This interview has been sitting in my ‘need to write’ pile for longer than I’d like to admit. Honestly, I’m not sure my lowly English words can do this band justice. Their music seems part of my heart; some days it pumps my blood others it lifts me into smiles and dancing. There is so much meaning in each word Cloud Cult writes. They speak from experience and plug in the connection we have with every thing – this growing up we’re all doing together, every day, for our whole lives. If Carl Sagan and Cloud Cult could meet, I’m sure they’d become fast friends. And perhaps in some other cosmic universe, they are.
The band features a wide berth of instruments and musicians. Craig Minowa, main vocalist and guitarist is also the songwriter. He pulls on life experiences, and every album that has come from the hands and voices of this wonderful band has a foundation of storytelling. Their sound lifts the listener into an ethereal, introspective mood. Their lyrics whisper, and sometimes shout, of love and loss; of hardship and the pulling through.
Not only is Cloud Cult’s music sustaining and seemingly always pertinent, but their business practices are as well. The band plants 10 trees for every 1,000 albums sold to help reduce their carbon footprint in the production of the albums. They have turned down many large record interests in order to keep their values and work environmentally friendly.
The band’s sound has changed a lot since they began released their first album (about one every year) in 2001. But since their 8th work, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), the band has released music that harkens the group’s individual growing up. The albums feel more mature, like the hardships have been deeper, somehow more tragic and more difficult to wade through.
Throughout all the changes and all the years of making music, I can honestly say Cloud Cult is on the right track. They follow their hearts and make the music that flows freely from their human experiences, and with every bend and turn in the road they find a new, well-lit (at least eventually) path.
You can find Cloud Cult playing shows (some already sold out) across the U.S. this spring. They will be touring with their new, more intimate set.
GW: Does the meaning of a song ever change for you over time? What's a song that's changed; how has it come to manifest itself?
CC: Yes, the meaning of songs has changed over time, particularly with songs that came from the oldest albums. As personal philosophies change, it's sometimes necessary to adjust original intentions of songs to have new personal meanings.
GW: How was music a part of your life as a child?
CC: We didn't have a television in our living room. It was a piano that my mom played a lot, so we were around music quite a bit. I started lessons at an early age and realized by the time I was a preteen kid that I was able to express my emotions better through music than talking. I had a lot of depression, so the music helped me through those years.
GW: What's the secret to success? What is success?
CC: I'd say the secret to success is all psychological. The moment you can live fully in the moment is the moment of success (even if it was momentary). We all get caught up in baggage from the past and demands and expectations for the future which leaves little time for enjoying the present. There's never success if you're never really here.
GW: How have your songs and performances changed over the years?
CC: In the past, there was more venting going on. It's become more of a daily spiritual practice, like meditating or praying.
GW: What do you do when you're not touring or playing shows?
CC: I also compose music for documentaries and movies, so I try to do one or two of those each year. I also spend a lot of time working the land at our homestead and nonprofit institute. I also love spending time being a dad to two beautiful kids.
GW: Who are your favorite songwriters? Favorite musicians?
CC: I tend to listen to music that is totally different from Cloud Cult so that it clears my mental palate. I listen to a lot of old time Big Band music from the 30s and 40s. Anything that makes me feel like I'm back in the Norman Rockwell days is good in my book.
GW: Is there a favorite (or a few favorite) performance that have really influenced you as a band or human(s)?
CC: We recently finished doing a run of 4 acoustic shows that were also dedicated to families in need. There's a new kind of spiritual rooting that seems to be happening with unplugging everything and performing a set that feels very vulnerable.
GW: Who has inspired you/the band over the years? Over a single, flashing moment?
CC: We get to meet a lot of fans who have been put through some amazing challenges in life and still somehow glow brilliantly and dedicate their lives to making things better. That's pretty empowering to be around.
GW: What do you think it means to be human?
CC: Interesting question:) I'd say the human body seems to be fantastically created to provide multiple tools for educating the deeper energies that temporarily ride in this shell. The brain does a great job of creating an illusion of isolation, and from there, we get to have experiences with each other that help the universe continue to evolve by learning more about itself. Being fully human then would mean striving to be in touch with your physical body's relationship to the quiet and hidden ghost riding in it.
GW: If you could only eat one kind of sandwich ever again, what would it be?
CC: I would lean towards the guilty pleasure and say summer sausage, colby cheese, spinach, hummus, avocado, mayo and chips, all sandwiched between two pieces of fresh baked bread.
GW: What's next for the band?
CC: Well, now that I've made myself hungry, I'll probably consider making one of those sandwiches. Then it's back to work organizing the release of our acoustic live album and 2014 national tour, all of which kicks off in February.