“This is my first overwhelmingly parental album,” Chris Luedecke — better known as Old Man Luedecke — tells Exclaim!
The songwriter has touched on parenthood a little before: offhand on the EP he made with Joel Plaskett last year and in the song “Delia and Wilhelmina” from 2011’s Sing All About It, a collaboration with Montreal’s Lake of Stew. But on his sixth album Domestic Eccentric — out July 24 on True North Records and now streaming here on Exclaim! — home and family have become more obvious central themes, alongside the love songs he’s always written (and continues to write) for his wife Teresa Bergen.
Though Luedecke’s long written songs at and about home, Domestic Eccentric is the first album he’s actually recorded near the cabin outside his house outside of Chester, NS, where he and Bergen moved to in 2004 and where they now raise their three daughters.
“I built a cabin, by hand,” says Luedecke. “And then I wrote a bunch of the songs in the cabin. I thought it would be great to see if I could capture the sound of comfort and ease and the naturalness, and sort of remove some of the pressure. It just felt like the songs required the intimacy of being at home.”
Not that this was a lo-fi home recording. “There’s nothing cheap or dirty about the way this was recorded,” he says, laughing. “We had to get a back hoe to come in and plough a road down. He worked for almost two hours so that we could drive a truck in full of gear.”
Thanks in part to the tiny confines of the space, Luedecke’s band was small: his collaborator Tim O’Brien on mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki and guitars, singer Jennah Barry and drummer Nick Halley. The whole album was recorded live, with no headphones, save for a few bass parts Samson Grisman added from Nashville.
The result is perhaps Luedecke’s most traditional-sounding record yet, but Luedecke says that his love of traditional songs has always informed his songwriting; with O’Brien on board he’s just doing it better now.
Domestic Eccentric also hearkens back to Luedecke’s 2006 fan-favourite Hinterland. “The cover art is somewhat a return to that. That was [also] more of a stripped-down record: it wasn’t stripped-down — I had just never built it up. That’s the record that if people heard that one first, you go to the merch table at the end of the night and you hear people say, ‘buy that one!'”
One songwriter who has set a precedent for writing about family relationships is Loudon Wainwright III, who Luedecke calls a beacon for anybody who would want to write about these kinds of things. “He’s the big one for me,” says Luedecke. “Not only is he a relentlessly intelligent songwriter and sort of idiosyncratic about this subject matter, but he’s written about family from the beginning. And he plays banjo too. Which sounds so dumb, when you think about all his accomplishments — but to say he’s also a banjo player is kind of a small victory for Luedecke.
“People thank me for writing about the everyday. I’m like, ‘wait a minute, does that mean I don’t write about the big stuff?’ I feel like all my songs are love songs, you know what I mean?”
Luedecke likens his home to a constant grant: so affordable to live in that it has enabled him to devote himself to music in a way he’s not sure if he would have if he’d lived in a more expensive, urban place.
“We always cared about the Thoreau thing,” he says. “That’s something I dreamed about all through university. Now I’ve been doing it for ten years. I’m not the gardener I thought I would be when I moved to the country, but we have chickens, for eggs. ‘Hate What I Say’ has a funny verse about our chickens getting killed by the fox — we have lots of chickens killed because we’re hippies and we leave them out running around in the yard and the fox comes by and eats them.”
You can stream all of Domestic Eccentric over here and check out all Old Man Luedecke’s dates below.
06/25 Mount Stewart, PEI – Trailside Cafe
06/26 Mount Stewart, PEI – Trailside Cafe
06/27 Moncton, NB – Magnetic Hill Folk Festival
06/28 Gagetown, NB – Feels Good Folly Fest
07/18-19 Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Folk Festival
08/01-03 Canmore, AB – Canmore Folk Festival
08/05 Lethbridge, AB – The Slice Bar and Grill
08/06 Twin Butte, AB – Twin Butte Store Soulfest
08/07-08 Edmonton, AB – Edmonton Folk Festival
08/09 Golden, BC – Kicking Horse Resort
08/11 Saskatoon, SK – Village Guitars
08/12 Winnipeg, MB – Park Theatre
08/13 Regina, SK – Artful Dodger
08/14 Swift Current, SK – House Show
08/16-22 Sorrento, BC – Nimble Fingers
08/29 Powassan, ON – Windsong Music Festival
09/02-04 Birnamwood, WI – Jackpine Jamboree
09/05 Ripton, VT – Coffeehouse
09/09 Mexico City, Mexico – Green Church
09/10 Farmington, ME – North Church Concert Series
09/11 Phillips, ME – Philips Area Community Centre
09/12 Portland, ME – One Longfellow Square
09/17 Fredericton, NB – Harvest Jazz and Blues
09/25-27 Wolfville, NS – Deep Roots Music Festival
10/08-09 Pittsboro, NC – Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival
10/10-11 Sydney, NS – Celtic Colours International Festival
10/14 Toronto, ON – Harbourfront Centre Theatre