A lot has happened since we last talked with singer/songwriter/pianist Jeffery Straker, not the least of which is the release of his new album “Under the Soles of My Shoes” which drops June 21 and a return to Vancouver for Pride this July.
Where Straker’s last album “Step It Up” was what he considers external looking, he tells us his latest is anything but.
“It’s a pretty inward looking record,” said Straker from Toronto. “I didn’t actually realize that until I set out to pick the title of the album, but all of the songs are reflective and pretty much about me.”
Having realized his song lens had flipped around on himself, Straker said his choice for the album’s title was a relatively simple one.
“Once I realized the songs were about things in my past, love lost, that sort of thing, the idea for title came to me. It refers to all the stuff I have walked upon, walked through and even walked passed,” he explained.
For Straker though having a more internalized album isn’t the only thing that is different from his last.
“Musically it is also a bit different from last album,” he said. “The sound has evolved from piano-pop with a cabaret twist to a folk-pop with a cabaret twist”.
Straker says the album feels more organic to him and he is particularly pleased with the addition of instruments including the steel guitar, strings and horns. Of course, Straker wouldn’t be who he is musically without a certain piano-pop vibe but he says the other instruments help give “Under the Soles of My Feet” a different sound that excites him.
“I’m excited that my music has morphed a bit,” he said, “and now it will be exciting to see what people think about it.”
And it isn’t taking long for Straker to get that feedback with the first single “Brand New Ocean” already getting some radio play and which he says is getting a good response, boding well for the official album launch on June 21. As for the critics, Straker says that while it is still early for the reviews he remains morbidly curious about what they will say.
But it really is Straker’s fans that keep him going, especially in his home Province of Saskatchewan where for a time “Step Right Up” was the fifth best selling album ahead of both Justin Bieber and Laday Gaga.
“Getting that recognition from my fans in Saskatchewan was really important,” said Straker. “Every artist needs a core group of fans that helps expand to others. Without that starting point it is really hard for touring musicians like me. Word of mouth is so important”.
And that word of mouth is growing beyond his core Saskatchewan base. Crossing the country in under two months from his home in Saskatchewan, Straker will play a number of shows in Ontario and then head out west where he will play Pride in both Prince George and Vancouver.
The opportunity to perform at various Pride celebrations across the country is an important part of what Straker does.
“Being an out gay artist there is something really freeing when I can get in a concert setting where the audience is comfortable with me being gay and out,” he said. “Pride festivals are a great way to present myself in this context.”
But Straker says that while being an out gay artist may not always be easy, especially in an industry where some view it as an impediment to furthering a career, he can’t please everyone.
“The issue of me being out and gay has come up with various people who have come into my team,” said Straker. “But I am who I am and I am that person on the stage. Me skirting around it is impossible and I wouldn’t want to.”
While Straker may be busy touring over the next few months, including his Vancouver Pride stop, he says the highlight of his career so far is yet to come.
“I think my career highlight is actually yet to come. In October as a matter of fact, in a pops concert with the Regina Symphony Orchestra featuring all my music,” he enthused. “I did a nine show tour with 12 members of the Orchestra last spring which went really well and it has resulted in this October concert. I’m pretty jazzed.”
Canadian singer/songwriter Jeffery Straker releases his new album “under the soles of my shoes” on June 21, 2011 (Conveyor Canada / Universal Music) online and at retail nationwide. Straker completes this album with a unique blend of steel guitars, strings, complimented with a trumpet and banjo, creating his trademark, cabaret pop-folk sound. Visit http://jeffstraker.com for more information.
Straker performs at the Vancouver Pride Davie Street Party on Friday, July 29 and at the Vancouver Pride Sunset Beach Festival on Sunday, July 31. Visit http://www.vancouverpride.ca for more information.