Singer John Craigie spins his yarns in his songs and on the stage
Folk and Americana artist John Craigie is looking forward to opening for singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter on March 5, at Park City Live.
“We put together a string of shows that includes a stop in Park City,” Craigie said. “I love Park City and can’t wait to get back.”
While Craigie enjoys his special-guest spot with Frankenreiter, he also looks forward to the release of his new live album “Opening for Steinbeck,” which will be released on March 16.
The album title refers to one of Craigie’s anecdotes he tells during his live gigs.
“I talk about how being a musician is funny because we open for other musicians, and how that doesn’t regularly happen in other art forms,” he said. “People don’t buy ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and then have to read a short story by another author before reading about the Joad family.”
The album title’s other significance is that Craigie is a storyteller himself who cites Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain as influences.
“I feel equally inspired by them as I am by Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell,” he said. “I think most musicians are inspired by artists other than musicians, so the title refers to meshing art forms.”
“Opening for Steinbeck” was recorded in back-to-back shows Craigie played in Portland, Oregon, last year.
“One was recorded in Mississippi Studios and the other at Doug Fir,” he said. “The acoustics sounded similar, and I chose songs that sounded the best of each night.”
Craigie, who is known for his storytelling with both his songwriting and live banter, said releasing a live album gives his fans a full picture of his craft.
“There’s a personal nature that comes into play when I’m performing live,” he said. “ I also like that the live albums are really just me and the guitar. There’s a stripped-down element to the songs. Plus it would be awkward for me to introduce the songs with ‘This next one is about,’ on a studio album.”
Craigie grew up in the 1990s and was surrounded by the punk sound of early Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Green Day, but he also heard the music his older sister liked – Depeche Mode, the Cure and U2.
But when he started playing music on his own, he would refer back to the classic riff-rock of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
That changed in his late teens.
“I was exposed to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, and that’s when I became aware of that music, because in the ‘90s that type of music wasn’t cool,” he said. But Craigie was drawn to that sound.
“I liked it a lot, and found myself relating more to it than I did these massive, big-production rock shows,” he said. “As much as I enjoyed the theater of Pearl Jam and big bands like that, I identified more with the songwriter.”
Craigie, who grew up in L.A., moved to Santa Cruz, California for college and never looked back musically.
“I discovered Arlo Guthrie, Steve Earle, Greg Brown, Todd Snider and Loudon Wainwright III, a lot of great storytellers who were at a whole new level of storytelling,” he said. “That was the game changer, because even before I was a musician, I was a storyteller.”
Craigie was considered the class clown because he wasn’t very “school smart,” he said.
“Part of being the class clown and being the funny guy is to relay information,” he explained. “That became part of my job when I was with a bunch of friends. If someone missed an event they would ask me to tell how it went down, because I had the funnier version of what happened.”
The wry humor of the singers and songwriters he saw in Santa Cruz appealed to Craigie’s sensibilities.
“The rock bands in the 1990s were so serious, and didn’t say much to the audience other than ‘How’s it going L.A.,” the singers like Arlo Guthrie and Greg Brown who had serious songs, would get personal with the audience let us into their world and we would all laugh together,” he said.
Craigie remembered that fact when he started touring on his own.
“I would tour by myself to random places – coffee shops, house concerts, and opening for whoever would have me,” he said. “I felt that and felt the urge to talk with someone about some crazy thing that I saw on the news or experienced before I got to those show. So I would open up, and combine telling stories and playing music, which are two things that I love.”
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