Straight from the heart

Craig Cardiff brings his eclectic, earthy style and humble demeanor to the Wolfe Island Grill

Craig Cardiff, who plays the Wolfe Island Grill on Friday, brightens any venue with his combination of songs and storytelling.
Craig Cardiff, who plays the Wolfe Island Grill on Friday, brightens any venue with his combination of songs and storytelling.
Supplied photo by jaime vedres

An impressive list of venues played, 11 studio albums and a huge fan base are statistics countless musicians would give anything to have attributed to them. Waterloo-born singer-songwriter Craig Cardiff, on the other hand, just wants your ears.

Known for his soft vocals, stunning guitar loops and down-to-earth nature, Cardiff has also been spotlighted for his unusual policy toward the distribution of music. Motivated by promoting awareness of his work rather than monetary gain, Cardiff took some time to chat prior of his upcoming show at the Wolfe Island Grill on Friday.

Looking forward to his gig in Kingston, Cardiff discussed the enjoyment he gets out of performing for smaller groups.

“The past year has been the year of touring venues, bars and theatres. It can get a little intense,” he said. “It’s exciting for me in the summertime to just not work in that same world. My time in camps, churches, basements, prisons and living rooms is a very special and rewarding part of what I do.”

An artist who prides much of his success on his fans and their word-of-mouth method of spreading his musical philosophy, Cardiff cherishes the importance of his audience.

“I think the cornerstone of my ability to make a living as an artist is in my fans spreading the word,” he said. “It’s funny to me that there’s this whole marketing movement of professionals and gurus suddenly talking about the power of the fan. It seems like such an obvious connection to me.” It’s evident Cardiff, who lives outside of Ottawa, holds a special place in his heart for the venues to which he travels and the people he plays for.

“I feel lucky to be able to do what I do and I feel fortunate that I’m able to do what I do,” he said. “It’s often the setting of the audience that excites me. I’m never let down by those around me when I’m performing.”

Cardiff has played Kingston before, but Friday will be his first time playing at Wolfe Island. “I’m excited to be performing because the place is such a beautiful spot,” he said. “The venue is brilliant. It’s a little gem of a place among Kingston’s many wonderful venues. It’ll be neat to do this show and get out of the university radius and check out the island.”

A seasoned traveler, Cardiff values the opportunity he’s had to see so much of the continent.

“What I’ve enjoyed about my work is being able to travel and visit other parts of Canada and the U.S.,” he said. “There are many big cities but we’re a continent of smaller communities that are filled with very interesting stories.”

Set to release two separate projects in the upcoming months, Cardiff sounds relaxed about his work. His most recent release is 2007’s Goodnight (Go Home). A defining piece in his career, he worked closely with the help of producer Les Cooper (Jill Barber, Andy Stochansky) and musician Paul Matthew (Hidden Cameras) throughout its creation. His new album Mothers and Daughters will be an adventure for Cardiff—a collection of covers of his favourite female artists such as Sinead O’Connor and The Indigo Girls.

The other new release, Floods and Fires, will be filled entirely with new material. “What’s been exciting for me is to slow things down and let the newer songs grow into themselves,” he said. “I’ve learned that sometimes the songs need time and it’s okay to wait. In doing that it’s just been phenomenal. Obviously I’m proud of each song and think it’s great but I really feel that the writing on the new songs is a different level for me.”

The easygoing singer prefers touring to recording in order to feel connected to his fans.

“I find recording in the end fairly meaningless without the connection to the people,” Cardiff said. “Recording and really capturing and then sharing that joy and emotion involved in it, that’s what music is to me.” In a sea of people dominated and driven by financial interests and logical tedious planning, Cardiff has a simple and refreshing take on the world and on his craft.

“If I had to choose one, head or heart, I’d definitely choose heart.” 

Craig Cardiff plays The Island Grill at Wolfe Island Friday, Sept. 18th at 7p.m. and 10p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door and can be purchased from

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