Here’s to Craig..

The Athens music community has lost a great friend and supporter. Craig Lieske passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago. I’ve been in and out of Athens a bit since then, mostly in Atlanta, and missed yesterday’s memorial service @ the 40 Watt, get-togethers at Flicker.. Wanted to take a moment to share my experience of Craig here.

Craig was a man about town- one of those figures you bump into downtown in a place like Athens, and can’t help but be intrigued by, and then get to know. Our interactions tended to be in passing, some short pleasantries as either I or both of us moved around the western edge of Washington Street. His laugh was a crazy cackle and he moved in sharp, constant gestures. Always shifting.

As many people have written or stated in memorials, he was a really supportive and encouraging guy. He seemed like an older statesman who believed in me and knew there were more and better songs to come, and even better presentations for my music. It was unspoken, but Craig knew you have to live your way into your songs, voice, and music. I didn’t mind when he said my albums were too clean. We both know it’s noble to keep writing, working, and finding different aesthetics for your songs. Too bad he didn’t get to hear the new album- it would definitely have been his favorite. He liked all kinds of music, but really seemed to love a performance that was beautifully rough and raw. He told me once I should break up with my girlfriend, get sad, and write some songs of real heartbreak. He also told us he’d dance at our wedding. Maybe he knew something we didn’t.

I hadn’t seen him play in a while, and he’d always let me know he was sorry to miss my latest show. But in Craig I felt a kindred spirit and someone who cared about me and my work. I was offered his copy of Neil Young’s new book at Avid Bookshop, but passed.. I’d wait for another one to be ordered. Hope he read and enjoyed it. The last night he played I’d played my Malian music set during happy hour at the Green Room and wandered down to the 40 Watt afterwards to listen to a few songs. I was standing outside and for a moment I could see Craig rockin on stage to Springsteen through a small shaft in the open door. He was epic. How awful and sobering that a life can just suddenly end in its prime. What do you do in the face of that? Hopefully you be true to yourself, find meaning and fulfillment in your interests, friends, and community, and bring light to others in small and unspeakable ways, as Craig did. I’m sure when I record and release my most raw albums I’ll think of him. I’ve got one in mind.

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