Romance of rural life still key for Old Man

Juno Award-winning banjo player adds a bit of pop to his traditional sound

Luedecke previously recorded his vocals and banjo together on one track.
Luedecke previously recorded his vocals and banjo together on one track.
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While many dream seekers shift to big cities in the hopes of making it big, Old Man Luedecke had another idea.

More than ten years ago the Toronto-raised musician moved to Chester, Nova Scotia and has been reaping the benefits ever since.

“I was pretty certain that I wasn’t cut out for the city,” he said, mentioning the slower pace of rural East Coast life. “That’s a set of values I definitely identify with.”

This laidback outlook was captured in Luedecke’s previous albums — all recorded in a jazz-like fashion.

“We basically showed up to the studio and knocked them out… everybody playing at the same time,” he said.

“[The albums] aren’t perfect, but I don’t crave perfection.”

It wasn’t until working with fellow Canadian musician Joel Plaskett on his recent EP I Never Sang Before I Met You that Luedecke used separate tracks for his vocals and banjo.

“Before I just played and sang at the same time, but it was nice to have a vocal take,” he said.

These albums are closer to a live performance than a product precisely molded in the studio.

“I like things that breathe a bit. A bit messy,” he said, “Not to say my records are messy, but we haven’t gone over them with a fine tooth comb.”

“It’s a more pop way of approaching things,” he said.

Luedecke certainly benefited from the producing prowess of Plaskett, but classic folk music is still what drives him.

“I mostly just listen to folk music — I love how uncluttered it is,” he said.

Folk stands opposed to pop music in this way.

“It just seems that a lot of pop and indie singing is sort of ego driven,” he said, “The vocals aren’t all that engaging.”

Pop singers, he finds, are more interested in hot dogging.

“That’s not to say that I don’t like fancy singing, I love wonderful singing,” he said, “I just find there’s too much ego or sneer in a lot of popular music.”

And after touring Canada, the States and Australia, has he noticed any differences in folk scenes of various countries?

“People tend to be more confident in the States,” he said, “Maybe people need to be more overconfident there.”

For the Canadian artist, things are a little different. Luedecke said he is thankful that he’s been able to support himself with music.

“I just try to write good songs and sing ‘em, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to [do it],” he said.

Luedecke has won two Juno awards for best roots and traditional Album of the Year — for Proof of Love and My Hands are on Fire and Other Love Songs — and 2012’s Tender is the Night was nominated for the same prize.

“The Juno Awards have been a big help,” he said, “They come from peers in the industry, which feels really good.”

The recognition has allowed him to play larger venues. Back in the day his Kingston spot was the Sleepless Goat — more recent tours have brought him to the Grad Club.

A larger fan base is something Luedecke can appreciate, but maybe not something that he requires.

“Every folk musician has a great moment where they go ‘my place in the industry has changed’”, he said, “and they have some moments where they’re like, ‘how am I back here again?’”

“That just seems to be the nature of all the arts in Canada,” he said, “It’s a changing entity. There’s no ‘we made it now.’”

-With files from Robert Gow

Old Man Luedecke plays the Grad Club tonight at 10 p.m.

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