For most babies, learning how to talk is one of the first big challenges in life. Alan Jeffries was not most babies.
“I had my first guitar before I could talk. I don’t know how much I was really playing it, but I was attempting a lot,” said the Halifax-based artist.
Whether or not Jeffries was doing much hard rocking at the time, it would prove to be the beginning of a long and fruitful career in bluegrass music, one that blossomed in the summers of his youth playing at bluegrass festivals around the Maritimes with his father – “It was hilarious to see a kid singing heartbreak songs and murder ballads” – and earned him the title of the Bluegrass Guitar Player of the Year from the Atlantic Canada Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Association in 2005.
“For me, bluegrass is a means for me to get back to that sheer joy of playing music that I felt when I was a kid,” said Jeffries. He reflects on his young touring experience with his father as “a great inspiration.”
“I still take it seriously but it requires a certain amount of fun to be as good as it can be.”
Jeffries has since experimented with a variety of different genres and launched a debut album. The album, entitled Coffee ‘til Midnight, is a 14-track record recorded in two days that he plans to share with Frederictonians at this year’s Shivering Songs Festival.
It’s an experience he can’t wait to bring back to the region.
“Back in the day, there was a real healthy bluegrass scene in the Maritimes. You could throw a dart at the map and find a festival pretty much every weekend,” he said.
“There’s a lot of stuff out there that has banjo or [other bluegrass elements], and people are really getting interested in that kind of music. I feel like if they really want to see where those influences came from in the spectrum, this is the show to come see.”
This will be Jeffries’ fourth stint playing at the city’s annual Shivering Songs Festival, and each year, he promises “a fun, high-energy show” with his band, Alan Jeffries & Fifty Shades of Blue.
Jeffries’ performance – aptly titled “Bluegrass Brunch with Alan Jeffries” – will take place at the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. He encourages all those interested in bluegrass – and even those who know nothing about it – to stop by and have a listen.
“It’s a really fun time. It’s a morning show, which is tough for some folks, but you just come down and there’s coffee on and everybody’s energized – and the breakfast is amazing,” said Jeffries, adding that the event will be “very family-friendly.”
“There are bands doing bluegrass but with a lot of fusion with jazz and swing. If you really want to see a good bluegrass show, this is the one to come and see.”
Tickets for Jeffries’ performance, presented by Picaroons, can be purchased on the Shivering Songs Festival website.