After a whirlwind nine albums released over the course of a dozen years, Alberta singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger thought he just might have had his fill of the music business.
In one sense, Stagger – performing at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge on Friday, June 12 – can’t be blamed: While he has earned impressive critical acclaim as well as a devoted fan base in the last 10 years, Stagger also knew moving forward without his heart being 110% invested in what he was doing would serve as a betrayal of sorts.
Fortunately for his fans, a series of successful shows with Steve Earle is just what the doctor ordered to get Stagger excited about making music again.
“I had the opportunity to perform three shows with Steve in Chicago where the audience reception was just huge. Those performances are really what got me fired up to keep going and keep making music on my own terms,” Stagger says.
Stagger concedes that coming to that realization without any outside pressure was paramount. After having exited an American record deal, the musician found himself feeling as though he held a much bigger stake in his success moving forward.
He reasserted his independence with the release of his tenth album, Dream It All Away, last month.
“In the time leading up to this new record, I was seriously questioning whether I wanted to be doing this anymore. Additionally, however, I had also found out that I was going to be a father and that scared the living daylights out of me. Taking a break from music was in the cards.
“I needed to do something for myself and feel as though I had a stake in my future success. It resulted in a much more personal album, which I think I needed to tap into those emotions to evoke. I felt like I needed to get my hands dirty in terms of the release and marketing of this album. Success was an after-thought in a lot of ways. I didn’t necessarily care what happened to the record as long as I made the best record I could.”
Produced by Russell Broom (Sam Roberts, Julian Lennon), Stagger recorded Dream It All Away in studios in Calgary and Lethbridge, Alta. He admits that it took he and Broom a little while before he feels they truly connected, but that once the connection had been made, there was no stopping them.
“Initially, I don’t think Russell and I was getting where the other person was coming from, and so it took us awhile to find our groove. It was when we sat down and began arranging the songs that we realized we had hit on a kind of magic formula.
“We ended up really bringing out the best in each other for the making of this record. Russell’s production style tends to be cleaner than mine, but it was exactly what I wanted with this album anyway. I was chasing a kind of 70’s California sound; something polished but still had grit, which seems to come naturally to what I do,” Stagger says.
With his renewed outlook comes a set of renewed priorities. In addition to scaling back on the amount of touring he is doing in order to be the best father he can be, Stagger says he is less concerned about trying to become a worldwide sensation as much as he has decided to focus on the places that have shown him the most support in the past.
“I’m not as interested in slugging it out on the road anymore as I am hitting the cities where I have these great pockets of support. That is where my interest lies these days.”
While he is evidently grateful and enthusiastic to be making music once again, Stagger notes that he had inadvertently come up with a back-up career plan over the last year with the launch of his furniture company known as Hatch and Thicket.
The company builds modern industrial tables on steel bases that don solid wood tops. He stumbled into the work by accident, after having posted a picture online of a table he had made.
“I built a table for myself and posted a picture of it online. Soon after, I was contacted by a couple of businesses that asked if I’d be interested in making tables for them. It was those jobs that essentially paid for the start-up of my company. Turning down paying jobs wasn’t the hardest decision in the world,” he laughs.
“It all just happened at a really good juncture in my life. I had a new child at the time and wasn’t out on the road somewhere. It just flourished from there. It did give me a different perspective on the world, however, in that making tables and making music are both things that I want to do, as opposed to feeling as though I have to do them. I’ve come to realize that you can’t always plan for the best things in life.”
What: Leeroy Stagger with Dennis Ellsworth
When: Friday June 12, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton