ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 3, 2003
By Steve Newton
On the cover of his debut solo CD, Giddy Up, former Odds member Craig Northey is pictured on-stage in front of a huge outdoor crowd, playing guitar while kicking his left leg up to a painful-looking height. It’s the kind of acrobatic stunt not attempted by a guy in a suit since John Cleese in Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” skit.
“I think you do things with a slight hint of adrenaline,” explains Northey, on the phone from his “little shack up in the woods” of the North Shore. “That shot was from Thunderbird Stadium with the Odds, and I remember seeing it on a contact sheet and going, ‘I look like that?’ I mean, when you hear your voice on the tape recorder you have the same feeling.”
The photo of Northey getting wacky for the masses says a lot about the musician, whose playful approach to the creation and performance of hook-filled pop rock had much to do with the popularity of his old group. The Odds called it quits after the Nest album of ’96, and you have to wait until Giddy Up’s sixth track before you hear anything as immediately infectious as that band’s “Heterosexual Man” or “Someone Who’s Cool”. Still, it’s clear that Northey’s having fun on the quirky solo project.
“I think when you take the wheel and just start slapping the other people away from it you can do other things,” he relates, adding that he released Giddy Up himself on the Internet about a year ago. “It actually did all right,” he says, “so the people at Page/EMI thought it might be a good idea if it was actually in a store. This is a really freakish marketing strategy as far as I’m concerned.”
According to its liner notes, Giddy Up was “sung, plunked, plinked & originally thinked by Craig Northey”, but that’s not all the singer-songwriter-guitarist has been up to since the Odds folded. In the interim he’s worked as a touring musical director and guest performer for the Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall—whose previous feature film, Brain Candy, he had scored—and as a writer and/or producer with Colin James, Wide Mouth Mason, and former Scritti Politti member David Gamson. He’s been collaborating with name artists since just before the end of his tenure with the Odds.
“Rosanne Cash asked for a song,” he says, “so I was very flattered, because she needs a song like…Bob Dylan needs a song. It worked out really well, but she had a bout of pregnancy-induced throat trouble, and it set her back a little bit, so the song’s coming out in March, on her next record. The first thing I did actually took the longest to come out.”
Northey’s next project is an album with Jesse Valenzuela from Arizona guitar rockers the Gin Blossoms, best known for the jangly 1996 hit, “Till I Hear It From You”. “Jesse and I started thinking of those great songwriting duos—you know, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham—and thought ‘Let’s write a bunch of songs that we imagine other singers would love to sing.’ As we demo’d them we realized they had a unique sound to them, but we hated those demos as a record ’cause they sounded cobbled together in different cities, with different vibes. So we eventually had a chance to sit down and record together, and we’re just about done.”
Before that collaboration hits the stores, Northey will play a four-date residency at the Green Room, March 18 and 25 and April 1 and 8. Die-hard Odds fanatics should keep in mind that he expects to toss in the odd number from that band’s heyday as well.
“Considering I spent 11 years on all that work, I might as well ride my own coattails,” he says with a laugh. “But I usually only do a couple [of Odds songs]. I like to stick to the new stuff mostly, because that’s where the heart is at.” And since Giddy Up is less than 30 minutes long, fans of Northey’s recent work can expect to hear that disc in its entirety. “I’m starting again,” he points out, “so I have to play every song. I’m like the backup band on the ZZ Top tour: you gotta just give ’er with every single song or you’ll be covering ‘Pretty Woman’ by the end.”
Northey says that he’ll be performing mostly solo for the Green Room shows but that he might get his buddies from local party band Sharkskin to back him up as well. “I’ll figure it out as I go,” he offers. “I think these residency things—since I am living there—give me a chance to come up with a lotta good ideas about what I’m gonna do as I’m washing the dishes and staring out the window at the Impark lot across the street.”