Thursday, 9 January 2014

"Feeling Music" with Craig Cardiff

     It was getting close to midnight if I recall, and I was sitting in a rather comfy armchair at the Brown Dog coffee shop, located on my university campus. On the couch beside me sat Juno nominated recording artist Craig Cardiff, listening to a group of fans discuss with him the show he just put on, and simply how their days had been going. Just as I had experienced a few weeks before with Rob Dyer, Craig seemed to be someone who genuinely loved hearing people's stories, and more importantly, someone who loved to share the gift of music with all who would listen. I don't mean just sharing his amazing voice, but also discussing how music can actually make you feel something, something about yourself, others, or life in general.
     As the crowd dispersed, Craig turned around and with a smile, and introduced himself formally. We had met for a couple minutes before his show began, but more so just exchanging pleasantries. After some small talk and explanation of the Canadian Stories initiative, I pulled out my cue cards holding the discussion points I hoped to reach during our short time together. But, before I could get a question out, Craig had some comments and questions of his own for me. First, he informed me that him and I "listen to music the same way". That led me to look at him with what must have been a confused face, because I really had no idea what he meant. So, he explained.
     "You had your hands grasped together, and you were looking down." He told me that he knew I wasn't being rude and not paying attention, but that I was, as he worded it, "listening with my whole body." What I think he meant by that was that it wasn't simply in one ear, through the brain and out the other, but that I was listening to the words and the sounds with it, and trying to figure out what he meant by it all. It's not something I think I intentionally do, but something I've for sure noticed since meeting Craig.

Craig Cardiff!
Photo provided by Lindsay Chung

     Like me, Craig Cardiff came from small town Ontario. But unlike me, his singing voice set him on the course of an amazing journey. All my singing voice (and more importantly, my rapping) gets me is disgusted looks and pleas to stop. Since Craig had a long drive home ahead of him, we didn't have much time to touch on his early days, but there were some career highlights I wanted to touch on. One of them being a rather large and unique experience, singing with the former Governor General of Canada, The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean. For those who may not know, the Governor General (David Lloyd Johnston being the current one) acts as the Queen's official representative in Canada for ceremonial and Constitutional duties as she acts as the Sovereign for fifteen current nations. I had the chance to travel to Rideau Hall (the official residence of the Governor General) once in grade ten as part of a field trip, and Michaelle Jean (who was Governor General at the time of the trip) had always been someone I found extremely interesting, so I really wanted to know how this experience came around.
     It was 2012, and Craig found himself nominated for his first ever Juno award! The nomination was for "Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo", and he found himself up against David Francey, Dave Gunning, Lindi Ortega and Bruce Cockburn (who eventually won). The experience with Jean was dubbed by Craig as a "happy accident stemming from the nomination". As a collaboration between the National Capital Commission and the University of Ottawa to raise awareness of the Juno's being held in Ottawa, the two organizations offered him the chance as a nominee to preform with the well-known stateswoman, which he gladly accepted. The nomination alone to him meant a lot, this only adding to it. It was nice for him to be acknowledged more so than often, and it was nice to meet the "gracious and very kind" former Governor General. But, this time really put other aspects of life into perspective for him. Fully recovered since then, at the time, his father suffered a stroke. With a newly increased media presence directed at Craig as a Juno nominee, questions for him asking what he was thinking or how he felt about the experience automatically made him think about the well-being of his father, a valuable lesson regarding what truly mattered in life.

Craig preforming at the Brown Dog, in Brantford
Photo by me!

      As an artist, Craig has the chance to learn valuable lessons, learn what really matters in life at every single show. Not just by taking the time to speak with one or two fans afterwards, but with his self titled "Book of Secrets", one of the coolest things I've ever seen. He felt that his performances, and that of other performers, were "very egotistical". "I mean, look even here, there's only one microphone." With his books, he's able to give people the chance to share their stories with him, as they've allowed him to do for them. The books, essentially, are free range. At the start of the show, and during the performance, a blank notebook and pen are passed around for you to simply write or draw in. What you're feeling, how you're feeling, the concerns facing you in life or even why you're life now is better than it has been before. They're for you to be honest, and anonymous, and finally say what you may have been holding in. Quite frankly, I find it amazing. Craig equated it to my interviews. "Like your writing, there's a story that gets told and a story to be ferreted out." Like I do, he loves hearing people's stories first hand. It's an honour.
     Though, since he encourages you to be honest, to not be afraid to finally say what's on your mind, I imagined there must have been some difficult things to read. His reply confirmed my thoughts. "For sure, there are some difficult things, but also some beautiful things." Some of these anonymous messages are then shared online by Craig to show the range, and often the similarities, of the happiness and sadness in people's lives. I think to end, I want to share one of the most touching I've seen, and thank Craig for sharing so much with us. His voice, his cheer, and the message that, as his album says, "Love is Louder than all this noise"

     "The night I thought I lost my love, he sent me a song. I sent him back your 'Last Night at the End of the World'. And I took a break, and let go.
     He's sitting beside me tonight, holding my hand, and this is the second time we've been to see you.
     We'll be back every time you're here.
     I've never been so happy." -Anonymous, to Craig Cardiff

Craig and I meet before his show.
Photo by Jaime Addario

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