For Curtis Lueke, music is one of his most cherished forms of therapy and expression.
When he’s not cooking for the Iron Horse Pub, the Lone Butte musician, of the one-man-band Spare Change, usually spends his spare time making music in his home studio.
“I make music because I feel compelled to do it. It’s a lot of fun,” said Lueke, 28. “It’s like having your own therapist and getting it all out. Being able to release all the tension and express everything.”
Musically, Lueke got his start when his parents put him in piano lessons at age five. It was one of those things that just clicked and he became invested in music theory. At 12, when his uncle gave him his first guitar with an amp from the ’70s, Lueke started exploring the genres of punk, rock and alternative rock. He continued that exploration in high school, taking up the saxophone to play in Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School’s jazz band. Around the same time, he began to write his own music.
His passion continued to grow. While attending college in Kelowna, where he studied audio engineering with the ultimate goal to become a music producer, Lueke joined Kadder a “hardcore punk band” as a bassist and played a bunch of house shows with them.
“You just got to people’s houses and set up in their living room and play really loud. It was lots of fun,” Lueke said. “There’s just this inexplicable feeling, it’s a rush of adrenaline when people start moving and enjoying music. It becomes almost an out-of-body thing.”
Performing with the band and meeting all sorts of musical people fueled Lueke’s ambitions to make music of his own. His songs typically begin by putting lyrics to a simple guitar chord. At times he’ll even hear the music in his head suddenly and then translate it into the real world.
The pandemic has given Lueke plenty of time to work on his music. Last year, he produced a double album called Let It All Out with two parts while this year Lueke is working on a follow-up album called Don’t Laugh, It’s A Mirror. It will feature 13 songs, two of which, Nowhere and Afterschool Special, have already been released.
His previous album explored themes of mental health, living in the modern world and dealing with anxiety and depression in a healthy way. Now that he has let those emotions out, he’s focusing more on telling stories and exploring how we reflect on our surroundings.
“Lots of what I write is based on a moment in time, a feeling.”
His most recent release, After School Special, is based on the loss of two of his friends, who died before their time; one in a car accident. Nowhere, meanwhile is based on the struggles of being a small-town musician and references the strange weather patterns of 100 Mile House.
Putting his music out on Spotify is somewhat nerve-wracking due to the often personal nature of his music. Lueke said the fact people have been able to relate to his music and find it relevant is very therapeutic and rewarding.
“On this record, I’m almost trying to confront myself in a way and be able to be as open as I can.”
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As a one-man-band, Lueke plays every instrument for his music, starting with the drums and bass followed by guitar, vocals and more. Once he’s got everything recorded he edits and arranges everything before uploading it to LANDR Audio Mastering to get it up to radio quality. While he’s still fairly “small potatoes,” Lueke said his recent songs have begun to steadily receive more views which he thinks is “mind-boggling.”
His moniker on Spotify, Spare Change, is something of an inside joke with deeper meaning. Much of his family works in the service industry, and Lueke said growing up there was always spare change laying around, which he used to collect in a jar.
“In a sense, it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Spare change, it’s always there when you need it but you never really think about it,” Lueke said. “The reason I go under that name is I want it to become an actual band, I don’t want it to always be a one-man project.”
Looking to the future, Lueke said his plans are to carry on pursuing music in any way he can. He’d like to begin helping others record their own music one day. Anyone interested in doing so can reach out to him through his Spare Change Facebook page.
“Music has been a part of my life since I was really young so no matter what’s going on it’s been right there, available. Music is never going to do you wrong.”