Singer strives for truth

Craig Cardiff tries to turn a roomful of strangers into a group by the end of his performances by circulating a notebook for people to write down their emotions. He performs at SimonHolt restaurant on Saturday (April 5). - KATHY ROUSSEL Photo
Craig Cardiff tries to turn a roomful of strangers into a group by the end of his performances by circulating a notebook for people to write down their emotions. He performs at SimonHolt restaurant on Saturday (April 5).
— image credit: KATHY ROUSSEL Photo

When Juno Award-nominated singer/songwriter Craig Cardiff steps onto the stage he has one goal.

“Turn a room full of strangers into a group,” Cardiff said. “Whether the device is comedy or song or whatever else that is happening at any given show it’s that everybody leaves a bit more open.”

One of the ways the Waterloo, Ont., native achieves this is by passing around a notebook called The Book of Truths. Audience members are then asked to write down their emotions at the time and then return the notebook to Cardiff.

“I feel lucky that I’ve been able to travel to all these neat places ... and I’ll meet people with the most amazing stories and there is no way of capturing it. So this is sort of a tongue-in-cheek way of saying ‘let’s get over all the banter and get to the meat of it. Tell me something about you that is something true and honest,’” Cardiff said. “That’s where the idea started and it has sort of taken a life of its own. There are over a hundred books now.”

Cardiff will be at SimonHolt restaurant Saturday (April 5), 8:30 p.m., as part of a series of shows on Vancouver Island.

“I am excited to come back,” Cardiff said. “I’ve only visited the Island a few times. I feel lucky to come back and continue connecting with audiences there.”

The Book of Truths, which could be passed around at the Nanaimo show, doesn’t always make an appearance.

“I just don’t want it to become a gimmick. That’s part of the reason why I try to avoid it at every show,” Cardiff said.

Since he began his musical career more than 15 years ago, he has released 16 albums. His most recent record, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Part 1 & 2, was released in November.

Two songs on the album, Memos Pt. 1 and Memos Pt. 2, were written in response to a deeply moving entry Cardiff read in The Book of Truths.

“It’s the idea of writing a letter to them and saying that things are going to be OK,” Cardiff said.

In 2011, Cardiff was a participant at the inaugural TEDxUWO at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. His talk was called Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House and touched on the ideas of success and abandoning dreams because of fear.

“The whole concept was talking about success and innovation … I would meet so many people during shows and tours who would confide in what they really wanted to be doing. ‘I would much rather be doing this’ or ‘I gave up music because my parents told me it wasn’t a good idea’ or what have you and then they would have all these explanations as to why it wouldn’t work,” Cardiff said. “I just connected those ideas of understanding the importance of trying something and not making decisions that are fear-based.”

In 2012, Cardiff’s album Floods and Fires received a Juno nomination for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo. Leading up to the Juno Award ceremonies that year in Ottawa, Cardiff performed alongside former governor general Michaëlle Jean and pianist Nick Roy at the University of Ottawa as part of the Juno Week celebrations. They sang Cardiff’s song Safe Here, with Jean singing her parts in French.

“I ended up recording little bits of the song for her as YouTube links and then we just shared them back and forth and then when we got together she had translated them,” Cardiff said. “It was pretty sweet. She’s a very lovely person and I feel lucky that that happened.”

More information on Craig Cardiff can be found at www.craigcardiff.com.

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