Canadian folk-pop singer, songwriter and pianist Jeffery Straker is looking forward to bringing the Christmas spirit to Estevan this December. His concert is slated for Dec. 14 at the Orpheum Theatre and is hosted by the Estevan Arts Council.
The Mercury talked to the Saskatchewan musician about what he's been up to lately, his new EP This Christmas that was released last Friday and his new video. It turned out that he had a lot of great news and positive updates to share.
"In spite of the pandemic, it's been a really busy time, I can't complain at all," Straker said. "I was able to do several shows throughout the year, record some new music and release it. I feel that I've been really lucky."
Straker was able to find some creative ways to keep doing what he loves. And while there was a lot of stagnation in different spheres since March, for Straker last summer turned out to be really busy.
"From July to September I was doing these small pandemic piano backyard shows. I did one in Saskatoon in July, then I put a picture on my Facebook page and then I started getting all these ... requests to do them. I ended up doing 36 of these backyard shows across Saskatchewan and Alberta."
At all concerts they followed the safety recommendations. People were wearing masks and everything went great.
October turned out to be pretty busy for Straker as well, as he did a series of shows with the Regina Symphony at a cathedral in Regina, which all sold out.
"All these shows they have so much organizing and administrative work in the background, it's a bit of a monster," Straker said.
But on top of the performances, in September when Saskatchewan was still experiencing beautiful warm weather, Straker wrote a new EP called This Christmas.
"The funny thing about writing a song is that you start having an idea, and coming up with the idea you are kind of in control of if you will, but then there is a point when you are writing a song, it's not that far in, when the song takes over," Straker said, adding that once the new songs took over him it didn't matter that it was 30 C outside.
The three-song collection includes two new yuletide originals and one classic cover. With a folk-roots feel to the EP This Christmas, there's a nod to the nostalgia of the holidays through both the song selection and the production.
One of the songs is a cover of the hit Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The other one is dedicated to Straker's mother who passed away a year and a half ago.
"Last Christmas was my first Christmas without her, and it was really hard, it was a really difficult time, and I wasn't emotionally capable of writing this song last year. But since time has passed, I had the ability to really distill out the great memories, as difficult as it is, and the song instead of being super sad … it's more of a tribute," Straker said.
The third song Come Walking in the Snow with Me is an up-tempo, fun piece about new love during the holiday time and how it makes everything feel a little bit more festive and bright.
"It's got a really fun instrumentation, it's got a great little solo and a mandolin, and it's really folk-root in its feel."
He said that he already had some feedback on Come Walking in the Snow with Me. People were liking it and radio stations reached out willing to play it this Christmas season.
In the music video released on Monday, there are two people walking in the snow. All viewers can see is their feet, dressed in fashionable light shoes. Straker admitted that one set of legs is his, and the shoes were filling up with snow, which was making him curse all the time. But he didn't reveal anything about the person that is walking by his side in the video.
"The other one will remain a mystery," he said laughing. "I'll probably feel safe to talk about who the other one is in about … mmm… it needs some time because I'm not sure what it is yet."
He added that he may reveal that secret when he will be in Estevan.
Straker plans to share his new pieces with the Estevan fans on Dec. 14. He will also play a lot of his popular hits and other pieces along with some Christmas music.
"The rest of the show will be a great mixture of traditional holiday songs … including a couple of sacred holiday songs … and a bit of storytelling between each song."
He did some Christmas shows before, and people really enjoyed those, so he hopes for the same results this time. Straker said that the main differences in concerts these days are that audience members are distanced and are wearing masks.
"Overall it's a really safe experience," Straker said.
He added that safety measures don't stand in the way of having a great time. At his recent concerts, he asked the auditorium if people have been to concerts since March, and for the vast majority, it was the first concert in a really long time.
"So many of these people are so excited to be experiencing live music, that I think that the oddness of the distance and the mask, it disappears in about two minutes. And then all of a sudden you are just at a concert."
Tickets are $35 and are available at Henders Drugs and at the Estevan Arts Council office during their work hours.