Quit your job

Photo by Mark Maryanov

Sarah Smellie chats with that Nova Scotia-based banjo-pickin’ feller, Old Man Luedecke.

About four years ago, Chris “Old Man” Luedecke did himself—and us—a huge favor: he quit his day job so he could spend more time with his banjo.

That single act of bravery put him on the path to Canadian songwriter stardom he’s currently moseying along. The decision inspired one of his most popular songs, “I Quit My Job”, from his second album Hinterland, which tells his tale of shaking off those velvet handcuffs and doing what one truly loves to do.

“Generally there’s one or two people at every show that say they were inspired by it,” says Chris.

(FYI: The editor of the fine paper you’re presently reading is one of them.)

At thirty-two years old, Luedecke, who currently resides in Nova Scotia, may seem a little young to warrant the name “Old Man,” but his clever and imaginative songs about life, love and the struggle to keep the two synonymous, convey an authenticity which lets him carry the title with ease.

“Most of my lyrics suggest themselves from rhythms on the banjo,” he says. “I just sort of play around on the banjo and find a weird angle and then the angle suggests the words at some point.”

“That fills out and you get yourself a song.”

His first two albums, Mole in the Ground and Hinterland, have garnered him all kinds of attention over the past few years. He was featured on CBC’s Atlantic Airwaves, he’s played at the ECMAs, as well as at folk festivals all over North America. He’s opened for Feist, Corb Lund and Joel Plaskett. He’s been covered by Buck 65 (!) and played the banjo on Mr. 65’s track “Indestructible Sam.”

His recently released album, Proof of Love, produced by Juno award winner Steve Dawson, is already causing some uproar. Reviewers are claiming that it features some of his best songwriting to date, it’s at the top of Exclaim’s Roots Earshot chart and it was even gushed about in the Globe and Mail which, he says, caused his parents to “sharpen their collars a bit.”

On some songs he’s got a full band backing him up, a departure from the dude-and-a-banjo approach of his last records.

“I thought it would be really cool to hear what it would be like to have the songs fleshed out,” he says. “I’ve never wanted to just be an introspective folkie, I’ve always wanted to make music that was going to make people want to move at least one part of their body, if not the whole thing. It seems like the music I admire from olden times did that pretty well.”

Proof of Love was recorded in just five days, with the help of Mark Beaty and John Raham (rhythm section of The Be Good Tanyas), fiddler Adrian Dolan (The Bills), guitarist Steve Dawson and vocalists Alice Dawson, Rose Cousins, and the Sojourners.

“The way we recorded it, I was singing with the band at that moment and you couldn’t really go back and do the voice differently,” he says. “Those are just performances straight and simple on that record, that’s just the way the songs sounded at that moment.”

Old Man Luedecke will be celebrating the release of Proof of Love at the Ship on June 10th, along with fellow fearless job quitter Sherry Ryan. Copies will be available at the show.

Can’t go because you have to work? Quit your job. As Chris sings, “you can always live on rice and potatoes.”

Old Man Luedecke’s Proof of Love CD release show is on June 10th at The Ship, 10$ cover.