Singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger was sleeping on the sofa in the living room of his home near Victoria, British Columbia, last week when he woke up to the sounds of his children getting ready for school, then in the voice of his wife, Cobe.
There were shouting and swearing, Stagger said The last straight line Wednesday, before Cobe said, “Leeroy, there’s water in the basement.”
This is where the musician formerly from Lethbridge, Alta., had built his music studio after moving to British Columbia in 2020.
“I think, you know, whatever, a few inches or something,” Stagger said.
But when he got up, he saw it: the water was coming up the stairwell, about six inches deep. Panicking, he called his father and a friend, who both live nearby.
“I just said, ‘Help, there’s water’… [and] we ran down to the basement and started pulling out guitars,” Stagger said.
“My drums were in the water. My guitar amps were in the water. The studio computer was in the water.”
By the time they got back upstairs, Stagger said, the water had risen to about three and a half feet — about a meter.
Much of the lost equipment had been salvaged over a 20-year career as a musician.
“It’s irreplaceable,” he said.
‘It was surreal. It was like a dream’
Stagger was born in Victoria, but spent years as a mainstay of the Alberta music scene before he and Cobe returned to British Columbia with their two sons.
Upon arrival, they set to work building the basement studio which featured instruments, modern and vintage sound equipment, and murals done by Cobe.
When disastrous and deadly floods began rolling through British Columbia last week, Stagger said he believed his region would be spared.
But there’s a stream in his backyard, and it’s swelled several times its normal size.
“When I went upstairs and went to the porch to catch my breath after I kind of saved everything, I finally saw what was going on,” Stagger said.
“It felt like the Bow River was in my backyard. And my jaw hit the ground. It was surreal. It was like a dream.”
“We are also lucky and grateful”
Other neighborhood residents who lived next to that creek were beaten during the flooding, Stagger said.
In the end, he was able to salvage about three-quarters of the equipment downstairs, including a 1957 Gibson J-45 guitar that was on a rack and on the floor.
“Some people have lost their living spaces in the neighborhood,” Stagger said.
“So as far as that goes…we’re also lucky and grateful.”
But the studio was his bread and butter and he said it would take eight months to a year to fix it.
“I’m looking for a space – commercial space or any type of space – that might be an option in the city, but as you know it’s very expensive on the west coast,” Stagger said.
The flooding prompted friends to start a GoFundMe, and Stagger described the gesture as humbling and beautiful.
“It’s overwhelming. I would never have asked for that,” he said.
“But now that it’s rolling, it’s a huge relief, and it’s humbling to see how wide the circle of community I’ve amassed is.”
When asked if the flooding made him rethink his decision to leave Alberta, Stagger laughed.
“My stuff would be much drier right now, wouldn’t it?” ” he said.
“I will always, always have a special place in my heart for Lethbridge. It’s where my kids were born, it’s where I got sober, it’s where we bought our first home.
“But you know, life is life. You gotta keep trucking. I can’t look back.”
With files from The Homestretch