From Waterloo, Ontario, Craig Cardiff is a Canadian melodious, impassioned, folk singer, with a combined total of around 16 albums both live and studio based, since his beginnings with music in 1997. Currently based in Arnprior, Ontario, Cardiff keeps busy touring North America and Europe. His grind and indisputable talent certainly pays off as he received nods in 2012 at the Juno Awards for Roots and Traditional Album Of The Year: Solo, as well as for the Canadian Folk Music Award as Contemporary Singer Of The Year. Armed with his guitar and soulful heart, I sat down with Cardiff for a tell all interview.
Me: What are 3 fun facts about you that not many fans may know?
(1) My first day of travelling, backpacking in South East Asia, I was drugged
(2) My first public performance was covering Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind
(3) At Blue Dale Collegiate Institute, I was again covering Bob Dylan, and I mumbled the entire time because I forgot the lyrics *laughs*
Me: Where did you get your introduction to music?
My mother and father were school teachers and my mother left work to raise myself and my 3 other siblings. My parents always had a record collection and would approach everything as an opportunity for learning. My siblings and I would often create music videos from the songs of their record collection. On family trips we would especially play The Culture Club and Beach Boys. From being in that environment would be where the introduction came.
Me: What attracted you to music?
Music is a way of connecting with other people. It’s a way of saying things. Everybody has a song that helped them stay open or made a thing clearer. Music is part medicine, part magic. Music is free. In prison you still have music. It’s everywhere.
Me: What would the colour for your music be?
Different shades of blue. I was doing a workshop performance at a school in Milton and the children were smart. Bright little minds. One little girl named Wing, asked me why my songs were so sad. For me, songwriting is a way of untying the knots and swirls of life. It helps me make sense of life and sometimes that can be sad. Blue encompasses all of that for me.
Me: Where do you find inspiration for your music?
My last album was inspired by my Books Of Truth, saying honest things. My album Floods And Fires, was inspired by my daughter, Rowan, who is turning 9-years old.
Me: One of my favourite songs by you is your song Father Daughter Dance, especially the line, “I love you more than all the way past florida, china, the united states.” With the music video using actual photos of fathers and daughters, I found that brilliant. What was the inspiration for that project?
The idea for the video actually came from Nathan D., from Latent Image Design. I was very lucky to work with him. The lyrics come from my daughter. I was planning a trip to Florida with my daughter and she responded saying, “I love you all the way past Florida.” That was that.
Me: You have released several remarkable albums, from the days of Mothers and Daughters to now with Love Is Louder. How would you say your music has changed for you? How have you grown as an artist through the years?
I am always learning from others, whether it be producers, engineers, or songwriters. My producer Ben L., pushed me past acoustic. Through collaboration I have learned to serve the song, not the ego. A good song is like a jacket taken at coat check drunkenly. The jacket is not yours but it fits. The jacket feels like yours. Lyrics and melody should be of that sort. I am always learning.
Me: You’re scheduled to be performing at some upcoming festivals in Ottawa this summer like Westfest and the Dragon Boat Festival. When performing live, what type of feeling do you like to elicit to the crowd?
I want people to sing and dance. It’s easy to be serious but I like to make sure everyone’s having fun.
Me: Do you have any weird rituals you do before going on stage?
I try and show up before the show starts. That would be it for me.
Me: Who are three artists that you look up to or have inspired your art in some way?
Scott Marrett, Laurena McKennon, and Stomping Tom. They all followed their art and built something for themselves, owning every part of it. They were never chasing approval.
Me: Who would you really love to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with John Irving. I would find a way to create an album around all the ideas he put into his book, Until I Find You.
Me: Are there any artists you have been really into recently?
Rose Cousins, Mike Evan, and at the JUNOs in Hamilton, I met Fred Penner and he was an absolute gentleman.
Me: What advice do you have for new or struggling artists?
For struggling artists, find all the pieces causing you to look at it as a struggle and shift your thinking. Find a way to create a sustainable system. Have realistic goals and be a hard worker. For all artists, treat it like farmers do. Work. Focus on listeners and treat everywhere like a venue.