Singer-songwriter Craig Stickland’s debut EP, Art of Conviction, has a lyrical thread with which many people will identify.
Honing his writing skills for four years in the Toronto band We Are The Take, Craig has continued the harmony-driven pop focus on his solo material. The EP, recorded in Los Angeles with Canadian producer Bill Bell (Jason Mraz, Justin Nozuka, Tom Cochrane), draws on the mellifluous sounds of The Beatles, Oasis, Fleetwood Mac, CSNY, Crowded House, even Canada’s Blue Rodeo. “I just love the way harmonies sound,” says Craig.
Craig, now 24, sang in high school cover bands before picking up the guitar at age 16. That same year he wrote his very first song. Just a year later, influenced by a range of artists from Gavin DeGraw to John Mayer and Coldplay, he was offered a management and production deal in Nashville, but when he took the contract to a lawyer he was advised against signing it. Instead, the lawyer set up a meeting for him with the head of EMI Music Publishing Canada.
Through EMI, he was introduced to Erik Alcock, who became his collaborator and co-frontman in We Are The Take. The band produced a full-length album with Grammy Award-winning producer David Bottrill (Silverchair, Tool, Muse), which included the potential hit “Montreal Love Song,” but a recording contract never materialized.
“We were together for four years and in that time you would think more would have happened, but it fizzled out,” says Craig. “I think we recorded a great record that no one ever heard.” Erik, meanwhile, was having great success writing for other artists, including Eminem, and We Are The Take called it quits at the end of 2010.
“I started writing my own stuff again, focusing on what I wanted to sound like,” says Craig. “I learned how to write from Erik. He’s an amazing songwriter and he taught me everything I know about writing: Be extremely self-critical and never settle.”
A couple of the songs on Art of Conviction are reworked from the We Are The Take catalogue that the band played live, but never recorded, “Firing Line” and the heavier “Art of Conviction.” “They sound different now than they did with We Are The Take,” says Craig.
“The reason that I've chosen this style is that when you’re writing by yourself, ideas are started from the seed that is just picking up a guitar and strumming a chord and singing a melody over it, or playing piano and doing that. Rarely do I pick up my electric guitar and turn on the distortion up to 11 in my apartment and write a song (laughs).”
While this EP might be about dishonesty, his next batch of material is strongly inspired by his job as a bartender at one of the hottest spots in Toronto. There, serving some rich braggarts, he is collecting stories about human behaviour, guys impressing girls with their wealth and power; girls impressed by wealth and power; and the wealthy and the powerful treating the bartender like he’s not even there.
Craig will be performing live with a five-piece band and will head to LA again in the new year to record a full-length album with Bill.
“I want to get my music out to as many people as possible," says Craig. "It’s very new. I feel like I could reach a lot of people. I just want to find way to get it out there. I feel a lot of people could relate to my music, to these feelings and emotions that I write about, and I hope that they do. Each song I write is different and I hope that people make their own
interpretations. That’s the great thing about music.”
Band MembersCraig Stickland