Interview: John Craigie

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John Craigie, self-described class clown, observational humorist, and folky singer of stories, will release his new album, No Rain, No Rose, on January 27th—a follow-up and sonic contrast to his last studio effort, Working On My Farewell.

The California native relocated to Portland a couple of years ago, after a long stint on the road living the troubadour lifestyle. “I’d been in California forever, I wanted to tour full-time and have no house, and I got to the point where I could do that pretty sustainably,” he explains. “My dear friends The Shook Twins, who played on my new record, had moved to Portland for the scene happening there, and I visited them a lot. It had everything I needed.”

The sound of of No Rain, No Rose (a title that is also a nod to his new hometown), embodies the spirit of community; Portland, a model city of progress made of strong communities that organize over everything from the creation of neighborhood gardens to protesting the carpet change at PDX, has provided a change of scenery that has thoroughly infiltrated Craigie’s new material. “My last album was a classic lonesome troubadour album; when I moved to Portland, I started writing all these songs about community and a different definition of ‘home,’” he explains. “I’m a solo guy, but I started making friends with all these amazing musicians there, and with the exception of Bevin from Trout Steak Revival and Gregory (Alan Isakov), everyone on the album is a Portlander.”

“We recorded inside the house I live in,” adds Craigie of the historic-looking Victorian that graces the album’s cover. “All my housemates were there cooking dinner between takes, you can hear the dog at the end of one take—I live with Niko from Shook Twins and Tyler from Fruition, a Portland band, and they, and then others chimed in and said they wanted to play. We set up in the living room, and people came by when they could and sat in on songs,” he adds. “I’ve done different records with musicians I didn’t know, and ones I did know that weren’t that great, but I was so lucky to have this talented group of people who know me, who are my friends and who were there when I wrote the songs, to work with.”

From grandma groupies, to an astronaut who had to sit in an orbiting spaceship while his friends walked on the moon, to leaving something you love behind to fulfill the need to explore, the subject matter of Craigie’s storytelling runs the gamut. The collaborative nature of the recording process added more instrumentation, more noise, and more flavor; recorded studio banter between songs invites us to become flies on the wall. “When we had all the tracks ready to go, we listened to the whole recording, and I didn’t realize that our engineer had kept the tape rolling through the entirety of the sessions,” he recalls. “I really wanted to let people know how it was recorded, and capture the feeling of everyone coming together.”

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Susan Hubbard

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