Entertainment Music

24 Minutes with Craig Stickland

By Joe Leary

Craig Stickland. (Submitted Photo)

Craig Stickland. (Submitted Photo)

A singer/songwriter originally from Richmond, Craig Stickland has developed a reputation as an edgy, engaging artist with an easy, approachable charm.

Prior to his appearance Feb. 17-18 at the Commodore Ballroom - where he appears along with Matthew Good - Stickland spent 24 Minutes with Joe Leary.

24: You are LA-based but originally from Richmond. How did the journey from here to there transpire?

CS: I was born in Richmond but my parents moved to Toronto when I was three years old for my dad’s work. I lived in Toronto until I was 26 and always had to keep menial service jobs that didn’t allow me to focus fully on my true passion. My manager suggested I sign with Wilhelmina Models Miami, who sponsored my work visa. Once I received my visa, I moved down to where the work was. The plan was to enter the United States on a modeling visa, so I could focus all of my free time working on my music.

24: Nashville ranks as a hub in country music circles. How does LA currently stack up for an artist to break out of?

CS: I really enjoy Nashville, but I’ve always had a soft spot for LA from the first time that I came here. There are incredible writers and musicians in LA, and I’ve met a ton of incredible people and collaborators. That being said, I’ve also spent some time writing in Nashville and there are incredible musicians and writers there, too. I like to call LA home because every day I wake up, I know it’s going to be perfect weather, and it works for my lifestyle. But I think in order to truly break out, you need to be multi-coastal to really get yourself out there. When you start to “break out”, it doesn’t really matter where you live it’s just where you want to come back to on your down time.

24: I love 'Liquor Store Blues' from your 2016 album, ‘Leave Me to the Wild’. I must say that might be one of the all-time great titles in music and it sounds anthemic. How did you arrive at that?

CS: Thank you very much! I’ve been doing this music thing for over 10 years, and that song was inspired at a low point in my career, actually. I started out playing open mics when I was 15 years old, and I met some really incredible musicians along the way that became lifelong friends. Because of that, when I was about 23, I decided to take a trip to NYC to hit as many open mics as I could. Much to my disappointment, often times there were over 100 people who show up to each open mic and therefore they have to do a lottery style to see who plays when. The open mics run from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., and each night, I drew numbers such as 75, 88, 96, etc., etc., making my timeslot between 3-4 a.m., where I would play my songs to absolutely nobody. Not even other musicians, who simply return when they know their time will be up. After a week straight of this, I decided to skip the last open mic and go see a concert. I bought scalped tickets to see M83, and when I showed up at Webster Hall, I found out they were fraudulent. At that point, I grabbed a bottle from the liquor store, and walked home in the pouring rain. All of my clothes became soaked and I ruined my favourite pair of shoes by the splashing cars that passed by. It was a really low moment for me, and I returned back to my hotel and that song poured out of me.

 24: Tell me about the van you built for this tour.

CS: I’m planning on living on the road for the foreseeable future, so I’ve converted a Sprinter cargo van into a solar paneled, fully off the grid mini tour bus that I can live inside. It’s been an incredible, roller coaster ride. I’m in love with my van, and I’m so grateful that we have the Internet in this day and age, which inspired me to do so, and also gave me all the tools and information to take on such a project. It was insane…I’ll be happy when it’s all done.