Nova Scotia

When the gigs dried up, Old Man Luedecke took to the sea

When the gigs dried up this summer, there was just one thing for Nova Scotia musician Old Man Luedecke to do —  leave land behind and become a scallop farmer.

N.S. singer-songwriter lands job as a deckhand to make a living during pandemic

Chris Luedecke's new career is providing plenty of scallop-inspired material for his next album. (Chris Luedecke)

When the music gigs dried up this year, there was just one thing for Nova Scotia musician Old Man Luedecke to do — leave the land behind and become a scallop farmer. 

This summer the singer-songwriter, also known as Chris Luedecke, landed a job as a deckhand at a scallop farm run by his neighbour in Chester.

It's a career he'd long been taken with and as he watched COVID-19 wipe out his livelihood as a performance artist, it felt like the perfect time to give it a try. 

"I had gone to get some scallops from a neighbour, who lives across the road ... and when I picked them up, he said, 'Well, would you like a job?' And I thought well sure," Luedecke told CBC's Information Morning recently.

Luedecke works as a deckhand on the boat making sure tunicates don't grow on the nets. (Chris Luedecke)

"I've just been learning an incredible amount and doing a whole bunch of brand new things that I never would have thought possible, in the most romantic environment."

Early mornings on the water sound romantic, sure, but the work itself isn't all that appealing, he admits. 

Instead of dragging for scallops at sea, Luedecke works on an aquaculture farm, which means he helps to harvest scallops from nets that hang in the water.

Dressed in a rubber suit, it's his job to make sure small and slimy invertebrate animals called tunicates don't mess with the goods.

"You could never imagine how disgusting these things are — they grow on the nets and so they need to be either shaken off or lately we've been doing some pressure washing," he said.

"It's pretty full on. You're sort of standing around in a bucket of guts, really. There's literally crap flying everywhere."

The title track of Luedecke's most recent album Easy Money is about dreaming of a way to make money without having to leave the ones you love behind.

COVID-19 has ended touring for now, but harvesting scallops isn't exactly easy money, although it's close to home and the hours are good.

He's usually done work by 2 p.m., just in time for his kids to return home from school.

Luedecke says he'll likely continue working at the scallop farm into the new year. He's happy to have a stable source of income even as he's managed to book a handful of concerts recently in Dartmouth and on Prince Edward Island.

Next month he'll be performing at Celtic Colours in Cape Breton.

It's nowhere near his usual slate of performances but he's glad to be back in front of an audience, banjo in hand. 

"Just all of the little thrills of the traveling life — you know, I'm a little bit built that way — and to have them all come flooding back is pretty special," he said. 

With files from CBC's Information Morning