For Jeffery Straker, the North Star is more than just a ball of plasma more massive than the Sun hurdling through space hundreds of light-years from Earth.
The singer/songwriter sees it as a guiding light. And on his latest album, North Star Falling, Straker explores what people go through when they lose that reassuring sense of direction. Straker is kicking off his national tour in support of the record in his home province of Saskatchewan, and he will be performing at The Root: Community Emporium on April 2.
“With the 12 songs on the record we’ve never performed 11 of them live,” he said. “Overall, it’s really exciting and it’s a good excitement because you’ve got these little creations and they’re essentially all little stories I felt that I wanted to tell ... so it’s exciting to finally get to tell them.”
These little stories range from introspective lullabies to redemptive rockers, all played out in Straker’s piano-based folk-pop. Following the central premise of losing one’s “North Star,” the album covers themes like self-doubt and the search for wholeness, but there is also the sense of triumph and euphoria that comes from finding guidance and purpose in an unexpected place.
Some people may even turn to music at times of trouble. Straker said he recently received an email from a fan who was moved to tears by the album and had to stop her car after one of the songs helped unearth a forgotten love buried inside of her.
“It’s the weirdest thing thinking that you put something out there and I’m going on my merry way ... and at that same moment a woman had to pull over on the freeway somewhere to cry. It’s very strange but at the same time it’s rewarding because it was a ‘Thank You’ email that she sent,” he said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing that songs can impact people and it’s almost a privilege to be allowed to try to do it.”
While on tour Straker will have a chance to watch his audiences react first-hand. He says playing a stripped-down performance in intimate venues like the Root helps him connect with the crowd.
“Putting out the record is one thing ... but there’s something about a live show when you trot these new songs out on a stage,” he said. “In addition to the music and the lyrics, there’s the energy exchange between the performer and the audience and that adds this extra dimension that you can’t get just from listening on your stereo or car radio.”
As for Straker’s personal “North Star,” the singer has to think for a moment.
“About seven years ago, I switched from working at an office job and having music as a hobby to turning music ... into a full-time living. And the only reason I made the switch is because I had a crazy life event where I realized that I should be trying to do the thing that I love the most,” he said. “So I think my north star might be living life to its fullest and doing the thing that I was, I think, meant to do and following my passion.”