Singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger was sleeping on the living room couch of his home near Victoria, B.C. last week when he woke up to the sound of his kids getting ready for school – then to the voice of his wife, Cobe.
There were screams and curses, said Stagger The stretch Wednesday, before Cobe said, “Leeroy, there’s water in the basement.”
This is where the formerly Lethbridge, Alta. Musician 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: water was going up in the stairwell, about six inches deep. Panicked, he called his father and a friend, who both live nearby.
“I just said: ‘Help, there is water’ … [and] we ran into 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 came back up, Stagger said, the water had reached about three and a half feet, or about a meter.
Much of the equipment that was lost was collected during the 20 years of being a musician.
“It is 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.
When they arrived, they set to work building the basement studio which featured instruments, modern and vintage sound equipment, and murals by Cobe.
When catastrophic and fatal flooding began to hit British Columbia last week, Stagger said he believed his region would be spared.
But there is a stream in his backyard, and he had swelled to several times his normal size.
“When I went upstairs and went out onto the porch to catch my breath after sort of saving everything, I finally saw what was going on,” Stagger said.
“It looked like the Bow River was in my backyard. And my jaw hit the ground. It was surreal. It was like a dream.”
“We are lucky and grateful too”
Others in the neighborhood who lived next to that stream were beaten up during the flooding, Stagger said.
In the end, he was able to salvage about three-quarters of the material at the bottom, including a 1957 Gibson J-45 guitar that was on a stand and on the floor.
“Some people have lost their living space in the neighborhood,” Stagger said.
“So in regards to that… we’re lucky and thankful too.”
But the studio was his livelihood, and he said it would take eight months to a year to fix it.
“I’m looking for a space – a 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 flood prompted friends to launch a GoFundMe, and Stagger described the gesture as humiliating and beautiful.
“It’s overwhelming. I never would 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.”
When asked if the flooding had made him rethink his decision to leave Alberta, Stagger laughed.
“My stuff would be a lot drier right now, wouldn’t it?” he said.
“I will always, always have a special place in my heart for Lethbridge. This is where my children were born, this is where I got sober, this is where we bought our first home.
“But you know, life is life. You have to keep on trucking. I can’t look back.”
With files from The Homestretch