By his own admission, Victoria-based singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger didn’t care much about spring when he was growing up in the city.
In his late teens and early twenties — “my party years” — he had a few lost years. Since his recent return from Alberta, Stagger’s attitude has changed.
“The beautiful thing is to come back to this city as an adult and as a father of two young children, is that I can see the city through a whole new lens and also as a sober person (for 14 years), “he mentioned. Seeing magnolias bloom, for example, wasn’t a priority growing up. “But to come home…and see it so clearly in a city like this, it’s a real treat.”
This eye for the environment – and its destruction at the hands of humans for the sake of money – has been a big part of his music over the past decade of a career in which he has toured and worked with some of the biggest names in independent music. world in North America and beyond.
On May 18, he will be back on familiar ground, playing at the Mary Winspear Center in Sydney.
Stagger’s record label as an alternative artist with 11 albums (including the latest, Dystopian Weekend) and two EPs to his name belies his membership in a much more historic and broader line of musicians singing about the state of the environment. , a tradition that includes Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger in the United States and Bruce Cockburn and Buffy Sainte-Marie in Canada.
The changing environment in the face of climate change can be an abstraction to many and often appears as something happening elsewhere. This is not the case for Stagger. The effects of climate change, which he has witnessed countless times on tour, became very tangible, even existential last November when flooding caused by heavy rain destroyed countless pieces of irreplaceable musical equipment and other artifacts in his home studio.
“(It was) the first time this (climate change) really affected us,” he said of the incident, which sparked an outpouring of community support. “It was (the flood) a traumatic incident and I’m still dealing with it. At the end of the day it’s just stuff. But it’s what I’ve accumulated in 20 years of touring There’s no retirement in this business and…a lot of the gear I collected was sort of my retirement fund. is safe and we are rebuilding.”
The growing prominence of climate change begs the question of whether it will play a larger role in popular music, and whether the genre of environmental protest song will evolve.
“Eventually, you can’t not be careful,” he said, adding that he feels “a bit of contempt” for pop stars who don’t see environmental issues. “But I also had a penchant for speaking up and putting myself in awkward situations to try to get people’s attention, or at least think about things on a different level or try to ask (questions) .”
This level of conviction also speaks to one of the reasons Stagger left Alberta: its environmental policy, or lack thereof, as many critics would say.
Stagger wanted his children to have a deeper appreciation for the environment on which humanity ultimately depends and he himself is not blind to the environmental damage taking place closer to home.
“Particularly where we live, right on Millstream Creek, the devastation of the natural world in the town of Langford is extremely concerning,” he said. “I don’t know how we’re going to find a balance, but something has to be done and changed to balance this growth.”
But Stagger also sees himself as an advocate for affordable housing, and the Alberta area code on his phone isn’t the only thing he’s brought across the Rockies.
“There are a lot of great people in Alberta. There’s a lot going wrong, but it’s probably home to some of the friendliest people I’ve met in the world and also a lot of deep thinkers,” he said. “Obviously there’s hyper-conservatism, but then you have this cross section of people.”
Stagger said he always tries to smile at people when he rides his bike near his home and around Lake Thetis. “It surprises some people a bit, but then they remember, ‘oh, we’re supposed to be nice to each other.'”
For tickets to the May 18 show, or other information, visit marywinspear.ca.
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