Jeremy Drury – Breaking Away From The Strumbellas

Jeremy DruryBest known as the drummer of JUNO Award winning group The Strumbellas, Jeremy Drury is making the best of his COVID time. As The Strumbellas take a break and deal with the fallout of COVID, he headed to Toronto’s Lincoln County Social Club to record his self-produced debut album, called Company Store.

Company Store is a 10-track dream project that showcases his writing and instrumentation skill to the max. Unlike his gig in The Strumbellas, Jeremy performed nearly all the instruments.

We sat down with Jeremy to find out more.

COVID has hit everyone in different ways. For The Strumbellas, it came at an odd time- you cancelled a pretty big tour. What was going on at that point?
Well we canceled the tour due to personal reasons that I will leave to that particular member or members to discuss a little bit further. But we needed the time off to focus on getting healthy. So the canceled tour kind of turning into lock down and quarantine due to COVID, really changed things for us as far as the ability to get back out there and make up those dates for the tour that we unfortunately canceled.

COVID has given you time to reflect, write and record while the world sorts itself out. Tell me about your upcoming solo album Company Store.
Well, it has been something that’s been probably a couple of years in the making actually. I started recording for fun and for myself during some downtime that Strumbellas had, and I ended up being really happy with the results and went back to the studio for a couple more sessions. And the next thing you know, I’ve got enough material for an album that I didn’t necessarily have any type of plan for other than I knew at some point I did want to release it. So when COVID hit and Strumbellas stopped being busy, which is a big conflict as far as working on your own music and getting it out. My priorities lie with The Strumbellas so if we were out on tour or working on projects, that’s where my priorities were.

So Company Store was something that I was working on in the background when I had time. Obviously, a canceled tour and COVID hitting, I’m left with this time. I thought to myself, “Well, this seems like a great window of opportunity to finally get Company Store out.”

So a few months back, I started getting all my material together, making sure I had my T’s crossed and my I’s dotted. And here we are just a week away from finally getting this done and out there.

Like many, the first solo album is usually a labor of love, is that true for you as well?
Very much so. This is I suppose a lifelong dream. I’ve been in and out of bands since I was a teenager and always wanted to do my own recording, but I’ve just been busy with other bands and focusing on that. So I never really had the time or resources to be able to focus on my own thing. I started this because it was just something that I wanted to do for myself, not knowing if it would be something that I would end up releasing, but kind of the experiment in the studio turned out a little better than I expected. And I had some great positive feedback from friends, family, and peers, and it just turned into a full length and here we go.

Why Company Store for the title?
Maybe a bit of an inside joke for myself. If you’re familiar with the concept of the company store, it would be the general store in a mining town that was owned by the mining company. So it’s this idea that the workers would earn their pay working in the mines, and then they’d go back to that same company store, spend their money on essentials, and a little bit tongue in cheek is that this recording was funded by some money that I had earned in the music industry and here I am turning around putting it right back in as soon as I’m done.

Also inspired by a Greg MacPherson song of the same name. I actually wanted to, originally I thought that I would want to name my band Company Store. And then it felt right to just put it under my own name as it was a very personal project to me. So instead of calling myself Company Store, I decided to call the album Company Store.

I wanted to quickly chat about a couple of the songs on the album – Pour Another.
Pour Another is my answer to a lot of songs that try to reassure the listener that everything’s going to be okay. And that we’re going to get through everything and it’s going to be great. Pour Another’s a little bit of a counter to that where the character is facing struggles and turning to alcohol to try to solve their problems or putting it in the back of their mind. But I think it’s something that you realize that having another drink isn’t necessarily going to solve your problems, they will momentarily, but you’ll wake up the next morning and you’ll still have to deal with the issues that you’re dealing with and facing the struggles that you have.

How about Do It Right?
Do It Right is the closest thing that I probably have on the album to a protest song. It’s very much a reflection of my own actions, the actions of everybody, of society, just looking to always decide to try to do the right thing, make the right decision. But at the same time, questioning why we are making those decisions and questioning why these are the goals that we set for ourselves. So really an encouragement for myself or for the listener to just have a look at themselves, how they interact with the world and searching their hearts to find what is the right thing. What’s the right thing to do. What’s the right thing for you as an individual. And what’s the right thing for us as a society.

Very much like The Strumbellas, the beats in the songs are very important to the overall vibe. How much attention is put into the drums during the creation process?
It’s interesting because it was a bit of almost a reversal of how I might be approaching Strumbellas from the drum standpoint. Maybe reverse is too far to say, it’s a little bit of a contrast. As drummer of The Strumbellas, I think it’s very important to make sure that the lyrics and the melody are the focus and I don’t want to step on anything with the drums.

I feel like I’m there as a supportive role, not as one to be flashy and shiny. And I feel I approach the drums on this record very much in a similar way, with an even more in depth concept of those spots I wanted to make shine melodically or lyrically.

So as far as the drumming goes, I do feel it’s rather reserved. It’s there to support the song as opposed to be any type of focus on itself. But one thing I really super enjoy, both with The Strumbellas and with the work that I’ve done on Company Store, groove is very important to me. Kind of like I said, it doesn’t need to be flashy or showy, but if I can listen back and bob my head, and know I’m keeping time, then that interests me. I really appreciate the groove of it all.

How did songwriting for your album compare to writing sessions for The Strumbellas?
When I’m writing on my own it does very much start with say an acoustic guitar and the melody line. And then a lot of that, instead of being able to, in a situation with The Strumbellas, you can jam on something, work through a section a number of times trying different things. And it’s great because it’s kind of fast because it’s a live environment and you get that feedback right away.

Working with my own stuff, it’s all done in the computer. I record my vocals, I record the guitar and then start building from there. So demoing it by yourself, building things in the computer, in recording software, it’s just very different from the idea of being able to write in a room where that instant feedback happens. Doing the demos myself, I come up with an idea, I record it and I might listen to it for a few days. I might listen to it for a few weeks before I decide, “Yes, this is what I want to go with, or no, it’s not.”

And I even had that when I was actually recording, because I didn’t have a timeline. I was very flexible. There’s things that I ended up recording originally that after sitting with for a few weeks or a few months even, I decided that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. So, kind of went back to the studio and made the changes. So it was a little bit more freeing in a sense, working on my own stuff is that I wasn’t necessarily working to a schedule that involved five other bandmates, that involved labels, management or publicity.

So everything working at my own pace really helped me dig into the songs and make sure that every sound that you’re hearing was what I intended and just trying to give the songs the best justice that I can by adding instrumentation that I did. And it was very freeing and it was a very flexible environment that I really appreciated.

You’ve not only stepped out front with this album, but you also played most of the instruments yourself. Other than drums, what instruments did you enjoy playing?
I really enjoyed playing bass on the record. There’s a synergy that happens between drums and bass. Being a drummer, I really enjoyed playing the bass with myself. I found it really fun, once the songs were written with their basic chords, on guitar, then coming up with the baselines. Working again within the framework of the idea I had for drums, while complimenting the rhythm section on the bass. I had a lot of fun with that.

Did you always see yourself as a drummer or do you want more?
Who doesn’t want more? I’ve been playing drums for over 25 years now. It’s very much my DNA. It’s very much in my blood. I think I’ll be playing drums till the day I die. The interest in songwriting and the interest in playing other instruments, I feel it’s just come naturally after playing with so many different musicians, being involved in so many different situations and bands, and kind of having that influence. It’s very much rubbed off on me. And there is that song writing side that you don’t necessarily get to explore a whole lot as a drummer in the band. A lot of the times that’s not necessarily the contribution that you’re being called on to make. And especially in a situation with The Strumbellas where I feel like Simon’s songwriting is just so strong. I don’t want to mess with it. I don’t want to compete with it at all. So yeah, drummer through and through, but really interested in exploring a different side of the creative me in the form of song writing.

Many kids grow up dreaming of seeing their picture on an album cover. Your bio says you knew you’d be a musician since you were young, so is Company Store a huge milestone in that quest?
Very much so. I have been writing songs since I was a teenager. They were probably not great back then, but after spending years and years in bands and watching the songwriters work and being inspired and influenced, it’s been a bucket list item of mine to record and release my own records. So, again, when I started this project, I had no idea where it was going to go, what it was going to do, what was going to happen. It was very much as you mentioned, a labor of love and just something I wanted to cross off of that bucket list and it’s been a very long time coming. I had a conversation with my brother the other day, my older brother, who’s said the same thing, “I’ve been waiting for this record since we were teenagers.” So, I’m really excited to finally check off that box and potentially open up new opportunities for myself in the future. But I’m so happy to add this piece of work to the collection of work that I’ve had over my life. Just so happy that I finally had the opportunity.

What’s up next for you and The Strumbellas?
That’s a very, very good question. I think not much has changed by the way of how we share music. It’s very much an open forum. If someone has an idea for a song, we send demos. If someone gets inspired, they start working on it. So that’s nothing that’s really changed over COVID. However, kind of talking with the band and trying to figure out what our next steps are, it’s so up in the air that we have no idea.

We’d very much like to be able to get back to playing live. We’d very much like to be in a situation where we were working on new music for the masses, but without really knowing when we’re going to be able to tour, we’re really sitting on our hands a little bit of just really being unsure of what the next steps are. And it’s so difficult. We have regular conversations with our service partners, whether it be agents or the labels or management, and it’s such new territory. No one’s really ever been through this before. So it’s really hard to come up with a game plan when the future is so uncertain.

Photo: Mike Oksman
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