Music Interview: Jerry Leger

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How were the recording sessions? 

Smooth and quick. It basically took a week, but a few tunes were recorded during the rehearsals and they ended up as final takes. Unlike the other records, the band and I met up more to try out different arrangements of the tunes or hammer out parts that we really dug. There was still spontaneity and some songs were re-arranged on the fly, but we definitely took more time finding the world each song lived in. We recorded it at the Cowboy Junkies’ studio, The Hangar, in Toronto.

What’s Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) like to work with?

He doesn’t interfere, but he’ll suggest things when he feels like he needs to. A lot of times he’s right. I trust him. There are only a handful of people that I really trust with my music. I think this record is the closest sound-wise that I’ve ever got to what’s in my head. You can never get there 100%, but I’m very proud of it.

Did you have many songs left over from the album sessions? 

Yeah – every record has that. Sometimes the best song is dropped because it just doesn’t fit. This record had about eight or nine other tunes that didn’t make the cut. They were some of my favourites, but I trusted the vision of the album. 

Are all the songs on Time Out For Tomorrow new, or do some date from a while back?

There was just one song, ‘Tell A Lie’ that we recorded for the last album. I knew it didn’t fit, but I also knew that it had something – a great chorus and feel, so we re-recorded it for Time Out For Tomorrow. The rest of the songs were new. I wrote ‘Canvas of Gold’ days before we started recording.

The title of the new album is taken from a ‘60s dime store collection of sci-fi short stories that a friend gave you. Why and how did that inspire you and why did you feel it summed up the record?

I just couldn’t get the title out of my head. It seemed to make sense to me for this record. Sometimes I know exactly what it means and sometimes I think it could be something else. I dig that.

The first song on the record – and also the first single – is ‘Canvas of Gold’. Is the song autobiographical?

Well, my dad had a rough upbringing – not a lot of money in a very full house in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He always worked very hard – he did a few jobs to make sure that we didn’t grow up the same way. His work ethic is still inspiring to me. He always had pride in what he was doing. My Dad was no sell-out. 

As a full-time musician trying to earn a living, do you feel like a hustler?

Yeah. Life is a hustle for people that don’t rely on luck, or rely on someone to create the illusion for them.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘Burchell Lake’, which was written about a ghost town in Ontario. Can you tell me more about the song?

I read about Burchell Lake in a book on ghost towns, which was written by Ron Brown. The gas station was still there, with some products left behind on the shelves, a row of houses, a general store… I wrote the song in five or 10 minutes. ‘Burchell Lake’ just seemed like a song that needed to be around. 

The song ‘Survived Like A Stone’ has a folk feel to it and a fiddle and a saw on it. It has an eerie and dark atmosphere, and sounds like a mountain ballad... 

I wrote it on piano, but it felt better on guitar. I pictured it in an old Western film – coming off the mountains. That’s why the choruses have that atmosphere to them. Once Upon A Time In The West is one of my favourite movies and I love Ennio Morricone’s scores. I really like the words to ‘Survived Like A Stone’. I thought it was a cool idea – stones and rocks, some have been here forever and we come and go. There are spirits in those stones…

Would you say this album is more personal than some of your other records? It feels like it is…

I think they all have a degree of that. It’s intertwined with make believe and random thoughts, too. 

What music are you currently enjoying? You’re a big record collector. Have you bought any vinyl recently?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Butch Hancock. I finally got my hands on a few of his albums – they’re not easy to find. I was in Newfoundland recently and picked up an album by a legendary artist from there named Ron Hynes. When you get a chance, check out a song called ‘1962’. It’s beautiful.

Image by Laura Proctor

If you could get some ‘time out for tomorrow’, what would you do?

Probably just write more songs, or maybe try and write and direct a good, old haunted house movie. Something that is simple and creepy. I hope that someday someone asks me to write music for a spooky film. 

Time Out For Tomorrow by Jerry Leger is out now on Latent Recordings. https://jerryleger.com

All images by Laura Proctor

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