“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)
Jeffery Straker grew up taking piano lessons in small-town Saskatchewan and has gone on to perform over 100 shows per year across Canada, Europe and Latin America. The rootsy-storytelling of his 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 with an energetic piano style, his song writing has drawn critical comparisons to the likes of Harry Chapin, Kris Kristofferson & Billy Joel, while maintaining a style distinctly his own. He’s recorded his music for CBC radio’s ‘Canada Live’, has seen his songs used in film, TV and theatrical productions and in 2020 was awarded “Roots/Folk Artist of the Year” at the Saskatchewan Music Awards. In 2019 he received his first Western Canadian Music Award.
“Very much an artist to watch” – Canadian Musician Magazine
A musical vagabond, he’s toured internationally as far as The Netherlands, Mexico and Nunavut with tour stops ranging from intimate house concerts to theatre shows as well as festivals. Never one to let ‘genre’ constrain him he’s also taken the stage in sold-out concerts performing his songs with symphony orchestras. In 2014, an international career boost came from winning the prestigious Vina del Mar (Chile) International Song Festival, representing Canada. Performing to a live 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.
Jeffery’s 2017 full-length recording, “Dirt Road Confessional” revealed a sonic evolution in a more roots-folk direction, accompanying his personal storytelling style. The 12-song album debuted at #5 on the iTunes Canada singer-songwriter charts and played on CBC Radio and college/community radio across the country. Listeners and critics took note. 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”. The Calgary Herald has added praise saying, “traces of some of the best piano-based singer-songwriters of the past 40 years, couched in his inimitable and effervescent style”.
Straker grew up listening to country music on his parents 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. His recent recordings sound, wonderfully, like his influences.
His most recent musical offering is his May 2021 10-song recording, “Just Before Sunrise”.
Just Before Sunrise is a soundtrack of reflection, evolution and optimism. “If we can manage to slow ourselves down to take a close look at our past and the changes we’ve been through, there are lessons to be learned. Sometimes I think we don’t allow ourselves to slow down, to maybe ‘avoid’ glancing back…. The victories and the losses we’ve experienced, inevitably shape our viewpoint and our path. Memories can lift & propel, though they can also weigh us down.”
“My mom passed away in February 2019 and that sudden and unexpected loss had a profound effect on me. In the months after she died I wrote like a madman as there was so much I was feeling & so much to say, that needed to be expressed musically. Part of my remembering the beautiful person she was – all those great memories – were almost accompanied by music. As memories surfaced, sounds were there with them. Those sounds helped prescribe the folk-roots flavour of the album actually.” The result of the grieving, questioning, revelation and resolution I experienced has been the ability to look forward, and through that lens the album maintains an overall tone of optimism. It kind of asks the listener, “Where are you headed? (and)… Where would you like to be headed”? Production was by the talented Russell Broom (Calgary AB). The recording features 2 co-writes with Royal Wood (who also produced on 2 songs).
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 to record it on Glenn Gould’s grand piano at the CBC studios in Toronto. The Toronto Star awarded 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”.
Jeffery is a classically trained pianist raised by a church-organist mother and auctioneer father. He swears he was born under the piano on the family grain farm in rural Saskatchewan. All this might explain his incredible ability to share songs with audiences. 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 only 19. Straker has showcased at major events including Canadian Music Week, NXNE, the Western Canadian Music Awards, & JunoFest.
“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
THANK YOU / MERCI
Jeffery thanks Creative Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Arts Board (SK ARTS), FACTOR, and the Radio Starmaker Fund for their support of his music creation, recording and touring over the years.
VINA DEL MAR INTERNATIONAL SONG FESTIVAL – 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. Click here for the Vina del Mar Wikipedia page.
THE BEETHOVEN CONNECTION:
Jeffery’s musical prowess and piano chops have a fairly 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:
- 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.
- 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 few rows were nuns in habits. This has never yet happened since and it quite possibly never will again.
- 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.
- Just Before Sunrise (May 7 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
- Jeffery performs 100+ shows each year
- 4 SOLD OUT concerts with the Regina Symphony Orchestra (Oct 2020)
- Tour of The Netherlands (2019)
- National Arts Centre (4th Stage), Ottawa ON (2018)
- tours of Mexico (2015/2016/2017/2018/2020)
- 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 (2012-2021)
- 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.