For the past 20 years, Canadian folk singer-songwriter Craig Cardiff has spread love, hope and joy to anyone who’ll grant him the opportunity. His large discography — with a new release almost every year since 1997 — has generated a multitude of live, studio and collaborated hits recorded in different styles and disturbed on diverse platforms.
Attending a live Craig Cardiff show resembles a relaxing catch up and jam session with an old friend. Warmth radiated throughout the dimly lit Musiikki Café last Friday as a scattered crowd, some even sitting on the stage, was suspended by every word Cardiff sang.
The audience was transported to an atmosphere where kindness and hospitality were no strangers. Cardiff, as inviting as ever, sat casually cross-legged on the eye level of his audience and let his changeable voice, ranging from elated to rugged and melancholic, fill the room.
Cardiff has been known to pass around a notebook during his shows, called the ‘Book of Truths’ and ask audience members to share a truthful story about themselves. These entries inspired much of Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2, an album he performed multiple songs from. The themes throughout these difficult but captivating tales inspired a song I particularly enjoyed live, ‘Father Daughter Dance.’
“A guy came up to me after the show and said he hated men folk singers like me…but for some reason this song was the only one he’s ever cried to … he doesn’t even have a daughter but he was crying,” Cardiff said, introducing the track.
Cardiff’s music exposes mindful listeners to how relentless this journey of life can be. The singer creates a safe space within the intimacy of his live shows, where the audience is able to relate to the awkward, confusing and rattling moments we all undergo when we chose to be vulnerable.
During the show, Cardiff playfully chatted with the crowd, even picking a nearby couple to ask relationship questions. Once he had enough information and the laughter from the audience had died down, he improvised a song about the couple. The song incorporated moments of their relationship where the love was as strong as it could be, but also took a humorous spin by discussing their issues in a lightened way. It was sweet, kind and amusing to listen to.
One audience member expressed his love for music, and immediately was included in a couple of songs, to perform alongside Cardiff. There was no embarrassment, or judgment at Cardiff’s show, just a mutual appreciation along with the feelings of love.
The word ‘captivating’ doesn’t even do Cardiff justice. I experienced an onslaught of emotions, prompted by the music as the crowd focused on Cardiff and the real life situations he belted out. Such attention and calmness was in itself extremely rare, but each song carried us through an adventure that encouraged empathy and compassion for what so many of us go through each day.
Notably, Cardiff ended with ‘Love is Louder (Than All This Noise)’. Though it seems like a simple song, one that gives an overview of the feelings we have when we are in love, the song conjured various memories of different types of love.
Cardiff strives to ensure every live performance is unique, affectionate and holds its own course. Though Cardiff had done a workshop earlier that day at an elementary school before his early Musiikki show, to only go to Clark Hall Pub directly after, nobody ever felt rushed.
I caught up with Cardiff after the show, to ask about his music and performance.
“The audience had a chaos and loveliness to it,” he said of his Musiikki show. “That’s what I get excited about, when I don’t know where the show is going to go.”
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