“Sometimes NORTH STAR FALLING is a pop record of the kind Elton John made in his peak early period. But Straker covers a wide swath of musical territory on this new disc, keeping us wondering where we might go next, while never losing sight of the importance of a finely crafted tune. Why doesn’t all pop music sound like this?”
– Mark Rheaume – CBC Radio (Feb, 2015)
“Let’s cut to the chase: Vagabond is 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, each one strikingly emphasized in (Danny) Michel’s production… There’s rarely a note, chord or word too many or too few”
– Toronto Star (Oct 9, 2012)
“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”
– Chicago Free Press, Gregg Shapiro
Singer-songwriter-pianist Jeffery Straker performs over 100 shows per year across Canada. He has recorded for CBC radio’s ‘Canada Live’, had a music video chart in the top 10 on Much More Music Canada and has toured internationally as far as Peru, Mexico and Ghana. His tour stops range from intimate house concerts to club and theatre shows and include recent sold-out concerts with Canadian symphony orchestras in Saskatoon, Regina and Sudbury. The review following his orchestral debut read: “Straker was simply spectacular…clearly one of the province’s best cultural exports”. Canadian Musician Magazine has said, “Very much an artist to watch” while 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”. His latest career boost came from winning the prestigious Vina del Mar (Chile) song competition in February 2014 where he represented 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 quickly gained a fan following in Latin America.
Straker’s 2012 collection of songs, “Vagabond”, was produced by Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Danny Michel & it was a thrill for him to record it on Glenn Gould’s grand piano at the CBC studios in Toronto. The release met with critical acclaim with the Toronto Star giving it 4 (out of 4) stars and 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 charted in 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”. Straker crossed Canada on a 50 date tour supporting the album.
Following extensive touring, Jeffery launched a new collection of songs: North Star Falling (March 2015). The 12-song album was produced by Dean Drouillard (Royal Wood, Justin Rutledge) and weaves a new sound around Straker’s songwriter-piano-pop. Electric guitars, horns, & strings as well as acoustic guitar and banjo help set the stage. The launch of the album (Acronym/Universal Canada) included 2 national tours with performances from coast to coast. The album rose to to the top 10 (#9) on the iTunes Canada singer-songwriter charts within its first weeks.
Jeffery and his piano-folk-pop music are often compared to a mixture of early Elton John, Billy Joel, Sarah Slean and Harry Chapin. Originally from small town Saskatchewan, the classically trained pianist was raised by a church organist mother and an auctioneer father. He swears he was born under the piano on the family farm. All this might explain his ability to share songs with audiences. Highlights of recent touring include: a debut performance at the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), invites to several Breakout West Festivals (Western Canadian Music Awards), Regina Folk Festival, Canadian Music Week (Toronto), NXNE (Toronto) and JunoFest. Many other summer festivals and folk festivals have had him on their stages.
Straker’s songwriting has seen him become a national top 10 finalist in the Canadian Radiostar Songwriting Competition and a top 20 finalist in the global Unisong Competition as well as twice placing in the top 10 in the prestigious Mountain Stage Newsong contest. His songs have been licensed to TV, film and for theatrical use.
Jeffery is a musical descendant of Beethoven through teacher-student lineage (seriously…see below for the full story). 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 just 19.
Jeffery thanks the Saskatchewan Arts Board, FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings), and Creative Saskatchewan for their support of his music making and touring.
THE BEETHOVEN CONNECTION:
Jeffery’s musical prowess and piano chops have an incredibly famous connection – it’s true. 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.
Jeffery has given several songwriting workshops in schools in Canada. Working with students he has shared the basics of songwriting helping students to express a range of ideas. Some results have included: school anthems, a school 100th anniversary song, and individually written student songs that they’ve gone on to sing on their own.
Some interesting tidbits about Jeffery:
- Jeffery won the 2014 Vina Del Mar International Song Festival in Chile, in 2014.
- He holds a degree (B.Sc.) 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 parents farm.
- Jeffery has performed as far away as Peru, Mexico, Ghana, Ireland, China, New York City, Panama (with the Canadian Embassy), and Chile. He performed in a mountain town in Panama where the venue was a cathedral and the whole first row was nuns in habits. This has never happened again since. It quite possibly never will.
- 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 (see photo page on his website site for pix)
- Jeffery’s first piano teacher was Vicky Young in Punnichy SK. Mrs Dawn Mctavish of Raynmore SK was his next teacher, followed by Frank Crumly at the Conservatory of Music, University of Regina
- 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.
- Tykie is a real person! (see song ‘Tykie’s comin out’) Jeffery went to school with him.
- Jeffery eats peanut butter out of the jar with a table spoon. It’s not pretty.
- 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
Recent Performances of note
- Jeffery performs 100+ shows each year
- tour of Mexico Feb (2015)
- 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 concert with the Saskatoon Symphony (Oct 2013) TCU Place 2200ppl
- Sold out concert with the Regina Symphony (Oct 2011) Conexus Arts Centre 2200 ppl
- Sudbury Symphony (April 2015)
- Canada’s National Arts Centre 4th Stage – sold out – (2011)
- Telemiracle National Cast – SASK (2012, 2013, 2015)
- Festivals including: NXNE, CMW, Breakout West, JunoFest