Music Interview: Jerry Leger

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Music Interview: Jerry Leger

Canadian singer-songwriter Jerry Leger is a voracious collector of vinyl records. When I spoke to him on his last UK tour, ahead of a gig with his band, The Situation, in East London, he told me: “When I get into a record, I dissect it – I listen very closely to it and it means something to me. Over a beer, I can talk all night about music I love.”

His new record, Time Out For Tomorrow, has been heavily influenced by two albums that he adores – Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby and Nick Lowe’s The Impossible Bird. “Coney Island Baby was the first solo Lou Reed record I heard. I think it was my brother, Shawn, who bought it at a garage sale or something. I was still pretty young, maybe 14 or so. I had got into The Velvet Underground a couple of years earlier,” he says.

“It’s an album that has always stuck with me. It’s not trying to prove anything – it’s there to discover. I love the production, especially the drum sound, which is what I really wanted on this record.”

He adds: “Nick Lowe’s The Impossible Bird is just a beauty of an album. It has a wonderful bright sound to it. I get the same feeling listening to an Everly Brothers or Jack Scott record. 

“Have you ever listened to Jack Scott? He was one of the first Canadian rock ‘n’ rollers to break through abroad and he’s one of my dad’s favourite singers. I suppose he influenced me to some degree. I know my parents did, musically. They have great taste in music. When my parents like my album, then I know I’ve made a good one.”

Image by Laura Proctor

Time Out For Tomorrow – the ninth studio album by Toronto-based Leger – should meet with his parents’ approval. It’s a brilliant record – from the Dylanesque country-rock of first single ‘Canvas of Gold’, to the melancholy, piano-led ballad ‘That Ain’t Here’, the blues-folk of ‘Burchell Lake’ – inspired by a ghost town in Ontario – and the haunting mountain tune, ‘Survived Like A Stone’ – with fiddle and saw – these are raw, powerful and emotional songs that deserve to be heard by a much wider audience.

Through a gruelling touring schedule, Leger has slowly started to build up a following in the UK and Europe. In spring 2019, he released a limited edition, retrospective compilation album, called Too Broke To Die, which was put together especially for the European market and was available to buy from his merchandise stall. 

Six months after our first meeting in London, I caught up with him again to talk about the making of his latest album and find out more about the influences behind it…

SH: Could Time Out For Tomorrow be the your ‘breakout’ album?

JL: I hope it does – just to make it easier to keep travelling and making albums. I certainly think that there are enough people that would dig it to make that happen, but it’s hard these days. Once upon a time the music would come to them, now they gotta dig for it, unless there’s a lot of money behind it, pushing it. We’ll definitely be back [in the UK and Europe] in the spring. We’re just starting to figure that out. I’m really looking forward to it.

2018’s Nonsense and Heartache, was a double album – the first half had a raw, electric, blues feel, but the second half was much more stripped-down and alt-country. The new album feels less bluesy and more Americana… 

Yeah – that’s a fair comment. I think the Nonsense portion of Nonsense and Heartache was basically a blues record. It’s just where I was at for those sessions. They’re all kind of blues records, but this one swings more.

With 10 tracks, it feels very direct – it doesn’t mess around…

The last record was a double because we were making two very different records at the same time. [Producer] Michael Timmins said, “why don’t we just release them together under the same roof?” I knew this one was gonna be a single album and I wanted it to be short and sweet – to say what it needs to say and then move on to the next thing.

Some of my favourite albums are doubles for the reason that the artists do it because they need to let it all out at that moment, for better or worse. On the other hand, some of my favourite albums are the ones where they’re there and then they’re gone – just like some of the best memories you have. You get a natural high and all you wanna do is re-live it. I wanted to make a record like that – that made you feel good.

Your basic band set-up on this album is very mid‑‘60s Bob Dylan…

Bob Dylan has influenced everything and everyone, whether they like it or not. As Warren Zevon once said, ‘He invented my job.’ Having said that, it wasn’t anything intentional. We just have a good buddy, Alan Zemaitis, who plays the organ like you’ve never heard. He recently played with Buddy Guy in Chicago, and Buddy gave him the nod and thumbs up. I really wanted him as part of the family on this record.

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