Craig Cardiff's 15-plus year career has been a textbook study in how to do everything right in building a grassroots audience. Working completely independently, the Ottawa-based singer-songwriter has crisscrossed the nation countless times, playing everywhere from living rooms to theatres, converting diehard followers every step of the way with a heart-on-sleeve approach that now seems eerily prescient in this Age of Mumford. Cardiff's last album, Floods & Fires, was a major breakthrough, earning a Juno nomination and even landing in the SoundScan Top 10 for a week.
That momentum is palpable on Love Is Louder, a two-disc set that pairs Cardiff with a full band for the first time on one half, while maintaining his troubadour identity on the other. From rousing sing-along opener "Head vs Heart," it's a wonder why it's taken Cardiff this long to expand his sound. Then again, the assembled players, led by guitarist James Robertson, are the perfect match for Cardiff's wide dynamic range, pushing him to new heights but knowing when to allow the fragile qualities of Cardiff's best performances here shine through, as on "Recovering."
That Nick Drake-esque side of Cardiff is given plenty of space on Love Is Louder's second disc, where many of the same songs are presented again with largely piano and string backing. In some ways, it's too much of a good thing, but Cardiff can't be faulted for going the extra mile for his audience. It's what's gotten him to this point, and is sure to carry him further with this effort that puts him solidly in the upper echelon of Canadian folk artists. (self-released, www.craigcardiff.com)
Had you wanted to do a half-acoustic/half-electric double album for some time?
No, it came from producers Ben [Leggett] and Andre [Wahl]. Their position was, "You're not allowed to make another record like the ones you've made." The idea became not pigeonholing a song but giving it two faces. It's almost like covering yourself in a way.
What's made your audience so devoted to you?
I feel like there's a lot of space for them in the show and in the process, whether it's booking the shows or funding the albums. People want to reach out. It was interesting doing that ten years ago because there just weren't venues that were interested. But if there are 50 people open to organizing something, you should go play there. (Independent)