With his new album Vagabond released this week, Canadian singer-songwriter-pianist Jeffery Straker is back on the road with a cross-country tour that includes a show in Vancouver. We caught up with Jeffery before he hits the road for a little q&a.
This new album, Vagabond, is an album about exploring. It’s about being on the hunt. Sometimes I’m looking to get away from myself and sometimes I’m retreating back into myself. My 2008 CD Step Right Up was quite outward looking at people and places around me. My 2011 album under the soles of my shoes looked inward, and this one seems to maybe sit between the two; sometimes looking out and sometimes looking in. That’s either a happy middle ground or I’ve become bi-polar. Either could be true.
Why the title Vagabond?
When I sat back and looked at the songs and what they were about and what it was that strung them together there was a real theme of movement and escaping. And when I thought of a drifter or a vagabond, I thought that they’re likely on the go to look for something or to escape something – or maybe both simultaneously. It felt like a perfect title. And then separate from the music, but to do with me – over the past three years I’ve been on the go so much that I sometimes feel a bit un-rooted as well. It fit in that sense too. And … it was a great excuse to buy some more vintage clothing.
You’ve gone piano-pop with a cabaret twist to a folk-pop with a cabaret twist. What kind of “twist” have you put on your new record?
Hmmm – good question. I think this is Folk-pop-cabaret with a capital ‘F’ on the word Folk. Working with musical wizard Danny Michel as producer really put a stamp on the tunes as more rootsy/folky as well. I love his producing chops and he lent some great influence to these tunes. Labels are tough to apply sometimes – but I’ll stick with folk-pop-cabaret. Unless you have a great new genre label and I’ll give it a go.
With song names like Birch Bark Canoe and Botanic Gardens it sounds very pastoral. Is there a theme here?
Ahhhhh pastoral. And in the next video you’ll see me running in a meadow in a beautiful sundress! LOL … no you won’t, the leg hair would make you scream. You’ve picked up on a theme though. There is a lot of ‘space’ in this album. In the writing, in the production direction that Danny worked on – there is a lot of breathing room. Some songs take you to a garden, on a canoe trip, and out on the ocean. This wasn’t conscious at all but neat to see in hindsight. Also, I got to solo canoe in one of the music videos which was cool!
What about Foolish (twitter love lament) – the name is intriguing – what is it about?
This short 40 second song is written in 140 characters (139 I think) so it fits into a tweet. And it’s a line that a lamenting lover could tweet to a past fling or romance or whomever. Try it – see what happens!
You’ve got a pretty busy tour schedule coming up for the new album – what’s the best part of touring?
I love connecting with new people through a live show. It’s such a treat. And touring is when that happens. I’m also enjoying getting my music out farther and farther across Canada. This tour has 17 dates and goes from Victoria to Ottawa. I’ve got some plans in the works for the New Year for the East Coast.
You knew we’d ask – what’s the worst part?
The driving. Period. Brutal. I really don’t like driving FOREVER but in Canada if you tour it’s simply required. Celine Dion gets to fly everywhere on a private Air Canada Jet. Air Canada also ushers her through airports around the world. I drive an old Jetta. It’s almost the same but completely different. I wonder if her coffee cup fits in her cup holder? No wait, I bet she has someone to hold it for her and blow on it to cool it down. Luckily for me I’m a coffee-holic so long drives are often a quest for the best cup of coffee I can find. I travel from coffee place to coffee place. I also load up my iPod with new stuff and it’s the perfect time to digest new music.
You seem to be big on the “house concert” idea – where did that idea originate and why is it important to you?
House concerts have been really good for me. I get to connect with new listeners in a really intimate situation and a solo piano-vocal evening is perfectly fine which makes logistics so easy compared to a show with a full band. Hosts often give me a place to sleep too! And sometimes if the stars are aligned—–the host makes me breakfast! (I love bacon). There are a few cities in Canada where I started with tiny house concerts and now I can get really good crowds out to bigger clubs. It’s neat to see how it grows. Usually with house concerts you often meet someone who turns out to be your ‘local’ champion as well. They kind of become an unofficial street team leader.
This tour goes through October and November – with a few dates in Early December. I’ll rest a bit in December – I’ll likely collapse from all this but it’ll be a ‘good collapse’, because I really do love it. I’ll hopefully get to take a vacation – I have a bunch of friends I want to visit in Ireland. The New Year has a bunch of shows already booked & a bunch of writing time blocked off for new material. Busy, busy!
Jeffery Straker Vagabond Tour
Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir Street Vancouver
14 October 2012 @ 8pm