Folk singer John Craigie conveys ‘human experience’
John Craigie is an entertainer in the traditional troubadour vein, weaving comedic yarns among heartfelt songs about troubled relationships and flawed paradises, often finding connections between the two.
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John Craigie is an entertainer in the traditional troubadour vein, weaving comedic yarns among heartfelt songs about troubled relationships (“Let’s Talk This Over, When We’re Sober”) and flawed paradises (“I Am California” and “Coldest Colorado”), often finding connections between the two.
His latest album is “Scarecrow,” released in 2018, which, appropriately enough, was recorded analog and initially released only on vinyl.
The Seattle alt weekly The Stranger dubbed Craigie as “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg,” but he calls himself a “topical songwriter” who was inspired by Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton and Woody Guthrie. Accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica, and singing with a distinct twang in his voice, he fills their shoes nicely.
You can see why famed Hawaii singer-songwriter Jack Johnson took a shine to him. Johnson, too, has a deceptively mellow facade, and his first introduction to Craigie’s music was a bit of a fluke: A friend had given him a Craigie CD, and when Johnson couldn’t get satellite reception in his car, he popped it in for a listen.
Craigie’s music made an impression on Johnson, who invited the Portland, Ore.-based musician to stay at his Hawaii home and later asked Craigie to open for him on major dates in his 2017 and 2018 tours. Johnson has also been known to appear on stage during Craigie’s appearances, including his last Honolulu shows. (Another fan is kung fu cowboy Chuck Norris.)
“The world that I live in is Americana, singer-songwriter, storyteller, where the songs are sit-down and quiet, and I focus a lot on the stories and not on the pop or the party aspect,” Craigie told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2018.
As with many of the most admired folk singers, Craigie’s music is wily and often humorous but also cutting with hidden meanings. For people to listen is the most important thing, he said.
“With a lot of my heroes, it’s just one guy and a guitar,” he noted. “If you’re not listening, it’s not that interesting. … I want people remembering the songs.”
Craigie began playing music around town while attending college in Santa Cruz in his home state of California. When venues told him to spread out his appearances, he went on the road.
“I started driving around, just meeting a lot of people, which is such an amazing experience — just to see these common things, getting stories that are unique but relatable, and that was what I wanted to write about,” Craigie said in 2018.
Ultimately, it’s “the human experience” he seeks to convey in his music and stories.
“I always like to say that the purpose of music isn’t necessarily to make you feel better, but to make you feel like you’re not alone. That’s always my main intention.”