Craig Cardiff is the people’s singer-songwriter

With a new best-of album to be released this month, contemporary folk musician performs at Market Hall in Peterborough on November 11

Canadian singer-songwriter Craig Cardiff performs an intimate show at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre in Peterborough on November 11, 2018. (Publicity photo)
Canadian singer-songwriter Craig Cardiff performs an intimate show at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre in Peterborough on November 11, 2018. (Publicity photo)

After a 20-year career and with 18 albums under his belt, it was only a matter of time before Juno-nominated musician Craig Cardiff released a best-of collection.

This is Craig Cardiff: Collected Works is the latest record from the prolific contemporary folk singer-songwriter, who returns to Market Hall Performing Arts Centre (140 Charlotte St., Peterborough, 705-749-1146) on Sunday, November 11th.

Available later this month, the new album features a selection of songs from past records, along with two new songs, and will be available digitally, on CD, and on limited edition vinyl.

The 42-year-old Cardiff can be described as the people’s singer-songwriter, having built a devoted grassroots following over his career by performing at almost every venue imaginable, from living rooms to camps to prisons to churches to halls. He essentially performs wherever his fans want to see him.

“If there’s 50 people, or whatever, who are open to organizing something, you should go play there,” he says in an 2013 interview with Jason Schneider of Exclaim. “It’s about where the people are.”

Because of his preference for performing off the beaten track, usually in small and intimate venues, Cardiff has been called an “advocate of alternate venue touring”.

VIDEO: “To Be Safe, Loved & Home” – Craig Cardiff

“Does it make sense financially?” he wonders in a 2013 interview with Sarah Ladik of The Hub. “Not always. But it’s about the connections you form with different people, the friends of friends who help you out.”

Cardiff was born in Waterloo and began performing there as a teenager in high school bands and at local coffeehouses. He continued to perform while studying at the University of Waterloo, where he also worked as a booking agent at Federation Hall, the then student-run nighclub and hall. After graduating, he moved to the Ottawa area where he eventually bought an old farmhouse in Arnprior, which now also serves as his home recording studio.

In 1997, he released his debut studio album Judy Garland (You’re Never Home), followed by Great American White Trash Novel (1997), Happy (2001), Soda (2003), Fistful of Flowers (2005), Auberge Blacksheep (2006), Goodnight (Go Home) (2007), Kissing Songs (Mistletoe) (2009), Mothers and Daughters (2010), Floods & Fires (2011), Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2 (2013), Novemberish (Songs From The Rain) (2017), and Upstream Fishing All The Words, He Is: Birthday Cards For Bob Dylan (2018).

VIDEO: “Desolation Row” – Bob Dylan, performed by Craig Cardiff

He’s also released five live albums: Live at the Boehmer Box Company (2000), Ginger’s on Barrington Street w/ Rose Cousins (2003), Bombshelter Livingroom w/ Les Cooper (2005), Easter Eggs (2007), and Songs for Lucy (2010).

It was 2011’s Floods & Fires that garnered Cardiff a Juno nomination in 2012 for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo, although he lost the award to folk icon Bruce Cockburn. The album also earned him a nomination for Contemporary Singer of the Year at the 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Cardiff describes his music as “folk with a dash of sing-along and storytelling”. Blending the musical genres of folk, country, rock, and traditional, his lyrics always tell a story. He’s known his wide vocal range, with his voice often compared to that of early ’70s English singer-songwriter Nick Drake.

VIDEO: “Smallest Wingless” – Craig Cardiff

He often integrates live looping, beatboxing, and other techniques into his live performances, and he’s also known for creating cohesive and emotional performances through his humour and storytelling, and for engaging the audience during the show.

Since 2011, Cardiff has been passing around at his shows a notebook that he calls “The Book of Truths”, where he asks audience members to anonymously contribute a story, a confession, or a secret. The stories range from romance to depression and even a murder confession.

Some of Cardiff’s songs have been inspired by the stories in The Book of Truths, and the themes in his 2013 release Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2 are largely based on the stories, which he says shows how much people have in common.

VIDEO: “Safe Here” – Craig Cardiff

“I feel like everybody’s a little bit broken,” he explains in a 2012 interview with Lindsay Chung of Roots Music Canada. “Everybody has the same capacity and range of terribleness and beautifulness and light.”

No stranger to Peterborough, Cardiff performed last November at the Market Hall in a double bill with Séan McCann, so this is an opportunity to see him all on his own.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 11th. Tickets are $20 in advance ($15 for students) or $25 at the door ($20 students) and are available at the Market Hall Box Office or online at markethall.org.

VIDEO: “When People Go” – Craig Cardiff

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