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Craig’s father listened to Mowtown, his mother listened to showtunes, and he grew up on 1980’s era MTV. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that his first public performances were in his families’ living room – using his father’s T-Square as a “guitar,” mimicking Def Leppard and Bon Jovi videos. Whitaker grew up in a small town in Southern New Jersey and credits a High School friend’s rendition of the classic Van Halen guitar track, “Eruption,” with his transition from drafting tools to a real guitar. Over the next few years, he purchased every guitar book he could find and taught himself how to play. It didn’t take long before he also found his way to a used drum set, and, with the help of Led Zeppelin cassettes, taught himself how to play the drums.
After High School, Whitaker began college at Penn State University and became fascinated with the sounds he was hearing on albums by Son Volt and The Counting Crows. He traded his old guitar for a Fender Telecaster and pushed aside Eddie Van Halen for Dan Vickrey. It was around this time that he first heard Ben Folds Five and decided that he also needed to learn how to play piano; so like his education with Van Halen, he taught himself. Craig spent most of his weekends alone on stage with an acoustic guitar, singing his songs to anyone who would listen. In one night he would go from Toad The Wet Sprocket, to Garth Brooks, to Billy Joel. Then, Garth Brooks played Central Park. “That was the turning point for me. Watching someone combine an arena rock show with heartfelt songs, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be Garth!”
A few years later in 2000, Whitaker was working at a music store and formed his first band. He had a small collection of songs, so the newly formed group recorded a demo in his kitchen on borrowed equipment. The demo ended-up in the hands of talent buyer Geoff Gordon from Clear Channel / Live Nation, and the group spent the better part of the decade as local support for bands such as Matchbox 20, Sugar Ray, Gavin DeGraw, and even members of The Grateful Dead. Whitaker’s group was the second unsigned band to ever play the Philadelphia Spectrum (after The Hooters). The group also performed at venues such as The Electric Factory, TLA (Theater of Living Arts), Irving Plaza, The Keswick Theater, and Mohegan Sun. They were regulars on the NBC 10 morning lifestyle television show.
He continued writing, and in 2006 penned a song titled “One By One” which would soon later be purchased for an episode of NBC’s “ER.” Whitaker’s music was picked up by Philadelphia radio station Y100.3 and DJ Dan Fein helped promote the group through regular airplay and opening slots at their annual “Feztival” along side national acts such as Beck, Audioslave, and The Roots.
Shortly after, in 2007, he decided to give music a rest and focus on fatherhood. For the next 6 years, Whitaker spent most of his time listening to music and less on actual writing. But his new perspective as a father changed his outlook on the words he heard, and he became what he would say was “obsessed with the craft” of songwriting.
Towards the end of 2014, Whitaker’s life took a major turn. So, he did what any small town guy would do – he moved back to his hometown.
His six-year musical break came to a halt. In his new home, he converted an old office into a home studio and started writing at a feverish pace. He demoed over 50 songs in two years, and in late 2018 decided he was ready to record his first solo EP. Whitaker, a lifelong fan of Rascal Flatts, connected with their drummer, Jim Riley, who joined the project as drummer / producer. Riley filled-out the project with other A-list Nashville players such as Travis Toy on pedal steel, Steve King and Kevin Rooney on keyboards, Jonathan Trebing on guitar, and Tim Marks on bass. The EP, titled “Here and California,” is a collection of optimistic, forward looking songs that Whitaker says he hopes will inspire other people who may find themselves at a low point in life.
“It would’ve been easy for me to move home, newly divorced, single dad, and end up dumping all of my troubles onto a bartender...but that’s not me,” Whitaker said. “These songs are about not knowing what’s coming next and not only being ok with it, but celebrating it.”
Whitaker is currently writing for his next release, spending more time in Nashville co-writing with CCMA winner for Song of The Year, Jason Blaine, and Rascal Flatts band member / writer / producer Kevin Rooney.