Bio

/Bio
Bio 2020-11-29T14:56:24-04:00

Jeffery Straker

Singer-Songwriter-Pianist


“It’s easy to get lost in ‘Morning Light’.  There’s a cinematic quality to the beautiful lyrics and sumptuous vocal melody over tumbling, rolling keys.  Simply and directly, this is lovely music”
AmericanaUK (Oct 2020)

“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” (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)

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, and has seen his music used in film and TV.  A dedicated vagabond, he’s toured internationally as far as The Netherlands, England, Mexico and Nunavut  with tour stops ranging from intimate house concerts to club & theatre shows as well as 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”.   Critical comparisons have also included the likes of Harry Chapin, Kris Kristofferson, Carole King & Billy Joel.

The rootsy-storytelling of Jeffery’s songs has the power to transport a listener – out onto a lake in Canada’s North or to the main street of a prairie town.  A clever lyricist, his energetic piano-based song writing is a reminder of the power of a singer/songwriter accompanying himself on the keyboard.

Straker released his latest full-length album “Dirt Road Confessional” in 2017.  Debuting at #5 on the iTunes Canada singer-songwriter charts, the album saw him tour over 200 shows across Canada, Europe and Latin America – from the Netherlands to Nunavut – including a debut at Canada’s National Arts Centre in Ottawa.  The recording saw him continuing to push the boundaries of what it means to be a piano balladeer by exploring 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 was 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 shared a lot about myself in it. Musically it moved in a more roots-folk direction vs the sound I’d been making up to that point.”  Straker, in fact, grew up listening to country music on his family’s rural Saskatchewan grain 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 hooks. This recording sounds, wonderfully, like his influences.

His most recent musical offerings are a series of singles from his forthcoming May 2021 full-length release. 

“Light a Fire” (March 27, 2020) was co-written with Royal Wood (who also produced) & the song is an uplifting & upbeat anthem for “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 flavour the album will present – with acoustic guitar, banjo and vocal harmonies.

‘Morning Light’ (Sept 23, 2020) speaks to the life-long need to dream, to belong, and to matter.  A song of reflection written in the wake of the sudden and unexpected passing of Jeffery’s mom.  “My mom had been very sick in hospital but started to make an incredible recovery.  The song was written while everything was seemingly ok.  It was short lived and she very suddenly passed away.”  This tune represents the questioning, grief, revelation, & resolution in the wake of this loss. Production was by Russell Broom (Calgary AB).

Earlier works included the full-length album “North Star Falling”  (March 2015). All of its 12 songs were produced by Dean Drouillard (Royal Wood, Justin Rutledge).  The album released on the Acronym (Universal Canada) label and included 2 Canadian tours.  It rose to to the top 10 (#9) on the iTunes Canada singer-songwriter charts within its first weeks.

The album 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.
  • 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

  • Just Before Sunrise (scheduled release – May 2021)
  • This Christmas (Nov 13 2020)
  • 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

  • 4 SOLD OUT concerts with the Regina Symphony Orchestra (Oct 2020)
  • 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.