After eight years of making a living playing cover music, Jeff Bryant has confronted his fear and written an original album.
The 40-year-old, who was raised in Oak Bay and graduated from Oak Bay High, will play at the Irish Times pub on Sept. 12.
It’s the first solo album for Bryant, who was a fixture busking for years on the Causeway in the early 2000s. First, in a guitar duo with fellow University of Victoria student Adam Greeley in 2002 and 2003. Later, as a “human statue” in the vein of Clark Clark’s Plasterman who recently died. In 2007, Bryant formed a successful guitar-strumming duo with Zach Stevenson called the Human Statues.
“The name was an homage to our time busking as human statues, which took us Toronto and back,” Bryant said.
Stevenson created a popular character called Disco Man that was also popular on Granville Island.
Bryant performed as Johnny B Gold, and performed in Victoria, Toronto and Vancouver.
“We were exploring the professional world of street performance,” Bryant recalled.
As the Human Statues, they started humbly, taking busker gigs and other small shows in Toronto, then working their way across the country with national tours until 2012. Since then though, Bryant has toured as a cover musician, showcasing his unique style and passion for Beatles and others 1960s and ‘70s-style guitar rock.
“My family is still here, I came to check in on my parents and make sure my mom and dad had what they needed [for the long haul of COVID19],” Bryant said. “When I left my apartment I figured it’s either a week, or a year, and nothing in between.”
Now is the next step as Bryant is still here and is launching his first solo album, The Great Unknown, with a release show Sept. 12 at the Irish Times. The pandemic has brought Bryant home and given him the chance to reconnect with his roots as he releases an album that is the next big step in his life, he said.
“I avoided original music [the past eight years], so this project is about me confronting that fear, and that creative atrophy,” Bryant said.
A medical incident last year spurred Bryant to record his own album of original music.
“I had some unexplained seizures. I went through a battery of tests, neurological and physical tests, and it went undiagnosed,” Bryant said. “I struggle with heart pain, chest pain, dizziness. It’s something that might not go away.”
It clarified for Bryant that life is precious.
“When you grasp that it shifts to a true appreciation for life and opportunity.”
Bryant has kept to his roots as a busker, showing up to play a series of shows at Willows Beach this summer. It’s a far cry from the popular busking shows he first performed in 2002.
“I used to watch the circle shows, what I called the busking shows that had a crowd of people around it,” Bryant said. “I followed that. I designed a show to get all the people from the cruise ship to stick around. I used a shtick to keep them there until the end.”
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