“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: Vagabond is 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, each one strikingly emphasized in (Danny) Michel’s production… There’s rarely a note, chord or word too many or too few”
– Toronto Star (Oct, 2012)
“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”
– Chicago Free Press, Gregg Shapiro
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]inger-songwriter-pianist Jeffery Straker performs over 100 shows per year across Canada. He has recorded for CBC radio’s ‘Canada Live’, had a music video chart in the top 10 on Much More Music Canada and has toured internationally as far as Peru, Mexico and Chile. His tour stops range from intimate house concerts to club and theatre shows and include recent sold-out concerts with several Canadian symphony orchestras, performing his own songs. 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 is set to launch a brand new full length recording, “Dirt Road Confessional”, May 19 2017 while 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 touches of Rufus Wainwright and Harry Nilsson thrown in, but on Dirt Road Confessional his personal storytelling style has evolved into his own unified voice. At the same time, he was determined to explore different approaches in the studio, which led the album to be constructed out of five separate sessions.
Daniel Ledwell (Jenn Grant) produced three songs in Nova Scotia, Royal Wood co-wrote two songs and co-produced them with Lawrence Katz in L.A., Dean Drouillard (Justin Rutledge, Amelia Curran) produced two songs in Toronto—where an additional track was also laid down with Robyn Dell’Unto—and Murray Pulver (The Bros. Landreth) co-produced the balance with Brad Prosko during sessions in Regina. Despite so many hands being involved in the end result, 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 I share more about myself than I ever have before, and musically I’ve moved in a more rootsy direction, in some ways 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.
His previous album “North Star Falling” was released March 2015. The 12-song recording was produced by Dean Drouillard (Royal Wood, Justin Rutledge) and 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 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 release met with critical acclaim with the Toronto Star giving it 4 (out of 4) stars and 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. In 2014, however, he definitely left the farm as he was thrown into the Latin American spotlight when his career was boosted via winning the prestigious Vina del Mar (Chile) song competition. Representing Canada while 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 quickly gained a fan following in Latin America where he’s performed multiple times.
Straker’s songwriting has seen him become a national top 10 finalist in the Canadian Radiostar Songwriting Competition and a top 20 finalist in the global Unisong Competition as well as twice placing in the top 10 in the prestigious Mountain Stage Newsong contest. His songs have been licensed to TV, film and for theatrical use.
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.
Huge thanks go out to the Saskatchewan Arts Board, FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings), and Creative Saskatchewan for their support of Jeffery’s music creation, recording and touring.
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 won the 2014 Vina Del Mar International Song Festival in Chile, in 2014.
- He holds a degree (B.Sc.) 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 parents farm.
- Jeffery has performed as far away as Peru, Mexico, Ghana, Ireland, China, New York City, Panama (with the Canadian Embassy), and Chile. 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 again since. 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’s first piano teacher was Vicky Young in Punnichy SK. Mrs Dawn Mctavish of Raynmore SK was his next teacher, followed by Frank Crumly at the Conservatory of Music, University of Regina
- 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.
- Tykie is a real person! (see song ‘Tykie’s comin out’) Jeffery went to school with him.
- Jeffery eats peanut butter out of the jar with a table spoon. It’s not pretty.
- 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
Recent Performances of note
- Jeffery performs 100+ shows each year
- tours of Mexico (2015 & 2016)
- 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 concert with the Saskatoon Symphony (Oct 2013) TCU Place 2200ppl
- Sold out concert with the Regina Symphony (Oct 2011) Conexus Arts Centre; return engagement (March 2017)
- Sudbury Symphony (April 2015)
- Canada’s National Arts Centre 4th Stage – sold out – (2011)
- Telemiracle National Cast – SASK (2012-2017)
- Festivals including: NXNE, CMW, Breakout West, JunoFest