I first heard of Cloud Cult back in May, and was genuinely inspired by their hit single "You'll be Bright", an infectious pop tune defined by booming beats and frontman Craig Minowa's swooning voice. The track made me move. Literally made my head bob and legs bounce. I felt good. Really good. That’s the impact Cloud Cult’s music has on most listeners. It’s how they’ve been able to gain a loyal following throughout the country that continues to grow with every note written, every lyric uttered. Little did I know that had Minowa not been forced to deal with the untimely death of his first child, and later on life-threatening heart surgery, that the positive sound featured on Light Chasers, Cloud Cult's latest LP, never would have been able to enlighten so many listeners.
In the mid-nineties, Craig Minowa, like countless others before him, produced his tunes in the shadows of the music industry. Recruiting a cello player, drummers, and other artists who bought into his pop-symphonic philosophy, Cloud Cult soon formed and began playing small clubs. The sound, obscure yet undeniably melodic and engaging, garnered interest from a slew of small labels that urged Minowa to sign a recording contract. Wanting to maintain the sanctity of the new Cloud Cult vibe, Minowa, almost shockingly, refused, opting to self-publish & produce.
The songwriter’s ambitions were noble: to green the music industry and, eventually, the world as well. It wasn’t long before he and his wife Connie formed the Earthology Institute, “an educational clearing-house of information and advocacy in the realms of sustainability, positive environmental change, and children's environmental health.” The organization has won praise from The New York Times, NPR, and The Dallas Observer. Things were good: the band was growing; the Earthology Institute was gaining national recognition; the Minowas were working together to build a family.
Kaidin, the Minowas' two year old son, suddenly passed away.
The loss led to a one year separation between the young couple, forcing Craig into an enveloping space of constant introspection, mourning, and loneliness. Surely overwhelmed and pushed to the proverbial breaking point, Minowa responded the only way he knew how: by writing hundreds of songs.
The unyielding labor resulted in a series of Cloud Cult albums, all recorded in the geo-thermal powered studio on the Minowas' farm, that won accolades from both critics and fans alike. With each song performed and every album released, the Minowas grew close once more and, thankfully, were able to celebrate the birth of Nova, a baby boy. Life and light merged with death and darkness, allowing Minowa to approach music with a different outlook, one that would redefine Cloud Cult and its cornerstone sound.
“Our last album followed the grieving process of our previous child,” said Minowa when I interviewed him in May before Cloud Cult’s show in New York City. “I knew if I continued in the same Cloud Cult concept there would be reviewers who would be critical. I liked trying to sculpt the direction of life. The others chasing the meaning of where do we go when we die. The eastern concept of everything is connected. This idea of coming into consciousness.”
Light Chasers became the first Cloud Cult album to crack the Billboard charts. It seemed as though the band stood on the precipice of unprecedented notoriety when Craig Minowa learned he required heart surgery, putting a national tour into question and leading many to believe that the energetic frontman would opt for an early retirement.
After receiving letters of support from fans throughout the country, Minowa committed himself to getting back onto the road and spreading his story of love and life regained.
In the summer of 2011, in arenas both small and large, the Cloud Cult mission resonated with thousands of listeners who absorbed every song and each ounce of subtext. Minowa sang lyrics ripe with an emotional grit that reminded him, and his audience, of times good and bad; of love and hate; of life and death.
And it is this dichotomy that powers Craig Minowa through his daily routine. Tragedy, and the sadness that comes with it, is an undeniable reality, but the emotional fallout from such events can be used constructively. Minowa opted not only to produce songs of inspiration, but also, through his Earthology institute, an organization that literally works to save the world.
Craig Minowa, once marred by death and illness, has dedicated himself to a constant, and seemingly unrelenting, celebration of life. He has inspired thousands of Americans from the streets of Manhattan to the farms of Minnesota, and he will continue to do so, one song at a time.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CLOUD CULT, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.