Paul Simon, Green by REM, The Essential Bob Dylan, Violet and Black by Scott Merritt and Central Reservation by Beth Orton.

Is there any possibility of you coming over to the UK and play us a few tunes?

Absolutely! Let’s sort out the details and start inviting people!

Regarding music and touring, what are your main plans for the upcoming months?

Staying mostly in the US and Canada. Planning to visit the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong before March 2019 as well. Writing, recording and releasing singles often and always!

Links – Facebook, Twitter, Spotify

Craig has also just released a Bob Dylan cover EP – Upstream Fishing All The Words, He Is – Birthday Cards For Bob Dylan

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