Portland’s John Craigie Interviewed

We talk with John Craigie

John Craigie – Photo: LTTL

John Craigie

Backstage at the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2024

By Jim Jacob

By Rob Dickens

Born and raised in Los Angeles, John Craigie was attracted to the vibrant Portland music scene. A dry humour and wit, he’s been prolific and hard-working and is on his first Australian with Canadian Cat Clyde.

Latest album – John Craigie ‘Pagan Church’

Listening Through The Lens: John, you were born and raised in LA, but you moved to Portland?

John Craigie: Yes that’s true

LTTL: When did you move there and why?

JC: Ten years ago I moved there. I think the music scene was very exciting and the nature is very beautiful out there. It’s a bit more affordable than California but it’s still got that West Coast energy. I thought about maybe moving to Austin or New Orleans, I love those towns but it’s hard if you’re from the West Coast.

LTTL: Plus, places like Austin and Nashville are going through the roof in terms of expansion and construction and it’s becoming less affordable for musicians. It’s changed the landscape of those great music cities. I counted you have released nine albums, is that about right?

JC: Yeah, yeah I think so.

LTTL: That’s quite prolific.

JC: Thank you.

LTTL: You’ve been described as having a do-it-yourself work ethic. Is that fair?

JC: I think that’s true, yeah. I think most musicians these days kind of have some of that and for a long time I really was just driving around playing in coffee shops and bars, so I cultivated a lot of that independent-musician thing. Now it’s not quite as loose and fancy-free, but I think every musician still has to work at it, you know the days of just a rock star asleep in the back of a limo, I think, are done with. I think you’ve gotta be on it.

LTTL: I read that you’ve been described as the love child of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg. Who’s Mitch Hedberg?

JC: Yeah, he’s a comedian who has passed away but he was very, very dry. You know Steven Wright has a similar style to that one-liner kind, like a bit absurd and very funny.

LTTL: Prine of course had a very wicked sense of humour too.

JC: Yeah.

LTTL: The new album Pagan Church features TK and the Holy Know-Nothings. I had the pleasure of seeing them in Bristol last. They arrived a bit late for a live radio show. The host of that show left the stage while they set up in silence in front of a large audience, so there was no filler and a lot of pressure on the band to get going. Once they did start, they just blew the place apart.

JC: I’ve known those guys for a long time, all of the members are Portland people that I have worked with in various, different projects

LTTL: I don’t like to use the word jam band, but they had a really cool groove going.

JC: Yeah, they are some of the best musicians. It was amazing to get them all together.

LTTL: They played on all the songs?

JC: Yes, I wrote the songs and I brought them to the band and then, I think, they helped arrange musically what you’re hearing on the record.

LTTL: You did a Led Zeppelin cover album? I’m not familiar with it, but why Led Zeppelin?

JC: You know, it was a long time ago. I was doing back then a lot of coffee shop gigs and a lot of campfires after the shows. By campfires, it could mean anything – in a living room with a bunch of friends and so I was doing a lot more covers back then. I think I had learned something like “Going to California” and I learned a couple of others – “Immigrant Song” maybe. I really liked them when you stripped them down.

LTTL: We’ll go back and check them out. You are great storyteller and we are looking forward to catching your set tomorrow.

JC: Thank you!

LTTL: So this is your first tour tour of Australia and you’ve been paired with Cat Clyde who we saw today at the ‘Women Out Loud’ session. Great songwriting and amazingly expressive. How did that pairing work out, common promoter or manager?

JC: Yeah When Love Police were putting this tour together, they asked me about Cat. I’m a big fan and now I get to hear her every night. I’m very lucky, you know.

LTTL: Well we hope you have a great tour, John. It’s a pleasure to have you here and I think your music is going to go down extremely well. Enjoy your time in Australia.

JC: Thank you

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More Music Adventures Await!

We talk with John Craigie

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Author: Rob Dickens

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