By Jessica Lovell
Working as a radio host on CBC Radio is like a dream come true for local musician Craig Norris.
“I’d always wanted to work at the CBC, so it was like a dream job for me,” says Norris.
The lead singer of the Kramdens, Norris has hosted a number of different programs, including music shows the Craig Norris Hour and the R3-30 on Radio Three, and Laugh Out Loud, which features Canadian comedy, on Radio One.
But his latest gig, also on Radio One, is a bit of a departure from the shows he’s hosted in the past.
The new show is called Know Your Rights, and it’s described on the CBC’s website as an “on-the-ground and in-the-field exploration of our rights as Canadian citizens.”
It’s his summer hosting posting, until Laugh Out Loud returns in the fall.
“When the first one aired, I was pretty nervous,” says Norris, explaining that taking on a subject with the size and complexity of Canadian rights and freedoms in ten 27-minute shows was a daunting task.
“We’re trying to put as much stuff online as we can to sort of flesh out the show,” he says.
But the feedback after the first show, which aired June 27, was positive.
“Everyone says, ‘great idea for a show,’ ” he says.
The show has a journalistic feel, but isn’t a news show. It includes interviews and case studies, and it tries to bring in elements from the news that are relevant to the issues being discussed that week.
“We want to make it interesting and entertaining,” he says.
In spite of the show’s departure from his usual entertainment-oriented programs, Norris feels it’s a good fit.
“I’m a musician, so the Radio Three thing is a natural fit,” he says. “But I think this show might be the most natural for me, because I’m kind of a political guy.”
People who know him often ask Norris when he plans to run for council in Guelph, he says. He doesn’t rule out a campaign for public office, saying “who knows what the future brings?” But he adds, “I’m no good at meetings.”
Norris began working in radio in 2005, arriving in the job of host through his music connections.
It was a man he played with in a band, and also washed dishes with at Mother’s Pizza, who put him on TV on a CTV program called the Chatroom. And it was the connections he made there that led to a hosting job on CBC Radio Three.
“I always tell people, yes, stay in school. That’s very important. But if you meet a guy who seems like a real go-getter and he’s washing dishes with you at Mother’s Pizza, maybe stay friends with him,” says Norris with a slight chuckle.
But he says he doesn’t think of himself as special because he gets to be on the radio.
“I treat it like any other job I’ve ever had,” he says, adding, “I don’t know what else I’d be qualified to do.”
He feels lucky to have the opportunity to be himself and to do what comes naturally to him – talk to people. “I’ve been allowed to be exactly who I am on air,” says Norris.
Guelph, he says, is an integral part of who he is, both on and off air.
“I probably spend too much time talking about Guelph on the air,” he says.
The almost daily commute – Norris heads to Toronto on the train about four days a week – is worth it to continue living in Guelph.
Asked what he loves about Guelph, Norris, the honorary chair of the Guelph Youth Music Centre’s fundraising initiative, puts in a plug for the centre.
“I love that our community puts so much worth in that sort of pursuit,” he says of the centre.
But his list goes on: “I love that it’s a big city with a really small-town feel . . . I love the people here, I love the architecture, I love the trees.”
“I think you have to be from somewhere,” he says, adding that he wishes he could be here more.
He thinks that Guelph is home to a lot of CBC listeners, “if being in Zehrs is any indication,” he says, telling the story of how he signed a fan’s cereal box while taking his mother grocery shopping.
“I have the feeling that Guelph is a CBC kind of town,” he says.
Norris says he meets three or four listeners every day and is still surprised to learn they’re strangers, not people he went to high school with. It’s weird, he says, but he likes knowing that people are listening.
“I love doing what I’m doing now,” says Norris. “I’ve been pretty lucky.”