With a catalogue now well into double digits and a national fan base that is surely the envy of his singer-songwriter peers, Ottawa's Craig Cardiff has been the model of how to be a successful independent Canadian musician. However, with his new double album, Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Parts 1 & 2, he seems better poised than ever to break into the mainstream, having recorded with a full band for the first time.
Cardiff credits his trusted producers Ben Leggett and Andre Wahl for pushing him to take this next step, and the results vary from rousing Mumford & Sons-like singalongs such as "Head Vs. Heart" to tracks featuring stellar lead guitar work from Toronto's James Robertson that recall Nick Drake's collaborations with Richard Thompson.
"Ben and Andre really pushed me," Cardiff tells Exclaim! "They said, 'We'll bring a band in and track everything live off the floor.' It was completely out of my comfort zone. There were moments when it was amazing. I haven't had the experience of playing in bands, so I had a glimpse of what only five people playing together and locked in could make happen."
Cardiff goes on to say that the bittersweet themes throughout the album largely stem from what's become a ritual at his shows of people getting to share their stories anonymously in what he calls his "Book of Truths."
"I feel a lot of these songs all started with getting one particular note from an audience member," Cardiff says. "This person had written about having a terrible year and wanting to take their own life. Just hard stuff. At the end of the night I wrote a note back to them and later posted it online. A bunch of other people responded to it and I feel like that idea carried over — as hard as it is to stay one more day, just don't make any big decisions tonight. Wait until tomorrow morning. That kept coming up [in my writing], being so inside of your head that it's all thinking and no feeling."
Love Is Louder's second disc presents most of the same songs in more familiar sparse arrangements, something that will keep his fan base appeased. Despite his growing notoriety — Cardiff's previous album Floods and Fires earned a Juno nomination and briefly landed in the SoundScan Top 10 — he says he doesn't have any immediate plans to change his business model. He already has a slew of shows booked into next spring.
"I have friends and acquaintances who work at labels now, and they're really cool people," Cardiff explains. "But I'm making art and running a small business that's working. I don't know if it needs to be anything bigger. All of my problems are really good ones right now, and I feel like there's all these songs I have to write."
You can see Cardiff's long list of tour dates here, and the self-released Love Is Louder (Than All This Noise) Parts 1 & 2 is out now.