Folk singer, storyteller will shine on theatre stage

John Craigie is making a stop on the island as part of his “Keep It Warm” tour.

John Craigie (Courtesy Photo).

John Craigie (Courtesy Photo).

Folk balladeer John Craigie will bring his bluesy melodies and clever storytelling to the stage of the Vashon Theatre in a show presented by Debra Heesch at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, with special guest Nicki Bluhm.

Dubbed “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg with a vagabond troubadour edge” by The Stranger, Craigie has made a number of stops from California up to the Pacific Northwest as part of his “Keep It Warm” tour. He’ll be playing in a number of halls and theaters including The Triple Door in Seattle this week, followed by performances slated in Oregon and Colorado before setting out for the festival circuit in the United Kingdom early next year.

In his songwriting, Craigie weaves funny anecdotes into stirring verses that give way to both laughs and melancholy. Now 39 years old, he told The Beachcomber that he discovered his love of music growing up in Los Angeles in the heyday of MTV, later reading the biographies of the biggest names and acts he could find on the internet and imagining a life for himself on the road.

“It always seemed very far of a reach, but it was something I was always really obsessed with,” he said.

In the last decade, Craigie has released two live albums and six studio albums including 2017’s acclaimed “No Rain, No Rose,” encapsulating the quiet triumphs and unsettled turbulence of life as a young musician set against the backdrop of Portland, his newly adopted city.

“I had sort of seen everyone going through their own version of late 20s and early 30s tragedies, whether it be death or breakups or regular emotional [stress]… And I was really enjoying seeing everyone process that, mostly through music,” he said.

Craigie recorded the album in his living room with help from Portland notables including Vashon favorites The Shook Twins and indie-folk darling Gregory Alan Isakov who collaborated on the standout tracks “Highway Blood” and “I Am California,” both of which have won Craigie a large following on streaming platforms such as Spotify.

The material that didn’t make “No Rain” appears on his latest self-produced album, “Scarecrow,” an originally vinyl-only release that showcases what Craigie can do with just an acoustic guitar and a raspy harmonica. But he said the success that has come with touring and selling out venues has not always been enough to quiet self-doubt, despite his strong fan base.

“I think you’re always really self-conscious to charge money for your show, like ‘oh, I’m not worth that.’ But once you do, you have more control over your show. Over the last 10 years, it’s gotten a lot better,” he said. “In the beginning, you’re so desperate you would pay money to [perform]. I think that is still true for everybody deep down.”

Tickets, $21 for general admission, are available online at tinyurl.com/swfroxo. $1 from each ticket sold for Craigie’s performance at the Vashon Theatre will benefit The Vashon Food Bank. One in seven households on Vashon relies on the food bank for assistance.

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