By Lissa Alexander
Jeffery Straker was always passionate about music, but it was an interaction with a family member that made him see the big picture, drop everything, and pursue his dream.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Straker remembered.
He was visiting his great aunt with his grandmother and they realized that day, that his great aunt no longer knew who she was. Alzheimer’s disease had taken its toll.
Once he left the seniors’ facility, he called his boss and quit his job. “I am convinced to this day that that day was given to me as a gift, like a sign. And I could take the sign or not, and I took it.”
Straker said we only get a set number of trips around the sun, so he decided he should at least try to do what he wants to do. That was 10 years ago.
Originally from a small farming town in Saskatchewan, Straker now spends a good chunk of his time in Regina and at his apartment in Toronto, when he’s not touring.
He plays about 120 shows a year, mostly across Canada. “From Vancouver Island to Cape Breton to Nunavut, I go everywhere,” he explained.
He’ll be in Parksville on April 29 playing at The Ground Zero Acoustic Lounge (GZAL).
Straker is also building up an audience in Latin America and he’s looking to expand his audience in Western Europe.
He has just returned from a two-week trip to the Netherlands.
There, he played a variety of shows, accompanied by a Dutch musician who played either bass or percussion.
“He was really good, and we got along very well, and he appreciated and respected my incredulous appetite,” he chuckled, adding that he is a runner so he always has a healthy appetite.
Straker enjoyed playing songs off his most recent album, Dirt Road Confessional, which he says features some of the best songs he’s ever written.
“Each record I make evolves sonically, and that [record] evolved to a place where I think really started to reflect who I am. And it has more of a folk-roots flavor to it than anything else I’ve ever made.”
His previous records had more of a pop-folk feel, he explained, where Dirt Road Confessional is more roots-folk with a bit of a pop twist. He said there were quite a few co-writes on the album and a few different producers, so it was a team effort. It all comes together very cohesively, he explained. The process and the end result felt great, he said.
“It felt like I’d pulled on a really comfortable pair of boots; I thought, this just feels right.”
Straker has had great feedback from the album, including reaching number five on the iTunes Canada Singer-Songwriter charts.
He has also had some notable reviews in the past including this from Gregg Shapiro at Chicago Free Press: “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”.
Straker has performed in Parksville at the McMillan Arts Centre, and he has performed a few house concerts in the area. He’s looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and some new ones when he returns to play at The Ground Zero Acoustic Lounge. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.gzalounge.com or by phone 250-927-4595. GZAL is located at 8-464 Island Highway East in Parksville.