Winter Park / Live Music: Playing the music of real life: Meaningful, heartfelt and a bit funny
February 29, 2008
If you like a little humor mixed in with your music, then the next performance by John Craigie is for you. Craigie rolls into town from California for two concerts this weekend in Winter Park.
Craigie, who plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and a little ukulele; first became interested in music at a young age, while growing up in Los Angeles, Calif. He was listening to a lot of grunge.
“It was the early ’90s and Southern California was rich with the sounds of that era,” he said. But deep down, he said, he “knew it was missing something.”
At 16, he picked up his first guitar and basically taught himself how to play, although he argues nobody truly teaches themselves to play.
“No one ever truly goes at it alone,” he said.
He said he really just hung out with other guitar players and swapped chords with them. He also attributes his skill to watching a lot of performers play and studying, not only their sound, but their hands.
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In the Craigie family, he explained, there had never been a singer or a musician of any kind.
“So, it just wasn’t a reality,” he said. He always wanted to be an entertainer and that before he picked up the guitar he “thought of myself in other forms of entertainment” (as maybe a stand-up comedian or fiction writer).
When he picked up the guitar, it took him “a long, long time to get any good. It was all from scratch, but as soon as I got into it, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
While he was pursuing a degree in mathematics at the University of California at Santa Cruz, he met up with other musicians. The environment nurtured his passion for music and he played at open mic opportunities and at several small gigs, and focused on the craft of writing songs.
“College is a great place to bounce your songs off other people and see what works and what doesn’t,” he said of the experience.
All his hard work has paid off, playing what he said is “essentially modern American folk” throughout Colorado and the United States. But, he said, categorizing his music in that genre can be somewhat misleading.
“When people hear the term ‘folk,’ they sometimes think of old-fashioned music like ‘Oh Susannah,’ and ‘Home on the Range.’ But the modern folk singer is writing songs that work in similar ways as those old songs but for these modern times,” he said.
He said his music sounds “like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Mitch Hedburg passing around a bottle of wine.” At his shows, he does several original compositions and some of what he considers the best songs from the ’60s and ’70s.
“I like to sing about relationships, of course, but I try to focus on the universal aspects of them rather than getting too personal,” he said. “I feel people can relate to that more. I also do a little bit of political stuff, and other social commentary.” Influences include John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Greg Brown.
Craigie played the Derailer about three years ago and looks forward to an encore performance. At the time, he was the guitarist and singer jam band “Pond Rock.”
“We had such a great time there,” he said. “We played on a Saturday and someone in the audience liked us so much that they wanted us to play again on Sunday.” The second show wasn’t in the budget for the Derailer, so the audience member pulled together funds and paid to have the band play again.
Being from Southern California, the musician said “these winter trips are always a treat for me.” He hopes audiences have a good time at his shows, in which he tries to mix in a little humor with his music. He said there are a lot of singer/songwriters out there and that he’s heard that some people get tired of all the seriousness.
“I believe you can have a show that’s meaningful, heartfelt, and also a bit funny all at the same time,” he said. “I mean, that’s real life.”