Web Exclusive: An interview with Old Man Leudecke

By Ryan Pike

<The Gauntlet’s Ryan Pike had the opportunity to sit down with Halifax-based folk singer Chris ‘Old Man’ Luedecke at the 2007 Calgary Folk Music Festival.

Gauntlet: How did you end up being a professional musician?

Chris Luedecke: I didn’t necessarily want to be a professional musician, but I bought a banjo and it sort of took over. I knew within a few years that I was pretty much hooped. When I took up the banjo I took it up later, I didn’t take it up in high school or anything. I started just after my university degree. I had all this pent-up energy and I had been writing lots of poems and stuff, and when I got to the banjo there was a moment where I was like, ‘Wow, this really harnesses what I do best.’

The rhythm of the instrument is so good for rhythm of words and the way that they go together. It very quickly became an obsession and I’ve been at it for several years.

G: You’ve traveled quite a bit. How do you think that influences your music?

CL: I hitchhiked across the country a few times, like [for] a wedding and stuff like that, and I went with my wife from Halifax to the Yukon and we rode our bikes across the country once. Because I wasn’t born with the sort of banjo in my lap, it’s always been very important for me to be a sort of all-around person. I think that informs my music a lot, I think that informs what I like to write about in songs is trying to make the most whole existence. Often it’s the tension between that desire and the reality of it is where my music might be interesting. Like the hope and the reality, you know? I traveled a fair bit. I was kind of taken by all of the folk music I ever heard, I just believed it was all true and not made by people who practiced for five hours a day. I always assumed that if you were singing a song about, the last deal going down or singing about whiskey, I was naive when I got into it and I just assumed that’s how everybody lived that played folk music. There was just this rambling core of people out there. I really didn’t know anything. Woody Guthrie and Ramble Jack Elliot, these people really lived that life and they’re consequentially still my heroes.

G: What made you decide to settle in Halifax after being all over the country?

CL: The thing is, I had a choice to go back. I went back to the Yukon and lived for a year and a half after I left Halifax the first time and it just really called us. I met musical friends there, people who were playing, and I thought, ‘This is it. I have to go to Halifax.’ Halifax has such a wonderful music scene, so I was like, ‘Bring it on, let’s go back to Halifax.’ Now I’ve been living in the country, which is great because there are still affordable places there.

G: What experience prompted you to write ‘I Quit My Job’

CL: If you want to talk about folk songs being taken out of your life, that’s pretty typical of what I do. I actually had a pretty lousy job. It wasn’t so much that the job was lousy, there was this other thing I wanted to do so badly and I said ‘Fuck it, I’d rather starve. I’d rather live on rice and potatoes.’ I got to the point where I thought, ‘This isn’t meaningful and it’s never going to be.’ That’s the problem a lot of artists and artistically-inclined people have, really trying to break free. I mean, it’s good to work to a certain extent to pay the bills and what not. It took me a long time, there was a bit of hardship. We don’t have that much time, I guess, and it’s important to give it a shot.

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