Look up, way up… there’s a bright star on the prairie horizon as the Yorkton Arts Council proudly welcomes the next “Stars For Saskatchewan” performer, Jeffery Straker, appearing Thursday, October 24, 2013, at 8:00 p.m. in the Anne Portnuff Theatre, Yorkton Regional High School.
Jeffery has released several studio albums, recorded for CBC Radio’s Canada Live, reached the top 10 on Much More Music, and all along the way has left critics raving. The Chicago Free Press has written “Rufus Wainwright, as well as k.d.lang are among the Canadians making essential and beautiful music. Add Jeffery Straker to that list.”
Music is just what comes naturally to Jeffery Straker. “Music was a big part of our family. Everyone in our family played an instrument. Mom played piano, my sister & brother and I took lessons, dad played banjo, and my grandparents played too. Lots of our neighbours played instruments too. Often our place was a gathering place for late night jam sessions on weekends. Some of our neighbours were incredible musicians.” says Jeffery.
When asked if Jeffery’s prairie roots influence his music, Jeffery commented “I think it might have an influence to a degree although I’m not exactly your stereotypical ‘strum-a-guitar’ prairie musician. Some of my song themes are definitely from the prairies as I like to tell stories in some of my songs. Musically critics have said on my last album that there is a prairie-ness to the sound likening it a bit to Neil Young. But really I’d say this is just a part of what makes up the whole thing. I’m a singer-pianist with a classical background so that seeps into the songs too. I think I’m likely more influenced by other musicians I listen to. And my sound has evolved over time.”
So where does inspiration come from for this bright musical star? “What inspires my music has changed from album to album. It used to be really outward looking - at other people and places around me and I’ll observe and recount. I’ve turned the lens inward with my latest albums. When I do a show I pick songs from across my albums to try to create a good balance of themes. Lately it can be a melody vs a subject that I’ll write from and then find a subject that fits a melody. That’s kind of a backwards process for me but it’s good to challenge yourself.”
Performing live, back in Saskatchewan, is very special. “I love performing in Saskatchewan. Audiences there are wonderful,” enthuses Jeffery. What does he hope to give to his audience? “To me the core of the music business is ‘the song’. And in a live setting you can see how people react to a song right in the moment. I think that’s really special. In a live show I deliver songs a little differently than on an album so there’s something about a live show where the music shared that night will likely never be shared exactly that way ever again and that’s pretty cool. I like to engage with the audience between songs too - I think it somehow makes the concert a bit more intimate and memorable vs just playing the songs back to back. A live show is more of an overall ‘experience’ vs just listening to the songs,” he said, adding, “I always want the audience to be moved and uplifted. I try to balance some slow thoughtful ballads & storytelling, with some uptempo songs. I really want people to feel like they’ve been entertained for an evening and taken away on a little escape.”
And the Yorkton audience will be in for a special treat! “I’m really looking forward to the show in Yorkton. My sister who has often sang harmony with me is actually coming to sing harmony at this show. She’s just had a baby so can’t really do many shows these days but she’s doing this one and it always adds a cool element to the night. Sibling harmony is a strange thing. No one can explain why it works so well but it does!”
Tickets for the Jeffery Straker “Stars For Saskatchewan” concert are available at the Yorkton Arts Council office, Welcome Home Floral and Gift Shop, at the door, or on-line at www.yorktonarts.ca