The long, hard road to making it in the music industry is one that local roots rocker Leeroy Stagger knows well. Far from the days of singing in a punk rock band and playing three chords on a guitar, Stagger still breaks away from the mainstream with his new album, Dream it all away.
Stagger’s latest release is receiving praise both far and wide. Music critic and writer B.Simm describes Stagger as an artist with an exhaustive workload who is relentless in his drive.
“The tension between happy and sad, depression and rejoicing, darkness and deliverance is what Stagger crafts so well on the record: a duality, the coexistence between opposing emotional forces which is the fabric both he and his music is made of,” writes Simm on Beatroute.ca.
The soulful songwriter has nine studio albums to his name, showing his audience and critics he is a solid pillar of performance in the music community. Adding to his credibility, Stagger took home the Alberta Peak Performance Project’s top prize of a cheque worth over $100,000 late last year. The initiative, sponsored by Calgary radio station 95.3 The Peak, brought together some of Alberta’s best and brightest musical talent to learn and grow in this unique project which supports and promotes homegrown talent.
Stagger describes the project as a summer band camp for adults and says it was a real honour to work with and be inspired by other artists. It was an experience he wasn’t expecting to have.
“I begrudgingly applied and assumed that I was too old and not hip enough for the program, but I think my producer at the time encouraged me to apply. When we got in I was like, wow ok, let’s give this a shot, so I worked my ass off for that project,” said Stagger.
Competing in the music initiative wasn’t a walk in the park. As part of the application process, he had to create a business plan and outline exactly how he could use the cash injection to improve his career. This was on top of having the talent and chops to back up his ideas.
Hard work and the right attitude is also key to making it in the business according to Scott McGregor, program director for 98.1 The Bridge, Lethbridge’s alternative music radio station.
“I feel like the people that work hard and do the work like Leeroy, in the long run become more successful because they’re not overnight sensations. It’s more than just getting a song on the radio. It’s about building an audience base, it’s about touring, it’s about living that hard life and some people don’t want to do that,” said McGregor.
Living the musician lifestyle can often be a struggle financially. When music wasn’t paying the bills, Stagger took to one of his other talents, carpentry. Successfully creating his own line of furniture with wife Coby, Hatch and Thicket, their work can be seen throughout several businesses in Lethbridge and beyond. Using his hands to bring in an income to support his young and growing family is complimentary to his music life according to Stagger. Laughing, he says working through a writing block and physically making something, then selling it and getting it out of his house is cathartic in a way.
While the prize money provides a cash injection into Stagger’s plans, it’s business as usual for this laid back family man. Getting ready for the arrival of his second child, preparing to write a new album in the spring and a European tour are all on the horizon. Wanting to give back to the Lethbridge and Canadian music community, Stagger is also working on building a studio and performance space in town. With his keen eye and ear for up and coming talent, Stagger is excited to be able to create a space where he and his colleagues can thrive in Southern Alberta.