A few years back, Craig Cardiff noticed he was only going through the motions at his shows.
The folk musician from Waterloo, Ontario says he was on autopilot. He thought to himself, ‘This isn’t how it should be going.’ He says no one should be on autopilot, and a musician performing live, especially, should be present.
So Cardiff devised a conduit to his audience — he started handing out a notebook at shows and invited audience members to write down something true. A story or confession, a hope or a secret. “It’s such a neat, easy way to get people to be honest, to get them to share.”
Cardiff says it isn’t fair — he has a microphone and a stage, it’s easy for him to open his heart and share his emotions with the audience. In passing around a blank book, Cardiff gave people a chance to open up, too. “I want other people to have a chance to share.”
He says it has given him a deeper connection with his audience. Cardiff calls the blank notebook the Book of Truths. He’s been passing it around for about four and a half years now. He’ll have one when he’s in the Yukon this weekend.
In 2013, he released Love is Louder (than all this noise), an album in reaction to the things people left behind in the Book of Truths. Last time he came to the Yukon he played a daytime concert in Watson Lake. He was playing songs that hadn’t yet been recorded, but later ended up on Love is Louder.
This time, he’s still touring that album, and he starts his Yukon run in Watson Lake again… this time in the evening.
That’s on Thursday night. On Friday, he’ll play in Dawson City. On Saturday, it’s down to a private concert somewhere on the Dezadeash River. He says he got invited to play by a couple who divide their time between Ontario and the Yukon. Cardiff says they’re trying to start a festival, but he wouldn’t say who they are, or give any more details on that concert; he didn’t know if he was supposed to. He’s a very polite question dodger.
On Sunday, he’s playing a house concert in Whitehorse. Again, no details. He just said it’s not part of Home Routes.
It seems Cardiff can’t shake the mystique of the house concert. “I’ve been touring doing house concerts for 15 years now. There’s something special about that; it brings you right to the audience.”
Where are you playing in Whitehorse? “Have you ever been to a house concert?”
I have. I tell him about my experience and we start talking about gentifrication on Agricola Street in Halifax. I forget my line of questioning.
You said you want to give people a chance to share, because it’s not fair that you have a stage and the audience doesn’t. Do you think people like to share? He does. “I enjoy shows where there’s an element of ‘what’s next?’.”
He says when you let the audience sing, or pick the next song, you can’t control what happens next. It adds an unknown element to the show.
Cardiff says letting people write secrets in his books reveals a layer to reality. “You can look around and think, ‘we know each other’, but then you read what other people wrote in the book and you realize you don’t know anyone how you thought you did.”
The Book of Truths has taught Cardiff that the only certainty is we can never truly know the people around us.
Craig Cardiff plays the Watson Lake Recreation Centre on Thursday, August 27 at 8 p.m. The next night he’ll be at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) in Dawson City.
Both shows are at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10 in advance, or $20 at the door. Tickets can be ordered online at craigcardiff.com.