So a few weeks ago, I caught word that John Craigie was coming to my town to play! I was stoked, you see, because John Craigie is AMAZING live, and I’ve been wanting to see him again ever since our paths randomly crossed one fateful night at Burning Man back in 2008.
There I was, wandering around the desert with a few buddies, when we stumbled into…
…which happened to be a pretty chill little cafe on the Esplanade.
We sat down, and started listening to John Craigie, who turned out to be one of the most entertaining performers I’ve seen. The unique about the show was his captivating and memorable storytelling, both in-song and as pre/post-song banter. According to his Wikipedia page, his music and performance style has been compared to Greg Brown, Bob Dylan, Dan Bern, and Mitch Hedberg. The Mitch Hedberg part is true, too, because he quips little things that are downright LOL-inducing.
I guess sometime after I first saw him, I signed up for his mailing list, and hot diggity damn, when I got back to a computer… he had friended me on Facebook! He and his team are super-amazing at e-mailing ONLY when he’s playing in Colorado, so I’m informed and invited, but never bugged by e-mails of shows that are far away.
I was touched by his music and his stories, so I jumped when I got the chance to see him recently. Sure enough, I was rewarded with some great folk, and more great storytelling. He even featured a song about Chuck Norris, in which audience participation is key!
After the show, I approached him and told him I’d seen him at B-Man back in 2008. I also told him I wanted to buy a CD, and that I wanted to feature him here on TSURURADIO. John was then kind enough to hand me a second CD for free! Woohoo!! (Take note, Ari, and be sure to use your powers for good…)
Anyway, I’d better link up his new album “Montana Tale” for you, and get to our interview. Montana Tale is completely road-addicted, and reminds me of my days of being a rambling vagabond. It sounds big, rugged, beautiful, and at times a bit lonely… just like the West itself. (Incidentally, if anyone knows anything about the artist that did the album cover, John Craigie is looking for info.) Enjoy some Americana at its finest!
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m much more likely to listen to the new Avi Buffalo than good old Bob Dylan. But I really dig this! And the music is nowhere close to as engaging as it is live, where the essence and power of folk is truly found. After you buy the album, SEE CRAIGIE LIVE!! You’ll love him and his stories, and he’s constantly touring!
Now, onto the interview, where Neil asks some seriously intriguing questions, and then proceeds to ask some gratuitous, ridiculous questions for everyone’s a/be-musement. Keep in mind that this was done over the phone, with me furiously typing while talking, so at some points I paraphrase.
10 Questions for John Craigie:
1. What is your Name? What is your Quest? What is your Favorite color? (my second Tsuru throwback to Monty’s Holy Grail!)
JC: My full name is John Craigie the 3rd. My quest? To bring folk music back, not that it went anywhere, one person and one song at a time. My favorite color is a shade green that’s on my guitar…
2. How long have you been playing folk?
JC: I started playing guitar in 1996. In 1998 it was my senior year of high school, and my teacher gave a copy of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which inspired me to write the song “Nalgene Bottle”. This was one of my first big hits and the beginning of my journey into folk.
3. How healthy is folk? Alive like rock, or dying like ska?
JC: I think folk is somewhat immortal… it’s not just about the music, it’s about the words, the meaning, and the history. One of the things I like about folk is that it is hard to market, hard to commidify, and so it has to live in people, not things. There are some offshoots, like Jack Johnson, that borrow heavily from folk. I’m not sure it’s doing as well as rock, but folk will never die.
4. What artist(s) have you been listening to most recently? Why?
JC: Greg Brown, Todd Snider, and Dan Burn = modern folk. I also like Fleet Foxes, M. Ward, etc. and listen to them for enjoyment… and to keep a pulse on what people are interested in. I try to study and live by the greats like Arlo Gutherie, Bob Dylan, etc. I make sure my guitar absorbs a lot.
5. I often hear that musicians get screwed when it comes to getting paid for their work. Do you feel that musicians get screwed? If so, who’s more to blame – fans who download, or record companies who set prices and deals?
JC: Part of being an artist is really checking what you’re in it for, why you’re doing it. When you make art, you don’t own it. The muse–this essence that all artists can pull from–it’s a pool. I feel that as an artist, the days of Madonnas and U2s are winding down. I think the internet will level the playing field enough that music will become a good, working-class job, like it used to be. Sometimes I feel that venues will cheat you a little bit, because they can. There’s no shortage of musicians to play there, so they have more power.
But I’ve never been negative about it. I knew about everything at the outset.
In the 60s, when a new Beattles record came out, you could only hear it on radio or if you bought it. That’s just not the case anymore. As a musician, you have to accept it. Really what you have to do then is focus on your music, and make sure it’s good enough that people WANT to keep you alive. You can put some blame on the record companies, because they aren’t handling the changes very well, and I think they are on their way out, too.
6. If I were a performing artist, I could imagine writing something really personal, and being so overcome by emotion that I couldn’t perform it live. Do you ever experience anything like that?
JC: That has happened… when you get on stage, you have to get into your meditation state. But really, songs… keep you from breaking down! They are healing. When I’ve played something live, it healed me. The songs are therapy. (editor’s note: so true! That’s exactly how it felt to churn out Bring Out Your Dead! (heart) Compilation…)
7. How has your style progressed since you started playing? What life experiences have influenced you?
JC: The main thing is the traveling. My first few albums were done from a person, in one place. But now, the more I travel, the more that affects the songs. The ideal folk song is the song that can bring the world together… think “we shall overcome” and “amazing grace”… those are definitive.
…and now for some joking / light-hearted questions…
8. Which is hotter: naked girls on bikes, or girls in bikinis on skis?
JC: I think naked girls on bikes, yeah, I like that. (editor’s note: please cast YOUR vote in the comments below!)
9. HEY WANNA RIDE BIKES!?
JC: Haha. Yeah! I don’t actually own a bike, but there’s one that I borrow every year for Burning Man, so if you’re going to be there this year I’ll definitely ride some bikes.
10. Marijuana is NOT a drug. Now cocaine, there’s an addiction. You ever suck some dick for marijuana?!??? (a shameful but hilarious Half Baked throwback)
JC: Hahahahaha… *laughing*. That’s never come up.
11. Zooey Marries Ben Gibbard – way lucky and smart and cute, or “she could do better”?
JC: Yeah, she could’ve been with me!
I think two musicians in a relationship can be kinda weird. Relationships are kind of puzzles pieces… it’s nice to have each person fill in the others’ gaps. With two musicians, it can be like, “I wrote this” “Oh yeah? Well I wrote THIS.”… If I’m interested in a girl, and she plays guitar, then it’s less mysterious for her than it would be if I were to date a girl who didn’t know guitar…
But, they’re both celebritites, which is good. Zooey could ALWAYS do better, she could have anyone she wants.
Anyway, that’s the end of the interview, and of this post! Thanks for stickin’ around, kiddos, hope you enjoyed!