Empathetic and Hilarious, an Interview with Singer-Songwriter John Craigie

Photo ©Seattleite

Coined as “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg with a vagabond troubadour edge,” by The Stranger, John Craigie will be bringing his rustic sound to Ashland on December 10th. Known for his humor and realistic storytelling, John Craigie’s style brings an audience together with a mixture of deep throated laughter and fullhearted empathy. His record, No Rain No Rose carries influences from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and other well-known folk artists such as Doc Watson and Woody Guthrie.

The Siskiyou caught up with John Craigie as he made his way up the west coast to his Thanksgiving destination. Through the background noise of I-5, Craigie discussed his album No Rain, No Rose and what inspired the choice to leave studio dialogue in between the tracks.

“The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were this young sort of 70s hippie Bluegrass band/rock band and they wanted to have an album where they invited all these legends to come play with them, like Doc Watson and Bill Monroe. So that’s what they did, and that record has that sort of live, collaborative feel that No Rain, No Rose has, and because they have all these people in the studio that aren’t usually in bands together there’s a lot more chatter.” Craigie’s sound engineer left the tape running in the studio so there was a lot of dialogue to work with. “I liked them,” Craigie stated, “I knew it would be sort of charming or I hoped it would be charming [laughs].”

Continuing in the same vein, Craigie has released two live albums to date. These fully incorporate his hilarious and quick wit while showcasing his beautiful singing voice. Recorded in Portland, OR., Opening for Steinbeck begins with the song Dissect the Bird, a piece that Craigie opens most of his shows with. Part way through the song he sings, “I don’t trust a musician who’s always complaining,” which Craigie explained was in reference to the lack of gratitude some musicians carry.

“I find that there are three kinds of musicians. There’s the kind that plays music but has no interest in the stage or the business of it. They’re the ones who just want to hang out and play music. [The second kind] are what I like to think are my contemporaries. We were born for it and we surrender to it and we’re there for the highs and lows, and it’s not about how well you’re doing, it’s about just the practice and being on the path. I find that the third type of musician to be problematic. It’s not that hard to have a career in music nowadays, you can just go on the internet or Spotify, which is great, but I find a lot of people who aren’t that dedicated can get into it, and then you find these people who really only want to do it if it’s looking good and your stuff is selling well or whatever and it’s not really from their true selves or true heart. So [that line] was a way of me quantifying that in a story versus going too deep into it, but the complainer is when we start to see someone’s lack of gratitude.”

Craigie’s natural ability to weave humor and real-life stories together is refreshing and almost magical. The performer explained that it wasn’t something he was always able to do, stating, “I think as a child I was always the storyteller and I don’t know if I was funny, but I was trying to be funny.” He went on to explain that it took a few years for him to be comfortable on stage which then enabled him to grow confidently into his comedic shoes.

The Ashland community will be wiping tears of laughter from their eyes next week at Craigie’s show with the Ashland Folk Collective. This will be his fourth show with the AFC and he’ll be supported by the incredibly talented Nicki Bluhm. Craigie shared his excitement about Bluhm sharing her talents by saying, “I’m really excited. [Nikki Bluhm] will be solo, most people will have seen her with her band which is amazing, but I’m really excited to showcase her solo style.”

Craigie will be the last show in the AFC’s 2019 season, wrapping an amazing year of live shows. The Siskiyou asked if Craigie had any lessons he would be bringing into the near year to which he replied, “I’ve been really aware of the challenges that 2020 will bring as far as the election and how that’s always a really messy time for humanity. As liberal as I am, I think it’s really important for me to bring people together and try to find a way of expressing my displeasure with the current situation while also making sure that it doesn’t divide us more. I think that empathy is the true secret for all of us coming together, and I think if we can see the pain in each other, then that helps a lot.”

Catch John Craigie and Nicki Bluhm on Tuesday December 10th at the Unitarian Church at 7pm. Click here to buy tickets, they’re going fast!

Leave a Reply