I left the midwest the year I graduated, or the year the planes hit. I took the Zephyr in October, moving to the most expensive city in the country, leaving Union Station where my Polish grandfather dropped me off in a scene you can probably imagine. Some cash. A hearty hug. It’s taken me 20 years to admit my musical influences went with me. Everything I love was formed between Chicago and my alma mater 130 miles to the south and I’m certainly not alone. But before they were ‘pioneers’ or ‘figureheads’ my peers were doormen and dads. I went from playing the same bowling alleys to following a constellation of side projects that never seemed to outgrow the city. Years later, I smiled when a drummer from Chicago, a real jobber, sat on a balcony outside Prague, telling my drummer how to improve his technique. There’s an earnest oblivion that gives my hometown its charm, or warmth or heart. Sometimes, I think leaving was the pill I wish I never took.
Today, I just can’t touch the fourth-gen emo coverage or the million bands that claim legion. I’m also not ashamed of any of it, as some boosters claim in these odd tribal gestures. The midwest will always be a state of mind, my youth, and if anything, I’m incredibly protective of all the man-children and addicts and dipshits that never made it to Brooklyn. None of it is a good look for guys my age and what they don’t need is some influencer critic amplifying the discomfort. Still, Chicago has always been a secret handshake for me, a dialect, and maybe a deep cut at 4:00 AM. It’s something that just happens. It’s also not what I expected when a Scottish crooner introduced himself in a French parking lot in 2013.
A promoter friend was living on a boat outside Metz. He asked if I could play a few shows that winter with a package he was putting together. It wasn’t a great year. I was exhausted and drifting and jumped at the chance of someone else handling my next step. I also needed the money. The tour was a disaster, complete with cancelled shows and car trouble and shitty weather and enough comedy to fill a young band’s career. Craig and I bonded instantly.
People think booze is the ultimate social lubricant, but it’s really humor. Not some pratfall kind, or the sociopath stuck in a van. Humor in its pure form is the unspoken, unannounced, official field language of any touring musician. And it makes sense. Out there your art is nothing more than commerce and ego. Levity becomes the ultimate tell.
Years later, I landed in Aberdeen to lay the groundwork for another project. I’d been bugging Craig for years, to record a part here, mix a song there. He agreed to demo a few ideas, which were predictably great—and almost too easy. The music just clicked and I was suddenly back in the midwest playing with friends for the first time, hearing yourself stumble upon notes and settle into an expression that could loop for days. He spoke a language I hadn’t used in years. We shopped at the Tesco and walked back to his flat where we listened to music every night. We walked through the mall and the campus and the city center. He showed me his recording studio, a dank basement space below sea level in this port city filled with sailors and oil men. We shared a pint in a real pub and kept laughing.
For days, Craig kept joking about his retirement. After sharing the stage with some heavies in the midwest emo genre, he wanted to produce and write and settle down. I don’t think he was thirty yet. Later, he sent me a pop-punk song about a cat, and his blog with a deep dive on video games and a podcast where he dutifully reported on his local scene.
Without music, we became this version of Jerry and Larry, Gervais and Merchant. I was suddenly the manager milking the talent, asking “Greg” to call my secretary when he was ready to record again. All very funny, all deeply familiar, with a sensitivity right below the surface. At the airport that day he gave me a small keepsake and we agreed to keep in touch. I’m not surprised my Chicago made its way around the world. I’m surprised a musician this talented could hear the notes in the same way.
As his management, lawyer and general street team, I still believe in everything Craig touches. It’s an honesty I’ve seen silence a room. Move Like Flint is the debut of a slightly new direction: simple songwriting and big chords. Catchy and memorable with small sentiments stitched into familiar seams. It’s not the sad shredder music that I remember, or the pretty notes or the open chords, or anything else we shared over the years, but it’s all there. Like Literally is proud to present Craig Henderson’s Move Like Flint out now and available everywhere.