After six years of touring both with former band Ellipsis and as a solo artist, Craig can be found performing solo or with his band, Pocket Fulla Soul. His latest CD, Merci, was released on October 30 on iTunes and Amazon complete with a Carrollton Station release party. Produced by band mate Eric Heigle, the six-track album is a fan magnet for unsuspecting listeners from the first song, "To Be With You". There is believability in the vocals. It's hard not to feel a direct connection to the singer with lyrics like, "If you only knew/how I burn for you," crooned to toe-tapping piano, violin and trumpet accompaniment. You can listen for yourself with a free download available at www.CraigPaddockMusic.com.
Craig was kind enough to share, interview-style, his passion for music as well as his love for his city.
Where Y'at: How would you describe your style, in your own words?
CRAIG: You know, in music, something either has soul or it doesn't. My music has been described as being a throwback to early rock, with a slightly modern twist and a dose of this or that. But the complement that will always put a smile on my face is that my music sounds soulful.
WYAT: You were influenced by the Allman Brothers, The Beatles, Sam Cook and Otis Redding. Is there anyone locally who helped to create your signature style?
CRAIG: The city of New Orleans leaves an impression on everyone it envelopes, whether they want it to or not. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to traditional jazz music, soul, funk, and blues at a young age. Albeit, it is worth noting; I had to look to the '60s era writers for what I considered to be great lyrics. Richie Havens, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, even back to the days of Sam Cooke. It can be a tricky thing being a songwriter. You not only have to decide what is good sounding music to your ears, but then you have to figure out what you want to say and how to say it. The one thing about singing that makes it unique is that you just can't fake passion and energy. When we hear John Lennon singing "Help", there's never a doubt that he is in desperation. We believe him and relate to the music instantly. I'd say that the list of New Orleans musicians that have influenced me would be very long, but it would also be fair to say that many of the lyricists I owe my thanks to are not necessarily from New Orleans.
WYAT: What kinds of songs are you drawn to listen to?
CRAIG: The lyrics are important to me. I'm looking for songs that will teach me something about how to live life, or maybe a song suggesting an experience that I've been through. That usually makes it easy to relate to a song. But not every song needs to be so momentous. " Ob-la-di, ob-la-da," by The Beatles, is a great example of a song that everyone loves but no one knows why. There is way too much music in the mainstream these days that takes itself too seriously. Whiny music has never caught my fancy.
WYAT: There is a very conversational quality to many of your songs, including "To Be With You" and "On the Road" from your new CD "Merci". How important is making a personal connection with your audience?
CRAIG: It's essential. Music is a powerful form of communication. If I'm not making some connection with the listener, I'm really missing out on what songwriting has to offer.
WYAT: What inspires your music writing?
CRAIG: "I have found over the years that if you keep your eyes open and remain attentive to other people's business, there is always something worth writing down. There may be nothing seemingly remarkable happening in your own life that entices you to pick up the pen, but there is always a friend or colleague that is making some grave mistake or falling in love all over again. I think that a good writer finds the occurrences outside of him or herself to write about in an observant way. Occasionally, writing about the big picture questions regarding life and eternity can become an enticing song. But often, it is difficult to formulate the questions we have as people, much less sandwich those questions into a three and a half minute song. Although I must admit some people have been able to accomplish this sort of writing brilliantly."
WYAT: What are your favorite songs to cover? I can't get enough of your version of "Hallelujah".
CRAIG: Thank you. I really appreciate that. In September of 2005 I was stuck living and sleeping on a couch in South Carolina for the 2 months following hurricane Katrina. At that time, I was falling in love with Jeff Buckley's music, and I was relating to the adoration that he felt for his musical heroes. Quickly after I learned of his music, I set out to learn all of the music that he had studied and was influenced by. During those two special months away from home, I had the time I needed to learn all of the finger picking style, Hallelujah, that Jeff Buckley had so eloquently perfected. Hearing Buckley remake Leonard Cohen's great, "Hallelujah", was like watching Picasso repaint Degas. From the first measure of Jeff's recording, you just know that you've been brought into his world. He makes it his own.
WYAT: I am impressed with your commitment to your music. I understand you worked especially long hours in high school commuting daily from Jesuit to NOCCA, and more recently you decided to turn down an ABC reality show in order 'to pursue a more organic road to musical success'. What compels your work?
CRAIG: I know that my desire to commit myself more deeply to performing and writing music has strengthened as I have grown older. It takes time and practice to share your heart and mind with others and to really lay out your art in front of people for their viewing. My personal, musical journey has been full of soul searching. I'm always rediscovering my commitment to songwriting and seeing how I can work harder and become more open as a writer to what needs to be said. I think that just understanding that we all have something worth expressing has always been enough of a reason to carry on. Everyone is an artist in some way or another, even if he or she doesn't know how to communicate it yet. I knew at a young age that I would spend the rest of my days learning to express life in the form of songs. It's a lifelong pursuit. In the long run, what fun is there in being a "one hit wonder?"
WYAT: Having grown up in New Orleans, have you found yourself challenged as a native musician struggling to make your sound heard through the jazz-filled clubs and high-amp stages?
CRAIG: New Orleans' musical heritage is either the young songwriter's best friend or it can be what exposes ones lack of artistic complexity. A singer from New Orleans has to learn to both embrace the musical traditions New Orleans has to offer while also present an honest portrayal of what is happening in the current time. The challenge for the emerging artists in New Orleans is to carry the torch of tradition handed on from our elders and at the same time be ourselves in the process. Whenever people express themselves through the arts, their surroundings influence their output. This city has a lot to offer to those looking for the chance to express themselves.
WYAT: What was your first gig?
CRAIG: My first gig was at a dive bar in the great Fat City of Metairie, LA called Mike's Place. I did my best to hide from the audience as I sang a few songs.
WYAT: Where have you been touring?
CRAIG: We've been road testing some of the new material in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans, etc. But the touring is about to heavily increase. Very soon, you will be able to find the music at venues across the southeastern states and beyond.
Be on the lookout for Craig Paddock January 28 at the Howlin' Wolf and February 26 at Carrollton Station.