When most people first hear Jeffery Straker's music, they start making connections to other artists. Those in their 50s or 60s will say he sounds like Billy Joel or a young Elton John; younger listeners will say he sounds like Rufus Wainwright or Harry Chapin.
But Straker isn't trying to be someone else.
"It's what comes out of me," he said of his work.
"I'm a big singer-songwriter fan," the Saskatchewan artist added, saying the influences all these artists had on him throughout the years are what helped to shape his own unique style.
Straker, a classically trained pianist, calls that style "piano-driven folk pop." His songs are generally lyrics-based, with the pieces telling stories about his own everyday experiences in such a way that everyone can connect to the words.
"There has to be something to hold them (the listeners)," he said.
And being a pop singer, Straker said his music is generally upbeat in one way or another.
"I'm an optimistic guy," he said, adding that he hopes it's that feeling that comes through in his ballads as well as his uptempo pieces.
"I generally like an audience to go away uplifted," he said.
That being said, Straker also knows how to write a catchy melody that transcends language barriers.
In 2014, the musician won over the Spanish-speaking world by winning Chile's Festival de Viña del Mar song competition.
During the competition, Straker performed his English-language song “Hypnotized” live to a festival crowd of 20,000 people and to a TV audience of 100,000,000 viewers — and he said he took the stage right after Rod Stewart.
“It’s a big crazy production,” he said. “I’d never seen an audience that big.”
Straker quickly gained a fan following, putting him in demand for performances throughout Latin America.
He’s already toured Peru and Mexico, and he plans on returning to Chile in September.
He’s also toured in Ghana Africa.
“It’s quite fascinating to see the uptake,” he said of his sudden international popularity.
Back in Canada over the past eight years, Straker has recorded seven albums (including one for CBC radio’s ‘Canada Live’) and has had a music video chart in the top 10 on Much More Music Canada.
He said he also regularly performs over 100 shows around the country per year.
Electric guitarist Brodie Mohninger has joined Straker on a cross-Canada tour. “It’s worked really well,” said Straker.
The duo will once again join forces for a show at the McMillan Arts Centre on July 18, where they will play a number of Straker’s hits, including songs from his latest release “North Star Falling.”
Straker will play at the MAC on Friday, July 18. The performance will start at 7:30 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 for OCAC members and $15 general admission, and are on sale now at the gallery (133 McMillan Street, Parksville). You can also call the MAC at 250-248-8185 to purchase tickets.