In 1998, Stagger hit Canada's independent music scene like a hurricane. With a voice of ferocious intensity, Stagger howled and screamed his way through several bands but it wasn't until Hot Hot Heat took Stagger out with them on a 'cross-Canada tour that he started to mellow out a bit. Stagger, at the ripe old age of 20, had decided to rely less on antics and focus more on his craft.
Stagger was quickly thrust into the spotlight by another high profile Victoria resident, Carolyn Mark. Stagger recalls, "She stuck a guitar in my hand one night at a hootenanny. I'd never played guitar in front of anybody before and it was the most nerve-wracking thing I'd ever done. But I'm so glad that she did that because it got me to where I am today."
Drawing on country, rock and punk-to-the-fore influences, Leeroy reinvented himself as a powerful singer/songwriter and recorded the eponymous Six Tales of Danger EP (2002) with Tolan McNeil (Neko Case). With only 500 copies ever made, the now out-of-print recording was merely a taster of what lay ahead. That blue collar weekend undertaking turned out a surge of heart rendering lyrics and infectious songs -- the EP evolved into an LP and Stagger's debut album Dear Love was released independently in April 2004.
At home, Stagger has opened for Alejandro Escovedo, The Pixies, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Modest Mouse, Evan Dando and many others but it was while performing with Kathleen Edwards that he met Danny Michel. Hailed by the CBC as a Canadian national treasure, Stagger had admired Michel as a songwriter for some time. "Me and Danny kind of bonded and kept in touch over email," says Stagger.
Beautiful House, released in September 2005, Stagger's second album, was recorded and produced by Michel. Seamlessly fusing Stagger's a deep-seeded punk fury with a pop sweetness and back-country cynicism, Beautiful House was eagerly received. Reaction to the album marked it as both an "instant classic" and the "finest alt-country, rock 'n' roll record to come out of Canada in years."
After multiple solo tours across the UK, touring with his band The Sinking Hearts throughout the US and Canada, performing to a jam-packed houses at SXSW and CMJ 2004, 2005 and 2006 as well as CMW, Pop Montreal and NxNE, Stagger amassed a loud and loyal following. "I've learned that to be a success, you have to tour your ass off," he says. By sticking to this deeply rooted D.I.Y. ethic, Leeroy has garnered reams of international critical acclaim.
A limited edition EP, Tales From the Back Porch, followed in April 2006. Featuring performances by Tolan McNeil, Diona Davies (Luther Wright) and Sarah Rhude (Po'girl), Tales... serves as Stagger's "basement tapes" recording. The EP consists of five songs plucked from Beautiful House and re-recorded in a purposefully rough-around-the-edges manner.
"I'd been on the road solo for months and was just itching to get back into the studio," explains Stagger. "None of the new songs were ready for that step yet so Tolan came up with the idea of re-recording a few songs. So I called around to some of my friends and we just got together on a weekend and had a great time."
September 2006 will see Stagger return with Depression River, Stagger's fourth release in as many years. Produced by John Ellis (Be Good Tanyas, Barney Bentall, Long John Baldry), the album highlights Stagger's ability to find drama in the banality of everyday life. From full out broken beer bottle rock to the aching ballad of a broken hearted dreamer, Stagger's new album is a whiskey-soaked, full-bodied recording of a powerful singer-songwriter that is only just starting to come into his own.
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