By Monica Ng
How Craig came into my life
To be honest, I never heard of Craig Stickland until October, 2019, when the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts announced his name together with Neon Dreams (as opening acts for Tyler Shaw). That evening, all of the artists put on an awesome show and later came out for an amazing meet and greet. I find that meet and greets are the ultimate part of a concert experience – as it’s a chance to make a connection between the music you listen to and the musician(s). Some artists are particularly interactive when it comes to social media as well. From my personal experience, Craig and Neon Dreams take the time to interact with their fans, which makes them really down-to-earth and personable.
Typical me, when my writing bug comes out, I write about everything new that I experience. However, it took me some time to write an Instagram post about Craig’s performance after I first saw him in concert, because I needed time to digest it. During his performance he played mostly rock songs that I couldn’t really relate to, but I was blown away by his last song, Break Every Rule. That song really showcased his powerful and soulful voice.
Craig has this intangible quality to him – a certain vulnerability and old soul wrapped into a rugged yet sexy “stereotypical” rocker (wink, long hair, goatee, t-shirt, black jeans and black leather jacket). Craig left me wanting more. I was so happy when he announced that he had an album in the works.
Release of Starlit Afternoon
Craig just recently launched his album titled, Starlit Afternoon, on February 28, 2020.
I listened to his album the morning it was released. My favourites so far are: Starlit Afternoon, Break Every Rule, Good Love and Stop at Nothing. If I were to take a stab at Craig’s album music style, I would say it’s a mix of alternative rock, with a touch of country, jazz, blues and soul.
Craig was born in Vancouver then moved to Toronto when he was 3 years old. He is currently living in Los Angeles where he continues his modelling and singing career. Craig discovered his passion for music when he was about 16 years old. He picked up his first guitar when he was 16 years old and was the singer in his high school band. Finally, after finding his true passion in life, he released his first EP titled, Leave me to the Wild, which includes songs such as Break Every Rule and Tears in the Rain.
Craig has toured with some amazing Canadian talent. To name a few: Tyler Shaw, Alessia Cara and Matthew Good.
Me: Craig – I am so excited and honoured that you agreed to an interview with me. Thank you for taking the time for me and your fans.
Congratulations! You just released your new album titled, Starlit Afternoon on February 28, 2020. I read that the last song, Good Love, on your album took about five years to write. What part of the process took the longest? And how did you finally “let go” and decide that it is complete?
Craig: The part of the process that took the longest was finding the right production to match each song. When a song is written it can be produced any number of ways, and the experimentation until I was satisfied is what took so long. There’s a gut feeling when you know something is done. You also need to trust your friends and collaborators.
Me: I only recently discovered that you are multi-talented. You are a songwriter, singer, guitar player, piano player, actor and model! Do you have any other interests/talents? Being a musician is quite different from modelling – what would you say was the “turning point” in your life, where you decided to become a musician?
Craig: I decided I wanted to be a musician in high school when there was a band that needed a singer. I auditioned, got the role and was hooked. Recently I’ve been very into designing and making furniture as well. I started a studio furniture company with a close friend called @callusandco.
Me: I love that you are so real. In one your Instagram post’s you mentioned renting out your apartment as an Airbnb, so that you could afford to keep touring/working on your music career. I messaged you if that was the life of a musician, and you replied, for some. With this in mind, do you have any tips or words of advice for people who are considering becoming a musician?
Craig: Everybody’s path is different, but I’d say there’s no substitute for hard work and dedication to your craft. Unless you get incredibly lucky very early on, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to continue pursuing your dreams. My journey is coming up on a decade and a half, and I just put out my first album.
Me: Your white van seems to be a huge part of your life. You coined some of your songs as part of the “The Van Sessions” (Very creative by the way!). For some reason your van reminds me of the one in Scooby Doo! I enjoyed watching your YouTube video (see video below) where you were building the interior of your van to make it liveable and Canadian winter-proof. I am sorry to say that I was chuckling when you were cursing in your video ? What is it like to live out of a van? Do you ever feel claustrophobic?
Craig: I really like living out of the van and I do feel claustrophobic at times, but only when my van isn’t clean. It’s taught me a lot about living simply, focusing on minimalism and being organized.
Me: I know that life inspires your music. What was your inspiration for Starlit Afternoon?
Craig: I’m always inspired by my personal experiences, feelings and emotions. The daily things I go through in life, that we all experience in some form or another. I try to find the best expression of that and create it into a song.
Me: Other than meditation, how do you manage all the stress that you are going through? It couldn’t have been easy touring and trying to finish your album at the same time.
Craig: If I don’t center my day with a workout, I feel stressed. I’ve been really into daily journaling as well and making furniture keeps me in a very present mindset.
Me: Please also finish this sentence (lyric from Phil Collins’ song, Groovy Kinda Love):
Craig: “When I’m feeling blue…all I have to do is sing a tune.”
Me: Very cool. I wish I could sing. Is there anything else that inspires your music?
Craig: Other music, or often times a powerful film or documentary.
Me: So many of my favourite musicians are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams and Ria Mae. I love my music like crazy! But I recently discovered that I had no idea what type of music my family and friends listened to. I find that knowing what type of music people listen to is enlightening and tells a lot about that person. Who/which bands are your top 3?
Craig: I’ve recently been incredibly into Frank Ocean. Coldplay is one of my favorites especially after touring with them and seeing them live every night, and John Mayer was a huge influence when I was coming up.
Me: I am really enjoying your new album. I think you would be happy to hear this: My daughter always shuts down my music the moment I start the music in the car. When I was playing your album for the first time, I told her I could sing Break Every Rule. Suddenly she turned off the music. I was like What the hell?! -thinking she was shutting me down again. Turns out she was waiting for me to continue singing your song. Then she actually turned the music back on. But of course, that now that she’s heard your album once – it’s turned off again.
When will you be touring again?
Craig: I’m pretty much always on the road at some point or another, although I don’t have a tour booked at the moment, I’m sure something will come through with the release of my album!
Me: Is there anything else you would like your fans to know about you and/or your music?
Craig: I think you covered it all, thank you!
Me: On that note: Craig, you can sing to me any time. I hope to catch one of your Toronto shows soon. Thank you again for being so open to this interview and your time. You are super-talented and not to mention – gorgeous! I hope everyone discovers your music soon. Best of luck with your new album.
***** END *****
A few of my favourite tunes
In this thing called life, you never know what could happen when you just ask. Like this interview!