It’s said the cells in your body replace themselves every decade or so. After 11 albums, two EPs and 17 years as a singer-songwriter, Leeroy Stagger has been wondering if maybe the soul works the same way. Ten years sober, with two kids, a home in Lethbridge and a world class recording studio to go with it, he’s far removed from the hard-living twenty-something who started on this musical path. As far as Stagger can see, they aren’t even the same person.
Strange Path is the name of Stagger’s newest album and book, a name that applies as much to his unexpected route from the BC punk scene to southern-Alberta singer songwriter as it does to the album’s own evolution. Following from 2017’s Love Versus, itself a creative re-emergence after a years-long fog of anxiety and depression, Strange Path is the end result of a triple-album’s worth of scrapped demos, record label rejections, and a spirit-reviving retreat inwards. It’s also Stagger’s most ambitious and philosophical creation yet, a veritable self-help book pulled from a lifetime of struggling towards the light and brimming with the hard-won joy at the heart of his recent renaissance.
To piece Strange Path together, Stagger surrounded himself with some of the best players in the business. The first step was enlisting Love Versus drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Elliot Smith, Los Lobos) to once again lend his meticulous musicianship to the mix. Longtime collaborator Tyson Maiko stepped in on bass, with Paul Rigby (Neko Case, Garth Hudson, Jakob Dylan) joining on guitar, and Stagger’s touring band, the Rebeltone Sound (Ryland Moranz on guitar, mandolin and vocals, and Michael Ayotte on piano, synthesizers and keyboards) rounding out the arrangements.
For production, Brad Barr of acclaimed act The Barr Brothers shared the helm on four of the eleven tracks. That left Stagger, a veteran producer of other artist’s albums, to steer his own ship for the first time. Then it was turned over for mixing by five-time Grammy winner Ryan Freeland (Ray Lamontagne, Bonnie Raitt, Aimee Mann, Rodney Crowell and more).
Strange Path the book will be out at the same time as the album. It is described as an artists’ path through trauma, healing and music and finding self purpose through the art that this work entails.
Strange Path hits the streets/shelves via True North Records on September 13. Today, Ghettoblaster has the pleasure of premiering “Jesus and Buddha.” This is what Stagger had to say about it:
“If Jesus were to come back, I suppose he might be a little more than disheartened to see his teachings completely twisted into some sort of perverted version of morality and judgement. The teachings of the Buddha seem to strike a chord with me. The Idea that we are all suffering makes sense to me, some of us more than others. The impermanence of it all! I don’t know, maybe it’s just my way of coping out of my fear, but for some reason I take great comfort that nothing lasts.”