||This article contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (December 2014)|
photo by Kathy Roussel
|Birth name||Craig Cardiff|
9 July 1976 |
Craig Cardiff (born 9 July 1976) is a Canadian folk singer from Waterloo, Ontario, who has released around sixteen albums, both live and studio-based since 1997. He regularly tours North America and Europe, and lives in Arnprior, Ontario. In 2012, Cardiff was nominated for a Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo and for a Canadian Folk Music Award as Contemporary Singer of the Year.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Recording
- 3 Collaborations and Covers
- 4 Performing/Touring
- 5 Workshops
- 6 Awards
- 7 2012 Juno Awards
- 8 The Book of Truths
- 9 Musical Style and Influences
- 10 Film Soundtracks
- 11 Discography
- 12 External links
- 13 Related videos
- 14 References
Craig Cardiff was born July, 1976 to Judy and Charles Cardiff. He grew up together with his younger sisters Catherine, Susan and Elizabeth in Waterloo, Ontario, where both his parents were school teachers. Music was important during his upbringing and he was motivated by his parents to play an instrument.
They bought him his first guitar, a Gibson J-30, when he was 15, while one of his high school teachers, taught him the guitar during his lunch hour. Cardiff began to perform at coffeehouses and with some bands in high school. While studying at the University of Waterloo, he performed nightly at local pubs, open mics and coffeehouses. He also worked as an agent, booking shows at Fed Hall, including the Guess Who.
Cardiff moved to the Ottawa area from Waterloo when he was in his 20s. He lived in Wakefield for a few years before buying an old farmhouse in Arnprior, which now also serves as a home studio.
Increased success and recognition
In September 1997, Cardiff debuted with the album Judy Garland (You're Never Home) which featured Deanna Knight, Tom Murray, Danny Michel, Joel Stouffer, Paul Mathew and Catherine Cardiff. It was re-released in August 2006.
When Cardiff released his album Goodnight (Go Home) in 2007, it was considered a bit of a breakthrough for the singer-songwriter.
"He maintains a dedicated fan base, but to this day Craig Cardiff is more a secret than a household name, despite his songs revealing the craft of one of the best in the business," View Magazine stated in 2007. "This is all slowly changing, thankfully, as Cardiff is playing bigger rooms, touring more and receiving more critical acclaim than usual as the result of his 11th release, Good Night (Go Home)." The magazine went on to call Goodnight (Go Home) "arguably Cardiff’s most accomplished release to date."
If Cardiff was considered by some as flying under the radar, he rose even higher above it after releasing Floods & Fires in November 2011. The album earned a Juno Award nomination as Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo, as well as a Canadian Folk Music Awards nomination as Contemporary Singer of the Year. The album even landed in the SoundScan Top 10 for a week, and Exclaim! magazine called it "a major breakthrough."
When Cardiff released his latest album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2, in November 2013, Exclaim! magazine stated: "With a catalogue now well into double digits and a national fan base that is surely the envy of his singer-songwriter peers, Ottawa's Craig Cardiff has been the model of how to be a successful independent Canadian musician. However, with his new double album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Parts 1 & 2, he seems better poised than ever to break into the mainstream, having recorded with a full band for the first time."
When Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2 was released, it reached as high as No. 8 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts and for a time was the only independent Canadian album in the Top 20.
Cardiff has offered at least one new release almost every year, and his catalogue includes live albums, studio albums, collaborations with other artists and tributes to songwriters he admires. Over the years, he has experimented with various recording styles and distribution platforms for his albums – one release, Mistletoe (Kissing Songs), was recorded entirely on an iPod Touch.
Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2
On 19 November 2013, Cardiff released his first double album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2. One-part boisterous group sing-along, one-part gentle lullaby, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) features full live band recordings, as well as more subdued, acoustic recordings.
"When I first started working with producers Ben Leggett and Andre Wahl, they said, 'we don’t want to make another record like you’ve made before,'" says Cardiff. "And that’s why you hire producers; to push you creatively. I got a little nervous because I was like what do you mean, these are the albums that I like to make. So what came out of it was I brought them my basket of songs, and they helped sift through it and made recommendations, and, in the end, the three of us picked out songs that would be best delivered in a full live band setting. I’ve never played that loud or that hard, and it was very exciting. The second album is more focused on the acoustic of my different songs, with cello, clarinet and violin arrangements supporting it."
While making the album, Leggett and Wahl challenged Cardiff to step outside his comfort zone, and he recorded with a full band for the first time.
Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) offers 21 tracks in total, and a number of songs are given both loud and gentle treatments.
"The idea became not pigeonholing a song but giving it two faces," explains Cardiff. "It's almost like covering yourself in a way."
Cardiff, Leggett and Wahl approached the two sides of the album in two very different ways.
For Part 1, they recorded at Chalet Studios, which has previously hosted acts such as Rush and Barenaked Ladies, and Leggett and Wahl helped coax Cardiff through the process of recording live off the floor with a backing band - an experience far removed from where he usually finds himself as a solo singer-songwriter on stage.
"So it was very uncomfortable for me, and very exciting," explains Cardiff, who says he enjoyed interpreting the songs in a way different from what he originally imagined, with members of Lindi Ortega’s band and piano player and singer-songwriter Mike Evin for Part 1.
In Part 2, Cardiff, Leggett and Wahl revisited many of the same songs as Part 1 with strings and wind instruments.
"There’s a song, Boy Inside the Boat, and Andre suggested we push it in an R&B direction, and I was so uncomfortable with the recommendation, but in the end, it’s one of the most beautiful standout songs," says Cardiff.
Cardiff found himself taking on new roles for Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2, such as arranging cello parts, and it was the first time he took a partial hand in an album’s production. "It was exhilarating and challenging," he says. "I’m proud of the result."
Floods & Fires
While Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2 is quite different than anything Cardiff has released before, the team behind it is familiar.
Ben Leggett (Faraway Neighbours, Ben Hermann) and Andre Wahl (Hawksley Workman, Luke Doucet) also produced Floods & Fires, the album that earned Cardiff a nomination for a 2012 Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo and a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination as 2012 Contemporary Singer of the Year.
"My engineer and myself recorded over the year; it was just a phenomenal experience," Cardiff says of Floods & Fires. "This album is very different from my last album. This album was just like giving myself the permission to explore songs to their fullest; some songs have anything from beat boxing to full horn sections. It was a big musical push to myself, I'm so proud of it, so happy of how it turned out."
For Floods & Fires, Cardiff and Leggett spent 18 months working together to record the album in Cardiff’s home studio in Arnprior. This was the longest period of time Cardiff spent on any of his releases, which are often recorded live or off the floor.
For this album, Leggett re-jigged Cardiff's home studio, co-wrote some of the material and even moved into Cardiff’s house to get the job done.
"I warned him there would be a lot of scope creep with this album because I had an idea how big I wanted it to be, and I wanted to spend a lot of time," says Cardiff. "I didn’t want to set parameters ... I wanted to feel confident that the songs are fully realized."
Floods & Fires represents a new approach to recording for Cardiff.
"A lot of my albums have been done off the cuff," he explains. "This time, the intention was to make the time. I wanted to be challenged. I love and I’m proud of the albums that are quirky and interesting, but I wanted to work on an album that I didn’t ever pause at the end and go, ‘It would have been nice to try out flugel horn.'"
Floods & Fires is an ambitious album, and it features horns, strings, programming and a host of guest performers, including a high school choir.
Cardiff has explained that the title Floods & Fires alludes to Biblical plagues which bring both destruction and opportunity. The album’s 14 tracks examine "love and love’s leaving, celebrate parenthood and, ultimately, explore the balance between heartbreak and joy." "The songs on this album were crafted during a difficult period of my life," says Cardiff. "When hard things happened, I kept reminding myself to choose joy instead of choosing to be afraid and closing up. That’s what I kept coming back to — fear rents the cheapest room in the house. I didn’t want to live like that anymore."
Goodnight (Go Home)
When Cardiff released his album Goodnight (Go Home) in 2007, media took notice of the fact that he wasn’t selling plastic-wrapped, jewel-cased editions of the album during his tour. Instead, he asked fans to bring along USB keys to buy a digital download of the album, although he did sell "old-fashioned CDs" and jewel cases for an additional fee.
"The green focus for us is just in reducing the amount of plastic we were using in CDs," says Cardiff, who offered album inserts and art to fans who purchased digital music for their USB so they would still have a physical connection to the album.
And then media took notice of the songs.
The Ottawa Citizen pointed out that the song When People Go had, "unwittingly, become Craig Cardiff's Closing Time."
Cardiff wrote the "jaunty song about death" with a chorus that states "goodnight, go home, there is nothing more to see here," for his daughter, who was 17 months old at the time, to explain to her what happens to people when they die. After hearing the song, numerous DJs at campus bars in British Columbia and Ontario asked to use it as their last song of the night.
"I explained that I actually wrote it for my daughter for when she starts asking questions about death and funerals, but they said they loved it, that it was a perfect way to send out a room. Who am I to argue?" says Cardiff.
The Brant Advocate pointed out the connection between Brantford, Ontario, and the song Dance Me Outside. The song was inspired by Cardiff’s mother telling him about growing up in Brantford and about First Nations woman outside of town.
"She was trying to hitchhike, to catch a ride back in, and couldn’t," explains Cardiff. "She ended up passing from exposure. The worst part is that it’s all over … Each community has a story like that; it’s difficult. So there was that story that existed, and then there was the Bruce McDonald film Dance Me Outside. I hadn’t seen the film, but it just had this idea that even in hard things, still having dignity, still standing up tall, even to a very bitter, sad end. That was the idea."
Smallest Wingless, which the Western Gazette has called one of Cardiff's most popular songs, was inspired by a photographer friend who worked closely with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a non-profit organization that provides families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits with their babies. Cardiff's song tells the story of two parents welcoming a newborn into the world, only to be told that the child will only survive for a few hours.
"A lot of people share their experiences with me in regards to that," Cardiff has said of the song.
From a recording standpoint, Goodnight (Go Home) is different than the 10 albums that came before it. Produced by Les Cooper (Jill Barber, Andy Stochansky), the album came together over a longer period than any of Cardiff’s previous releases.
"I think what I learned on this album is that it’s good to capture everything and eavesdrop a lot and be like a bird building a nest, taking in little parts of everything – and then to walk away from that," he says.
Musically, Goodnight (Go Home) features Paul Mathew (Hidden Cameras), Michael Olsen (K-os, Arcade Fire), Kieran Adams (Sarah Harmer), Rose Cousins, Joel Stouffer (Dragonette, Jason Collette) and Lisa MacIsaac (Madison Violet).
Among Cardiff’s releases, his studio albums include Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2, Floods & Fires, Mothers & Daughters, Goodnight (Go Home), Auberge Blacksheep, Fistful of Flowers, Soda, Happy, Live At The Boehmer Box Company, Great American White Trash Novel and Judy Garland (You’re Never Home).
The album Kissing Songs (Mistletoe), which was released in 2008, was recorded entirely on an iPod Touch using the Octopod application.
Cardiff has released a number of live albums over the years.
Songs For Lucy was recorded at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec, and released in 2010.
Easter Eggs, released in 2007, is a collection of live recordings from various performances.
Featuring songs by Cardiff and by Toronto’s Les Cooper, Bombshelter Livingroom was recorded live at the University of Waterloo Bombshelter Pub and was released in 2005.
Gingers on Barrington Street, which was released in 2003, is a shared album featuring songs by Cardiff and by Rose Cousins. It was recorded at Ginger’s Tavern above the Granite Brewery in downtown Halifax.
Collaborations and Covers
Cardiff often pays tribute to his favourite songwriters in his performances and on his albums.
In 2010, Cardiff released the album Mothers & Daughters, featuring 11 covers of songs written by some of his favourite female songwriters. These include Ani Difranco, Cyndi Lauper, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, Sinéad O'Connor, Björk, Indigo Girls and Suzanne Vega.
"I’m a huge fan of other songwriters, and this album is a way to reinterpret what they’ve done and lend my signature," Cardiff told the Queen’s Journal. "I’ve had a lot of requests from listeners who’ve attended shows over the past few years to put out an album like this, and all of the pieces of the project just fell together."
"I’m very proud of how it ended up feeling like a cohesive show," he adds. "And it features musicians I love playing with—Paul Mathew on double bass, Les Cooper on Rhodes piano and guitar, Joel Stouffer on drums. It feels like a hug."
Throughout his career, Cardiff has built up a community of musicians, songwriters, producers and engineers with whom he works closely. Many of them have worked with him on several albums over the years.
Cardiff has said that he likes collaborating with people who "are challenging and not comfortable with just saying yes to things."
One example of this is when he recorded with a band for the first time for his latest album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2. Recording live off the floor with musicians James Robertson, Paul Mathew, Sly Juhas, Mike Evin and Robbie Grunwald, Cardiff found himself far outside his comfort zone, intimidated and amazed.
"It was funny to be intimidated while making this album, to come into the sessions and think, these guys are amazing players, I'd better remember my capo position," he says. "If there's anything I want to get better at, it's to push myself musically by creating those situations with other artists."
Ben Leggett and Andre Wahl
Cardiff has worked closely with producer/engineer Ben Leggett of North Bay, Ontario, for a number of years, and Leggett has become more involved in the albums in recent years.
Leggett produced Cardiff’s albums Song for Lucy and Mothers and Daughters and provided mixing on the albums Happy, Live at the Boehmer Box Company, Easter Eggs, Bombshelter Livingroom, Fistful of Flowers and Gingers on Barrington Street.
Then came Floods & Fires. Leggett played a much bigger part in this Juno-nominated album than any previous release, which he and Cardiff recorded over a span of a year and a half.
"We really went the extra mile to get the most possible out of the songs. There is everything on this album: Piano, horns, electric guitar, drums, bass, clarinet, saxophone...," says Leggett. "I love the album ... I am very proud of it."
With Floods & Fires, Cardiff and Leggett also worked with mixer/producer/engineer Andre Wahl, who provided additional production and mixing.
The trio joined forces once again for Cardiff’s latest project, the double album Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2. Together, Wahl and Leggett pushed Cardiff to make an album that didn’t sound like anything he’d recorded before.
Leggett and Cardiff also worked together to compose the soundtrack for the independent Canadian film In Return by Chris Dymond, which was released in 2012.
When you read the liner notes for many of Cardiff’s albums, you’ll see one name over and over – Les Cooper.
Besides producing, mixing and arranging on many albums, Cooper has also provided background vocals and played a variety of instruments on Cardiff’s releases, including piano, guitar, banjo, organ, and percussion.
Whether playing, mixing or producing, Cooper has been involved in the albums Goodnight (Go Home), Auberge Blacksheep, Fistful of Flowers, Gingers on Barrington Street, Soda and Bombshelter Living Room – a shared album featuring original songs written by both Cardiff and Cooper that was recorded live at the University of Waterloo’s Bombshelter Pub.
For many years now, Cardiff has collaborated with Halifax-based singer-songwriter Rose Cousins. She has sung on a number of his albums, and they have released a live album together.
Cousins met Cardiff while she was a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax. "I fell in love with his music," she recalls. "He became a huge influence, he taught me a lot. In addition to being a terrific songwriter and performer, he’s a great entrepreneur."
In 2003, Cardiff and Cousins released Gingers on Barrington Street, a joint live album they recorded in Halifax.
Cardiff, who has played in camps, backyards, prisons, churches, basements, festivals, kitchens and hundreds of living rooms, is known as an "advocate of alternate venue touring."
What takes Cardiff into unique performance venues and into so many living rooms is a willingness to go where his fans want to see him.
In 2007, while booking a Canadian tour, he turned to his fans to help him. Through his website, Cardiff asked fans to suggest where he should play and then booked shows through MySpace and Facebook. Many of those venues were small and intimate, and on that tour, Cardiff booked three house concerts.
Because he’s going where his fans suggest, Cardiff asks them to help spread the word about his shows. "It's not unmediated. It's just more fan-directed, and that's exciting," he says of what the Globe and Mail called "tour economics on a good-neighbour level," adding: "I think I'll manage to avoid hotels for most of the tour because of fans and friends who are able to offer spare rooms and couches."
While headlining the Hay Days festival in Hay River, Northwest Territories in June 2013, Cardiff told The Hub newspaper that after touring in major centres in the United States and Canada, he now prefers going "off the beaten track" to perform.
It's his friendships with local people that keep Cardiff coming back to "alternate" locations that are more difficult to reach, he explains. "Does it make sense financially? Not always. But it’s about the connections you form with different people, the friends of friends who help you out."
For Cardiff, no crowd is too small and no venue too obscure. "When music happens in places where people don’t expect it to, it’s more interesting and makes it more important," he says.
Cardiff has the ability to turn any setting into an intimate affair. And while he's touring, he makes a point of keeping the relationship with his fans personal, as he invites and accepts any opportunity to make his audience as much a part of the performance as he is.
"The shows that I enjoy the most happen in places where it’s most intimate," Cardiff told The Ontarion. "I just like places where people make music or want to have music made for them. I’ve always felt pretty lucky to [be a part of] that."
Throughout his career, Cardiff has played with and opened for Glen Phillips, Lucy Kaplansky, Dan Bern, Natalia Zukerman, Andy Stochansky, Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards, Blue Rodeo, Gordon Downie, Hawksley Workman, Sarah Slean, Skydiggers, 54-40 and more.
Cardiff includes many house concerts on his tours, frequently preceding a larger public show with an intimate performance in a fan's living room. "There are people connecting, people introducing themselves to each other. There are all these different groups of friends," he says, "and honestly, that’s one of the neatest things about shows like that, people are just opening up their homes."
Cardiff has been bringing his music into his fans’ homes since the early 2000s.
Cardiff told Carleton University’s Capital Arts Online that he was inspired when, as a teenager in Waterloo, he began volunteering with a woman who organized performances in churches. Trying to expand on that theme, he began playing music and telling stories in an intimate environment by performing in his fans’ living rooms.
Fans regularly reach out to Cardiff and invite him to perform in their homes. Lisanna Sullivan, an artist living outside of Whitehorse, Yukon, hosted a Craig Cardiff house concert in June 2013 and called it "one of the best nights of her life." "It is an element and he is really comfortable in it," she says of having Cardiff perform in her home. "If you're a fan of Craig's or even if you're not, it has to be one of the best ways to listen to a musician because it is so intimate."
Over the years, Cardiff has performed at such festivals as The Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, the Shelter Valley Folk Festival, Hay Days, Hillside Festival, Ottawa Bluesfest and Waterloo Sounds Of Summer.
Art and Activism
Whether he’s performing to a smaller house concert crowd or at a large public gathering, Cardiff isn’t afraid to mix music with a bit of community activism.
Cardiff once played a last-minute concert in the living room of PhD students in Victoria to help them raise funds for their AIDS outreach exchange to Africa. He has also performed at the University of Western Ontario’s mob vote, alongside Rick Mercer.
And in March 2012, Cardiff performed at Phog Lounge in Windsor, Ontario, to support MedOutreach, a program by University of Windsor and University of Western Ontario medical, dental and nursing students that took them to Tanzania to help treat patients at clinics and orphanages.
Cardiff told the Windsor Star that it’s not so much the causes, but the people behind the causes that interest him. "Those are the people who are wonderfully dangerous," he says. "They’ve been bitten."
In March 2013, Cardiff performed a benefit concert in Thunder Bay, Ontario, to raise money for Collateral Damage Project, which is based in Thunder Bay and was founded by Scott Chisholm. The goal of Collateral Damage Project is preventing suicide by stopping stigma, creating proactive dialogue and pushing for gatekeeper training.
It was a good fit because, throughout his career, Cardiff has been a willing supporter of social causes and an advocate for mental health. He encourages people to be open and share things about themselves, both good and bad. "We all have issues and when we start talking about it … that’s the key of making everybody relax a little bit and just be open to everyone," he says.
Throughout his career, Cardiff has volunteered his time to support organizations such as Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region, Canuck Place, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s Maplesoft Centre for Cancer Survivorship Care, Elephant Thoughts Educational Outreach, the Oxford People Against the Landfill Alliance and many others.
In 2010, he performed at the first-ever Canada Without Poverty Dig'n'it(y) Busking Event in Brantford, Ontario.
For the past 12 years, Cardiff has made a point of taking the time to offer workshops at schools, camps, festivals and churches throughout North America.
In the fall of 2012, he did one day-long workshop with students at Churchill Alternative School in Ottawa that impacted the entire school community. Inspired by Cardiff's song Safe Here, teachers Dana Campbell and Natalie Shorkey wanted to incorporate the messages they heard in the song about safety, community and contribution into their classrooms, and they invited Cardiff to come to their school. Leading up to Cardiff's visit, they brought their Grade 2/3 and Grade 4/5 classes together to talk about what the song meant to them and brainstorm ideas for a song of their own that would reflect many of the same ideas.
Cardiff spent a full day at Churchill Alternative School, and the entire school community had a chance to learn about "Music as Magic" with him and to contribute ideas to a song they wrote together that day called Love Turns I Into We.
"I think what we saw in the students and in ourselves as well was inspiration," says Campbell. "A few teachers came up to me and said they had never seen some of their students so engaged ... It really transformed the kids in a positive way, especially those kids that don’t engage as much in what’s going on."
Multi-aged class groups with primary and junior students came together and participated in 50-minute sessions throughout the day.
"Each class had the opportunity to pool their ideas and add their own verses to the song, which resulted in a song that reflected the entire school’s ideas of what love is," explains Campbell. "Craig listened to and wrote down the children’s ideas and helped solidify them to create Love Turns I Into We."
Cardiff often hosts songwriting workshops with university students, bringing people together to share their ideas.
He will often split workshop participants into smaller groups to create "a smaller, more comfortable space for sharing their own pieces," giving individuals feedback in a "positive and enriching environment".
Cardiff has been facilitating workshops for many years, and he sees them as another way to connect with people who love music. "Workshops provide the opportunity to connect with songwriters who are on campus or in the community," he says. "It’s something I’ve been doing to try and connect that way."
As Cardiff sees it, a workshop is not a one-way dialogue, but a conversation. "You end up performing and you kind of do your thing, but the opportunity to encourage people feels like a different piece of work," he says. "I’m excited to meet some of these people 10, 15 years from now and see what they create."
In June 2011, Cardiff participated in TEDxUWO at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. The theme of this inaugural conference was Own Your Passion, and Cardiff gave a presentation called Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House in which he spoke about being open and passionate and choosing not to be afraid and also shared some of his songs that relate to those ideas.
"The whole concept was talking about success and innovation," Cardiff told the Nanaimo News Bulletin. "I would meet so many people during shows and tours who would confide in what they really wanted to be doing. ‘I would much rather be doing this’ or ‘I gave up music because my parents told me it wasn’t a good idea’ or what have you and then they would have all these explanations as to why it wouldn’t work. I just connected those ideas of understanding the importance of trying something and not making decisions that are fear-based."
Cardiff was nominated for a 2012 Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo for Floods and Fires in a category with eventual winner Bruce Cockburn, David Francey, Dave Gunning and Lindi Ortega.
Floods & Fires also garnered a nomination for Cardiff as Contemporary Singer of the Year at the 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards. Rose Cousins won the award, while Keri Latimer, Geraldine Hollett for The Once, and Catherine MacLellan were also nominated.
Cardiff won the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA) Campus Entertainment Award as best singer-songwriter in both 2014 and 2013. COCA also recognized Cardiff in 2007, awarding him the Contemporary Music (Independent) Award.
2012 Juno Awards
In the lead-up to the 2012 Juno Awards ceremony in Ottawa, Cardiff had the opportunity to perform his song Safe Here (from his 2011 album Foods & Fires) with former Canadian governor general Michaëlle Jean and pianist Nick Roy at the University of Ottawa.
On 26 March 2012, the trio kicked off the Juno Pianos project – which encouraged Juno nominees and members of the public to celebrate Juno Week by playing pianos that had been placed in public spaces all around Ottawa - with this performance. Jean translated the chorus of Safe Here into French, and, after singing, she told the audience that this is a song she can relate to, as she would ask herself on several occasions "am I safe here?" when she arrived in Canada in 1968 after leaving her native country of Haiti.
"I ended up recording little bits of the song for her as YouTube links and then we just shared them back and forth and then when we got together she had translated them," says Cardiff. "It was pretty sweet. She’s a very lovely person and I feel lucky that that happened."
The Book of Truths
Cardiff often passes around a notebook at his shows and asks audience members to write something truthful about themselves inside.
"The nature of performing is very egotistical," he has said in the past. "There is one microphone and generally I get to have it for most of the time … the book just came from a place of wanting to give people an outlet to write down some of these stories."
The Book of Truths was born when Cardiff gave one of his notebooks to a couple and asked them to write down the story they told him about their connection with his music so that he wouldn't forget it.
Over the years, a number of Cardiff's songs have been inspired by entries in his Book of Truths. The bittersweet themes running throughout his latest album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2 largely stem from those stories, written anonymously by fans.
"I feel a lot of these songs all started with getting one particular note from an audience member," says Cardiff. "This person had written about having a terrible year and wanting to take their own life. Just hard stuff. At the end of the night, I wrote a note back to them and later posted it online. A bunch of other people responded to it, and I feel like that idea carried over — as hard as it is to stay one more day, just don't make any big decisions tonight. Wait until tomorrow morning. That kept coming up [in my writing], being so inside of your head that it's all thinking and no feeling."
One song in particular, Memo, was written as a response to a heartbreaking entry shared in the book by one woman.
"I wanted to find the person and make sure they were okay … that they knew this was all just noise and everything would be okay..." says Cardiff.
In 2011, Cardiff printed his first edition of the Book of Truths, which he sells through his website and at shows.
Musical Style and Influences
Cardiff has described his style as "folk with a dash of sing-along and storytelling."
Cardiff's music blends many songwriter genres, including folk, country, rock and traditional, always with an emphasis on strong lyrics that relate a story. He is known for engaging fans during performances, his wide vocal range and his ability to improvise, as well as for creating cohesive, emotional performances through his on-stage humour and storytelling.
"A big part of what I do at my shows is improv, in terms of crowd sing-along or the book of truth project – that’s been woven into everything – in terms of crowd readings and collecting these different pieces from the audience members," Cardiff told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. "The songs are constantly being re-examined and re-presented in different ways."
“Whatever magic happens when people are opened up a bit and just being with each other is a pretty special thing, and that requires the person performing to invite that from the audience, rather than simply pushing noise to them,” he adds.
After an intimate show at Vinyl in Guelph, Ontario, Josh Doyle remarked in The Ontarion that Cardiff’s "call and response style of involving the audience made it less of a concert and more of a large group of friends and strangers getting together … Cardiff involved his audience to the point that they stopped being an audience … His between song antics and personable approach made it also a comedy show, as Cardiff pulled enough material out of the air to have everyone in Vinyl laughing hysterically."
Lynn Saxberg of the Ottawa Citizen has said that "his folky melodies and soft vocals are as warm and soothing as a cup of hot chocolate. Like Paul Simon, Van Morrison and John Mayer, he finds a balance between heartache and joy."
Cardiff has also become known for integrating live looping, beatboxing and other non-traditional performance techniques into his live performances. "A storyteller at heart, Cardiff is renowned for his acoustic guitar-playing and soft voice, as well as the ingenious use of a digital looping pedal he performs with, which he uses to layer guitar and vocal effects over top of each other," Nick Roy noted in the Queen's Journal.
In 2010, Cardiff and Leggett re-recorded Cardiff’s song Barney and Miriam, a tribute to the Mordecai Richler novel Barney’s Version that had previously been released on Ginger’s on Barrington Street with Rose Cousins in 2003, during sessions for the album Floods and Fires. The song was featured on the soundtrack for the Canadian comedy-drama Barney’s Version.
More recently, Cardiff’s work was featured in the soundtrack for an independent Canadian film that was named Audience Choice Best Feature at the Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival in September 2012. Cardiff teamed up with Leggett once again to compose the soundtrack for In Return, a dark romantic comedy written and directed by Chris Dymond. The film features original compositions by Cardiff and Leggett, Cardiff’s songs from Floods & Fires, and songs by Ontario bands The Famly and Faraway Neighbours.
- Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2 (2013)
- Floods & Fires (2011)
- Songs for Lucy (2010 – Live)
- Mothers and Daughters (2010)
- Kissing Songs (Mistletoe) (2009)
- Easter Eggs (2007 – Live)
- Goodnight (Go Home) (2007)
- Auberge Blacksheep (2006)
- Bombshelter Livingroom w/ Les Cooper (2005 – Live)
- Fistful of Flowers (2005)
- Soda (2003)
- Ginger’s on Barrington Street w/ Rose Cousins (2003 – Live)
- Happy (2001)
- Live at the Boehmer Box Company (2000 – Live)
- Great American White Trash Novel (1997)
- Judy Garland (You’re Never Home....) (1997)
- Craig Cardiff talks to CTV Kitchener about his new album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2
- Craig Cardiff gives Shaw TV Medicine Hat a preview of his new double album
- Craig Cardiff performs Safe Here with former governor general Michaëlle Jean as part of the Juno Pianos project
- Craig Cardiff presents Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House at TEDxUWO
- Richard Carson, 'Craig Cardiff - CD Release' as featured in Hugh's Room, January 2011, (accessed, December 27, 2014)
- "Arnprior at the Junos" Arnprior Chronicle-Guide 29 March 2012
- Vrbanac, Bob "Singing it out loud" Waterloo Chronicle 17 December 2013
- Saxberg, Lynn "Craig Cardiff: Floods, fires, and a high school choir" Ottawa Citizen 6 March 2012
- Listing of the Judy Gardland (You're Never Home) album on Bandcamp.com, (accessed December 27, 2014).
- Listing of the Judy Garland (You're Never Home) album on allmusic.com, (accessed December 27, 2014).
- Shapiro, Shane "Craig Cardiff" View Magazine 18 October 2007
- Schneider, Jason "Craig Cardiff Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Parts 1 & 2" Exclaim 18 November 2013
- Schneider, Jason "Craig Cardiff Explains 'Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise)'" Exclaim 22 November 2013
- "Singer Craig Cardiff appeals to the lost to hang on" Ottawa Life Magazine 13 January 2014
- Roberts, Sierra "The Cadre Chats With: Craig Cardiff" The Cadre 1 November 2013
- Cooke, Stephen "Now Hear This: Cardiff gives Maritimes a sneak preview" The Chronicle Herald 30 October 2013
- Cooper, Claire "Craig Cardiff" BeatRoute Alberta 4 November 2013
- Hinks, Aaron "Indie artist Craig Cardiff plays the Nordic Centre" Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune 10 November 2011
- "Juno-nominated Cardiff visiting Joe's" Comox Valley Record 8 November 2012
- Sheffield, Meghan "Cardiff goes green with technology" The Journal 9 October 2007
- "Singing about life's last call" Ottawa Citizen 29 November 2007
- Schultz, Bethany "The Advocate Presents: Craig Cardiff" The Brant Advocate 31 December 2011
- Sparacino, Bianca "Cardiff’s sound evokes comfort, connects to fans" The Gazette 27 October 2010
- "Craig Cardiff Goes Green With New Album" Chart Attack 26 September 2007
- Seewalt, Lindsay "Craig Cardiff brings 'Book of Truths' to Legacy" Cochrane Eagle 7 November 2013
- "Confrontational Craig Cardiff returns" Queen's Journal 10 March 2006
- Schneider, Jason "Craig Cardiff Man of the People" Exclaim! December 2013
- Cramer, Brandi "Musician's work helps album land Juno nod" North Bay Nugget 1 March 2012
- Reid, Rob "A sense of community in her music" Waterloo Region Record 30 April 2012
- Weaver, Taylor "Juno Nominee to play show in High River" High River Times 12 November 2013
- Dixon, Guy "Tuning his Internet presence" Globe and Mail 17 January 2007
- Ladik, Sarah "Hay Days showcases talent" The Hub 24 June 2013
- Pelley, Lauren "Innovative Craig Cardiff will perform anywhere" The Gazette 12 November 2009
- "Juno nominee Craig Cardiff to perform on the Island Princess" Orillia Packet and Times 31 July 2013
- Doyle, Josh "Sitting on stage with Craig Cardiff" The Ontarion 8 April 2010
- Knapp, Bethany "A conversation with Craig Cardiff" The Journal 11 February 2014
- Fagan, Ashley "Singer gives new meaning to the term 'home theatre'" Capital Arts Online 2005
- Whitehouse, Simon "Craig Cardiff speaks softly but carries a big musical presence" Northern News Service 20 June 2013
- Greenway, Trevor "The National, Foster the People join Lorde on Ottawa Folkfest line up" Metro News 14 May 2014
- Fantoni, Beatrice "Juno-nominated Craig Cardiff performs to help med students' African aid efforts" Windsor Star 20 March 2012
- Logan [ http://www.thewalleye.ca/lu-students-team-up-with-juno-nominated-artist-craig-cardiff-to-raise-funds-for-suicide-awareness-prevention/ "LU Students Team Up with Juno-nominated Artist, Craig Cardiff, to Raise Funds for Suicide Awareness & Prevention"] The Walleye 22 February 2013
- Chung, Lindsay "Discovering the Magic of Music: Ottawa Elementary Students Write a Song about Safety, Community, and Social Justice" ETFO Voice 14 March 2013
- Mahoney, Tara "Cardiff fixes everything at Huguette Labelle Hall" The Fulcrum 6 March 2014
- "Singer strives for truth" Nanaimo News Bulletin 1 April 2014
- Dempsey, Jessica "Special performance in Tabaret by Craig Cardiff, Michaëlle Jean and Nick Roy" Gazette 28 March 2012
- Gray, Mackenzie "Craig Cardiff to host workshop and perform at Tabaret" The Fulcrum 24 February 2013
- Hoshkiw, Drew "It's all about the interaction for Craig Cardiff" Rocky Mountain Outlook 22 November 2012
- Wagner, Vit "With his fans, who needs an agent?" Toronto Star 11 January 2007
- Roy, Nick "'Stories are anchors in the brain's ocean that the boats of songs tether to'" The Journal 1 October 2010