On Saturday, Nov. 2 at Auntie Barb’s Bakery, B.C.-born, Lethbridge-based country musician Leeroy Stagger will be performing a special evening of supper and song.
A singer song-writer with roots in punk music, Stagger is originally from Victoria and played in numerous local bands there. He has over 17 years experience in the music industry, but the past decade the progressions he’s made with his craft and in his life have been monumental.
He’s 13 years sober, a young family, he relocated from B.C. to Lethbridge, Alta. where he constructed Rebeltone Ranch, the studio and rehearsal space of his dreams, and in 2019 he released two full-length LPs and published a book.
On his website it reads, “Maybe he’s not the same person he was 10 years ago, but if anything Leeroy Stagger is more himself than ever.”
“Most of the great things in my career I never would have imagined I could do, but I definitely don’t take them for granted,” Stagger said in an interview with the Townsman. “But I’ve always just loved music and I’ve loved the way that it reaches people’s hearts and emotions and inspires them to make themselves better or to make the world a better place or even within their community.”
With 11 studio albums under his belt including 2019’s “Strange Path” and “Me And The Mountain,” Stagger has not only put out a wealth of his own material into the world, but he’s also supported the music community immensely by working with other artists.
Just one example is his relationship with Wild Honey. Stagger explains he’s been pals with the Cranbrook trio for many years, originally through Barney Bentall’s big country variety band Cariboo Express, that he would tour in every year. Jessica Niedermayer from Wild Honey is Bentall’s daughter and Wild Honey began playing with Caribou Express in Cranbrook.
Wild Honey had been working on their album for a long period of time and Stagger said he believes they needed someone to come in and help them get it done.
“They came in to the studio and I really like their songs,” he explained. “They had this really cool vibe and I think I took it in a different direction than most people would think; I put a bit more grit to it and made it a little less shiny, country-ish I guess. They’re just fantastic women that are very inspiring and great songwriters and doing so much for their community. It was a real pleasure to get to work with them.”
Wild Honey will be opening for Stagger in Cranbrook on Nov. 2 and Stagger’s band will be performing with Wild Honey at their gig in Fernie. Stagger built his studio space from the ground up in 2015, designing it as a place where he would want to make records out of; an inspiring space filled with plenty of natural light, high ceilings and lots of wood, creating a warm sounding and warm feeling place.
“It’s really nice to just be able to down and peck away at stuff,” he explained. “That’s kind of how I like to work, I don’t like to immerse myself in stuff for ten hours or 12 hours a day, I like to go and peck at things when I have ideas, so it’s been really cool to create that. And also it’s a performance space four or five times a year, where we can host concerts and kind of build community around them.”
His latest two albums were written about two years ago and a lot of his time now has been focused on promoting the records rather than writing new material. Strange Path – The Book, which was also released this year, acts as a sort of companion to the album of the same name, explaining where many of the songs came from, and in fact, Stagger describes the album itself as a “self-help book with guitars.”
“A lot of [the songs] were spurned out of a traumatic childhood and coming through that and coming out on the other side. Love Versus was a little bit more about sitting in that stuff and this is kind of the journey on the other side — about how can we move forward how can we heal from these traumas that are happening to most people, to a lot of people. how can we get better at that and break the cycle of trauma.”
When he initially wrote the book he began sending it around. One of the people who read the early edition was one of his favourite authors, the Canadian broadcaster, musician and writer Grant Lawrence. He said Lawrence told him “‘I know it’s uncomfortable but you need to delve into some of these traumas if you can.”
“He inspired me to go deeper and I did and I think it inadvertently helps people, reading what other people have gone through similar things and come out okay on the other side,” Stagger said. “And I think that’s the same thing as a song, in a lot of ways I don’t see much of a difference between the book and the record in the fact that the message is the same you just kind of intake it in a little different way.”
Part of his own journey over the last years has been his sobriety and better maintenance of his own health and wellbeing. Not only 13 years sober, he’s been eating healthy and doing things like running in order to stay in shape, combatting the often unhealthy lifestyles touring musicians can be known for.
“I don’t really struggle with it anymore, there were times where I certainly have over the years, but my life is fantastic sober so I don’t really need to jeopardize that,” he said. “I don’t really notice it in the business, and quite frankly it was a decision between either I’m going to have longevity in this as a career or I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I was going to continue to drink the way I was — it wasn’t going to be a viable, sustainable option in any sort of way.”
Longevity is something he is already well on the way to. With a career already stretching back roughly two decades, his creative output only seems to increase and he is just about to embark upon an extensive international tour. Cranbrook is the last Canadian stop before he departs to Denmark, then Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K.
In addition to his work as a touring, recording musician, producer and author, he his also a father, a balancing act that he says easier to manage some days than others.
“I think it’s like anything,” he said, “whether I was working on the oil rigs or something like that, my modus operandi is to be present for my kids when I need to be and to show them to not be afraid to follow your dreams and go out and do the things you love but also when I’m home to be home and to be present for them when I’m here.”
Being a working musician is no easy feat in today’s modern music industry, and Stagger, like many of his peers have expressed their frustrations in the past with the state of the business. However, Stagger says that he has hit a point in his life where he is just doing the things that he needs to be doing, rather than worrying about conforming to any set of rules that the business may set out for him.
“I decided this year, that I’m not going to really deal with unprofessionalism or anything like that, because this is a living, this isn’t a hobby or something this is how I pay my mortgage and feed my kids.”
Hear his songs and stories in an intimate setting at Auntie Barbs on Saturday at 7 p.m.