Over the course of seven studio records cut over the last nine years, Jerry Leger has emerged as one of Canada’s finest roots-country songwriters.
While his music may owe a debt to fellow underappreciated songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Leger’s voice has always been his own.
Being a singer-songwriter is a long-standing and essential musical tradition. After all, where would music be today without the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Woody Guthrie? Their songs were not always the most infectious nor were they writing chart topper after chart topper. But, boy, did their songs tell stories, painting vivid, picturesque landscapes or inciting the need to protest in the listener’s mind.
“Great records are the ones you live with and discover something new every time that you listen to it,” Leger says. “I enjoy making those kinds of records. But there is a certain attention span or lack thereof among people that doesn’t quite exist the way that it used to. There are just so many distractions these days. Everything is so instant. A lot of people go for music that they instantly like but six months down the line, they do not have the same connection to the record or the song that they once did.
“Without trying to sound overly confident, I have been making records for the better part of nine years now and am still fighting for some things that I shouldn’t be fighting for anymore. It has a lot to do with the music I make because I don’t have any tricks up my sleeve and I don’t have a video that is going to go viral. At the end of the day, I just want to write songs and play them for people who appreciate them.”
With such a firm grasp on reality, some might argue that Leger’s views are a little too idealistic for his own good in the shape-shifting world that is the music business in 2014.
But Leger doesn’t believe so.
“Being on the winning end of a viral video can totally undermine the music,” he says. “I think it is a big reason why so many bands are coming and going these days. There is a bigger turnover than ever in terms of who is popular and who is not. If you make your name based on some gimmick, where do you go from there? You are going to fall into the trap of always needing to outdo yourself in bigger and bigger ways. It’s not tenable.
“With the path I have chosen, I just have to keep writing songs in an effort to outdo myself. I think that is a good position to be in.”
Of particular note is Leger’s prolific nature when it comes to his recorded output. To release seven records over the course of nine years is a pace that only a handful of other artists can lay claim to.
Asked what motivates him to maintain such a seemingly hectic recording and release schedule, Leger says that it is not a competitive spirit that drives him, just a desire to get his music heard by as many people as possible.
“I like to keep myself creatively busy. That is how I live day-to-day. I do want to sell records and share my music with people though, but making records isn’t enough these days. You ultimately have to be out on the road, which I fully understand and am comfortable with.”
Leger’s latest record, Early Riser, was released late last month. Early reviews of the album saw critics calling it his best work yet. It is his first record for Latent Recordings, a record label run by Toronto band Cowboy Junkies.
His association with the Junkies does not end there, however. Years after cultivating a friendship with Cowboy Junkies songwriter Michael Timmins, Leger chose him to be in the producer’s chair for the making of Early Riser.
“I had recorded demos at Mike’s studio a long time ago but it wasn’t until last summer that he and I reconnected. Our discussions evolved into talking about making a record together and really, I don’t feel as though it could have turned out any better.
“I think we worked so well together because our influences are very much the same. But we also share the same taste and approach to making music. He was really open and enthusiastic about what I wanted to do with this record. And conversely, it felt good to be able to leverage him as a songwriter and producer.
“The fact that the Cowboy Junkies had a big hit record but continued making music for themselves rather than chasing success is inspirational to me as an artist.”
What: Jerry Leger
When: Saturday, May 24, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton