Bio

/Bio
Bio 2020-04-21T19:38:52-04:00

Jeffery Straker

Singer-Songwriter-Pianist


“This great work isn’t just for fans of singer/songwriters in a ’70s vein, it belongs on the shelf beside the finer recordings of Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Elton John” (Album: Dirt Road Confessional)
– Mark Rheaume – CBC Radio (April, 2017)

“Dramatic and melodic, Straker is a throw-back to days when a piano and sincerity ruled…echoes of 60’s & 70’s pop. Choruses soar, piano accents are always impeccable” (Album: North Star Falling)
– Bob Mersereau – top100canadian blog (Mar, 2015)

“Let’s cut to the chase: …one of the most faultlessly conceived and meticulously executed albums in any genre to come out of Canada in a long time… shifting moods and lyrics framed by thrilling chord changes…”
– Toronto Star (Oct, 2012)

Singer-songwriter-pianist Jeffery Straker performs over 100 shows per year across Canada and abroad.  He has recorded for CBC radio’s ‘Canada Live’, won a 2019 Western Canadian Music Award, has seen his music used in film and TV, and has toured internationally as far as The Netherlands, England and Mexico.  His tour stops range from intimate house concerts to club & theatre shows and include folk & jazz festivals. He’s also taken the stage in sold-out concerts of his music performing with multiple symphony orchestras.  Canadian Musician Magazine has said, “Very much an artist to watch” while the Chicago Free Press has written, “Rufus Wainwright, as well as k.d. lang are among the Canadians making essential and beautiful music. Add the name Jeffery Straker to that list”. 

Jeffery launched his latest full length recording, “Dirt Road Confessional”, in May 2017, continuing to push the boundaries of what it means to be a piano balladeer. With themes both contemplative and joyous, the 12-song collection encapsulates the seasoned Saskatchewan singer/songwriter’s experiences of playing over 200 shows around the world since the release of his previous album, 2015’s “North Star Falling”. Straker regularly draws comparisons to a young Billy Joel or Elton John, with shades of Rufus Wainwright and Harry Nilsson thrown in, but on Dirt Road Confessional his personal storytelling style emerged in his own unified voice.
—–Determined to explore different approaches in the studio, the album was constructed out of five separate sessions each using different producers. Credits include: Daniel Ledwell, Royal Wood + Lawrence Katz, Dean Drouillard, Robyn Dell’Unto, Brad Prosko + Murray Pulver. Despite many hands being involved, the foundation of Dirt Road Confessional is Straker’s unwavering sonic vision for the record, and its story about finding love while at the same time finding courage to pursue one’s art.
—–“Lyrically it’s very personal; I share a lot about myself. Musically I’ve moved in a more roots-folk direction, partly because that’s the sound I grew up with. It seems like a really natural progression—dobro, banjo and acoustic guitar are featured, but piano is, of course, still at the core of most of the songs.” Straker, in fact, grew up listening to country music on his family’s rural Saskatchewan farm at the same time he was studying classical music and performing full sonatas and concertos by composers such as Beethoven and Grieg. Eventually, the work of fellow Saskatchewan native Joni Mitchell prompted him to begin writing his own material, and Straker’s focus shifted to poetry and pop hooks. This recording sounds, wonderfully, like his influences.

Straker’s latest release, “Light a Fire” (March 27, 2020) is a single from his forthcoming full-length album. Co-written with Royal Wood (and also produced by Wood) the song is an uplifting & upbeat anthem to “making positive change”. Buoyed by lyrics that sing, “fear is the shadow, hope is the light” and “the heart it can whisper, the head has to choose”, the melodic hook musically lifts the message. The production hints at the folk-roots flavor the rest of the album will present complete with acoustic guitar, banjo and vocal harmonies.
The song was written at a difficult time for Straker – his mother suddenly fell ill and was rushed to hospital. After two weeks on life support she miraculously recovered and the song was penned. The epiphany of needing to “be your best self for the brief time we have” was captured in the song. Sadly just one week later, Straker’s mom passed away. The optimism of her beautiful spirit is captured in the song which has been performed on tour to enthusiastic audience response.

The full-length album “North Star Falling” was released March 2015. All of its 12 songs were produced by Dean Drouillard (Royal Wood, Justin Rutledge) who wove a new sound around Straker’s songwriter-piano-pop. Electric guitars, horns, & strings as well as acoustic guitar helped set the stage. The launch of the album (Acronym/Universal Canada) included 2 national tours with performances from coast to coast. The album rose to to the top 10 (#9) on the iTunes Canada singer-songwriter charts within its first weeks.

The work that helped Straker hit the radar of many in Canada was his 2012 critically acclaimed recording, “Vagabond”, produced by Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Danny Michel. It was a thrill for him to record it on Glenn Gould’s grand piano at the CBC studios in Toronto.  The Toronto Star gave it 4 (out of 4) stars calling it “one of the most faultlessly conceived and meticulously executed albums in any genre to come out of Canada in a long time”.  ‘Vagabond’ debuted in the top 20 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts and hit the top 10 on several college radio stations across Canada.  Xtra! (Toronto) said of the album: “like the unexpected yet surprisingly down-to-earth lovechild of Neil Young and Elton John”. 

Originally from small town Saskatchewan, the classically trained pianist was raised by a church organist mother and an auctioneer father. He swears he was born under the piano on the family farm. All this might explain his ability to share songs with audiences. Jeffery is a musical descendant of Beethoven through teacher-student lineage (see below for the full story). He was a student of the Royal Conservatory of Music and received his licentiate diploma in piano performance from Trinity College, London when he was just 19.

Gratitude/Merci
Jeffery thanks the Saskatchewan Arts Board, Creative Saskatchewan and FACTOR for their support of his music creation, recording and touring over recent years.

VINA DEL MAR – WINNER (2014)
A significant career boost came from winning the prestigious Vina del Mar (Chile) song competition in 2014, representing Canada. Performing live to a festival crowd of 20,000 people and to a TV audience of 100,000,000 viewers across the Spanish-speaking world, he gained a fan following in Latin America.

THE BEETHOVEN CONNECTION:
Jeffery’s musical prowess and piano chops have an incredibly famous connection. While studying at the conservatory of music at the University of Regina, Jeffery worked with one Frank Crumly, who had been taught by Thomas Manshardt, who previously had been taught by Howard Wells, who was a student of Leschetizky (acknowledged as the greatest teacher of all time), who was taught by Czerny, who, you guessed it, was taught by Beethoven. A similar lineage through Manshardt connects Jeffery to Chopin. Quite the piano pedigree.

Some interesting tidbits about Jeffery:

  • Jeffery’s first piano teacher was Vicky Young in Punnichy SK. Mrs Dawn Mctavish of Raymore SK was his next teacher, followed by Frank Crumly at the Conservatory of Music, University of Regina
  • He has twice travelled to Resolute Bay, Nunavut to perform and work with local Inuit students on songwriting projects. Resolute Bay is the 2nd most Northerly community in Canada’s Arctic.
  • Jeffery won the 2014 Vina Del Mar International Song Festival in Chile, in 2014.
  • He holds a degree (B.Sc. honours) in plant biology from the University of Saskatchewan
  • He studied part of his degree at the Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Jeffery’s early album Songs from Highway 15 is a collection of 10 songs inspired by people and places in the Canadian prairies. Highway 15 is the road that runs past his childhood farm.
  • Jeffery has performed as far away as Peru, Mexico, Ghana, Ireland, China, New York City, Panama (with the Canadian Embassy), Chile, The Netherlands, and England. He performed in a mountain town in Panama where the venue was a cathedral and the whole first row was nuns in habits. This has never happened since and it quite possibly never will.
  • He traveled to Ghana, Africa in Feb 2012 and performed a series of 6 shows and conducted songwriting workshops with local musicians and students.
  • While recording part of Step Right Up in LA, Jeffery slept at the famed Alta Cienega Motel in room 32 where Jim Morrison slept during his Hollywood stint in the late 60’s (see photo page on his website site for pix)
  • Jeffery did some vocal training in Toronto with the talented Elizabeth Davidson. She actually helped him ‘find’ about 12 new notes he didn’t know he could sing – up in his high range. It was a strange awakening. But Elizabeth works magic.
  • Mrs Bell (correctly spelled Mrs Behl) from Jeffery’s song “The Wonderuful Mrs Bell” lived in his prairie hometown when he was growing up.
  • Jeffery eats peanut butter out of the jar with a table spoon. It’s not pretty.

Discography

  • Dirt Road Confessional (May 19 2017)
  • North Star Falling (Mar 10 2015)
  • Live with CBC Radio (2014)
  • Comin Home for Christmas – single (2013)
  • Vagabond (2012)
  • under the soles of my shoes (2011)
  • Step Right Up (2008/re-release 2010)
  • Songs from Highway 15 (2006)
  • Petrified (2003) – out of print
  • Middle of Somewhere (2002) (2-song single) – out of print

Some Performances of note

  • Jeffery performs 100+ shows each year
  • Tour of The Netherlands (2019)
  • National Arts Centre (4th Stage), Ottawa ON (2018)
  • tours of Mexico (2015/2016/2017/2018)
  • In concert with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, TCU Place (2018)
  • In concert with the Regina Symphony Orchestra, Conexus Arts Centre (2017)
  • 6 concert tour of Peru Nov-Dec (2014)
  • Performed to a sold out Koerner Hall, Toronto (Nov 2014) – tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John
  • Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival, Toronto (2014)
  • Sold out debut with the Saskatoon Symphony (Oct 2013) TCU Place 2200ppl
  • Sold out debut with the Regina Symphony (Oct 2011) Conexus Arts Centre
  • Sudbury Symphony (April 2015)
  • Canada’s National Arts Centre / Prairie Scene – (2011)
  • Telemiracle National Cast – SASK (2012-2020)
  • Festivals including: NXNE, CMW, Breakout West, JunoFest, Regina Folk Fest, Calgary Folk Fest, Bear Creek Folk Fest, All Folk’d Up Fest, Gateway Festival, Copenhagen Songwriters Festival and more.