From a young age, Jeff Poolton has had a love for music. From singing alongside his family at the piano, to taking classes all throughout high school, he knew pursuing a career involving music is what he wanted to do with his life.
Today, the former Elmira resident has released four albums and is now an international selling artist thanks to his pop/rock mix of music, featuring songs that tell his story of overcoming obstacles and other challenges that life may throw at you.
“I studied all the way through school to the end of high school and I have my Grade 10 vocal certificate with the Royal Conservatory of Music … and somewhere around the age of 16 I wrote my first song,” said Poolton. “As time went on I was given the opportunity to work with a number of different musicians.”
He says one of the people he met during his time was Ron Roy of Threshold Sound in Kitchener. It was through Roy that he was able to begin working to release albums, the first of which came in 2013.
Six years later, his fourth album Echoes in the Distance was released in November 2019, with more songs aimed at inspiring listeners. One song in particular he’s very proud to have written on that album is ‘Phoenix,’ an anti-bullying anthem he says was “inspired by some of his earliest memories of being bullied.”
He says he makes it a point to write songs about his experiences growing up with cerebral palsy as he wants to inspire and lift people up.
“I find sharing those personal stories is very therapeutic for me while showing others who may be struggling that they’re not alone,” said Poolton. “There are some songs in my catalogue that get into some darker categories, some darker issues like domestic violence and some social issues that we face in society.”
Growing up with cerebral palsy is not easy for most people afflicted with the movement disorder, but Poolton says his parents told him to use it as an opportunity. His writing reflects the experiences through which he has lived and has really only held him back when it comes to playing a musical instrument.
“It does affect to some extent my fine motor skills, which obviously would get in the way of something like playing guitar, drumming, things like that,” said Poolton.
Despite having this disability, he has not let it keep him back from his career. Poolton says he overcomes by working with others like Roy and putting together chord sheets and other ideas he has before going into the studio.
With the fourth album out and the current lockdown keeping him from performing, Poolton began to get a little restless.
To keep his music going during the current coronavirus pandemic, Poolton has taken an interesting approach to share his voice with the community, while also thanking frontline workers for everything they’re doing during this time.
“I was bored one day and feeling kind of depressed because I wasn’t able to do my music and go see my parents in Waterloo,” said Poolton. “So I thought why not go over … when people are on their balconies, crank up the car stereo with a track and sing something for them? So I sang Josh Groban’s ‘You Raise me Up’ for them and word got out and a video got out.”
He says since then he has begun posting more videos online. He plans to continue to find ways of performing while keeping up social distancing spurred on by COVID-19, including concerts from home through a live stream.
“People have really, really responded. It’s been an honour to see that video have the impact that it has,” said Poolton. “That means a lot to me, that’s why I do music.”