“My influences played into it,” says Chris Luedecke. “I’ve listened to a lot of ‘mountain music’, for want of a better word.” I’m speaking to Luedecke on the eve of his Australian tour, as he explains how he came to write his latest album, the bluegrass-inspired Tender Is The Night. “It underlines the influences of a lot of the songs I write in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
“The thing is, I’ve really come out of a singer-songwriter scene,” Luedecke continues. “And I’ve gone and made a bluegrass-sounding record, I guess. My typical scene has been more of a folk scene. There is a wonderful bluegrass scene in Canada, some great bluegrass in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – I know some of the players, but I haven’t really been getting many gigs in that world yet. I don’t know that bluegrass people would listen to this and go, ‘Now this is a bluegrass record.’”
Luedecke recorded Tender Is The Night live in Nashville over four days with producer and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien. “I just wanted to work with Tim,” Luedecke says. “Tim played on my last record which had pedal steel and a drum kit and that sort of thing. It was less focused; there were fewer bluegrass kind of songs. I thought to myself, ‘While it is more palatable for some people to have electric guitars on the background on this, I would rather there not be.’ I wanted to try a project that was more stripped down. Not quite half the songs have any form of percussion on them. Most of the songs are trio songs really – just me, Tim and a bass player. There’s no drum kit on any of it.
“The songs that make it onto the record are the ones that, no matter when in the process, pop up with some sort of inspiration. The songs that I end up keeping have blown past the self-doubt of sameness or whatever, that happens when you strum a G-chord on any kind of instrument and wonder if you can come up with something new. I usually sit down with some form of intent – I’d like to write a song about this or that – and those songs usually end up getting written, but they’re not always the ones that produce results.”
And is Tender Is The Night producing the results Luedecke was hoping for? “It’s on a bigger label than my last few releases, so it’s gotten more attention,” he explains. “I’ve been able to get down into the US a little more with it, and down there people really seem to enjoy it too. I haven’t really travelled in Canada with it this year; I’ll be doing that in February. It’s been fun; it’s a quality album, it doesn’t really have one big hit on it or anything. I’ve felt lucky that an album of substance has gotten traction in the world.”
The process of breaking out of folk music somewhat has left Luedecke with a few new insights into the industry. “Folk singers are considered ‘folk’ until they sell enough records, and then they move to pop,” he says. “Like Bob Dylan or something, though he probably still makes folk music, truly. I wasn’t really aware of that [genre separation], I just made the record I felt I needed to make. I think if I should be really great at something it should be at being myself.”
On the Australian leg of the tour, Luedecke will be supporting Australia’s own Jordie Lane. “I think I actually met him in February this year in a hallway at a conference in Toronto,” Luedecke remembers. “But then I properly met him about three weeks ago, in the daylight. I’ve certainly been in similar situations before and I know Jordie a little bit now. We’ll probably play some music together every day, which I’m really looking forward to. You tend to hear about people first, and then meet them at some point. It is a small world.”
BY JOSH FERGEUS
Old Man Luedecke supporting Jordie Lane at The Basement on Saturday November 16. Also playing Sunday November 17 at Grand Junction, Maitland; Monday November 18 at The Music Lounge, Brookvale; Wednesday November 20 at Lizotte’s Central Coast; and Thursday November 21 at Lizotte’s Newcastle. Tender Is The Night out now through Planet/MGM.