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SXSW ’07 PREVIEW: LEEROY STAGGER

Leeroy Stagger.jpg

Canadian singer/songwriter Leeroy Stagger has racked up a lot of stage time in recent years. In fact, since October 2004, there have only been three months in which he didn’t play at least one show.

So far in 2007, he’s done his share of zigzagging across North America, and his itinerary for this month includes a March 17 showcase during the South by Southwest music conference/festival in Austin, Texas.

In addition to a busy touring schedule, Stagger, 23, has pumped out his share of CDs, too. The rootsy, ragged Depression River, due April 3 on Boompa Records, is his fourth release in as many years.

Medleyville: After completing a tour, what’s the first thing you do when you return home to Canada?
Leeroy Stagger: “Usually when I get home, I’m so wound up that I’m off to the local watering hole to catch up and get drunk with friends. When you drink every night on tour, it’s hard to go without at home. This lasts two to three days. Then I go into exile for about a month, eat really good food and write music.”

If you could assemble a dream backing band from your influences, who would be in the group?
Stagger: “Hmm — hopefully, they are working for cheap that night! J.J. Cale on guitar, Tom Waits on piano, Roy Husky Jr. on bass, Brian Blade on drums, Emmylou Harris on backing vocals, Steve Earle on acoustic guitar and Ryan Adams can sit in the corner and mix me drinks!”

Depression River refers to the town on Vancouver Island where you grew up. How often, if ever, do you go back there, and was it difficult writing material about a place where a variety of bad things happened to you?
Stagger: “I hang in Victoria a lot still, not so much in Shawnigan Lake. The island is a beautiful and very spiritual place. Victoria still feels like home, but it’s getting so crowded and the beauty is being spoiled with condos going up everywhere with stupid names like The Zen and the Bamboo just ruining it for everyone.
Depression River refers to a small place on the island I don’t go to anymore. But it’s good to write about it and get those demons out of the closet, I guess.”

What did John Ellis bring to the table as a producer?
Stagger: “Johnny was great because he didn’t [mess] with the songs too much and let us do our thing. He was hesitant to let me use my band at first, but he made it work and he got some great sounds. It sounds what I wanted it to sound like, for the most part. It will be interesting if we do the next one together because we have been hanging out lots and both have some crazy ideas in our heads.”

How many times have you showcased during South by Southwest, and what’s your most vivid SXSW memory?
Stagger: “This will be my third this year. I remember being right up front for the Neville Brothers with my band at the time [and being] a little bit tipsy. Someone from our crew stole a big bag of pork rinds and somehow we got the crowd chanting some nonsense about these pork rinds — like 400 people. We shared the rinds, too.

“Seeing Lyle Lovett in a tiny bar was something else as well. Oh, but the best was flying in late at night. I had to find my band, so I walked down to Sixth Street and found my guitar player passed out in a doorway with a fresh Texas star tattoo. He woke up for a second and stole a piece of pizza off some girl’s plate! Then he went back to sleep. [I] found the bass player down the road somewhere with ‘Tom Waits’ tattooed on his wrist.”

— By Chris M. Junior