Interview with Joel Plaskett

Joel Plaskett

(May 2009) Since 2006, Plaskett has toured extensively both solo and with The Emergency, to sold-out clubs and theatres throughout Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, on the heels of great Canadian success with his Make A Little Noise DVD & EP (2006) and Ashtray Rock concept album (2007). Make A Little Noise spawned an infectiously catchy hit single, “Nowhere With You,” that landed Plaskett on the Top 10 at hot Adult Contemporary (AC) radio. He also garnered three 2007 East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) “of the year” wins: Single for “Nowhere With You,” DVD for Make A Little Noise, and Songwriter. Ashtray Rock was nominated for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, and earned Plaskett and his band all six of the 2008 “of the year” ECMAs for which he, and they, were nominated: Recording, Group Recording, Single (for “Fashionable People,” another hit song), Video (also for “Fashionable People”), Rock Recording, and Songwriter. He’s also earned several Juno nominations (including Songwriter of the Year along side Neil Young), and was the First Place Winner in the 2008 Great American Song Contest and the Billboard World Song Contest, for “Fashionable People” (in the Pop Category). That’s the kind of action that keeps a man on the road to support it. he’s recently release his newest CD “Three” and is beginning to tour it across the country. I caught up with Joel by phone in between shots of his latest video…

Mb: Hey Joel, how are things?
JP: Great!
Mb: You’re shooting a video today. What’s the song?
JP: A song called “Through and Through and Through”. Second song on the record and we’ve been shooting yesterday and today. Ya… fun.
Mb: How do you like that process?
JP: I don’t mind it. I’ve done a bunch of videos so I’m used to it. Sometimes it’s a little cut and paste. You’re never singing the song in its entirety. Long days too. We’re trying to shoot with day light so we shoot until the sun goes down. But it’s fun. Video’s are a strange thing. I try to treat them as casually and as fun now because you don’t know who’s going to play them. MuchMusic doesn’t really play a lot of video anymore. So they’re essentially promotional things. So I sort of feel like “If you’re going to spend the time doing them you might as well have a kick out of doing it.” So this video’s me driving around in vehicles I’vea never been in. I drove a boat yesterday, a fishing boat… I sat in a fork lift playing… I got driven around in a side-car of a motorcycle…golf carts… it’s all traveling stuff. I drove a convertible for the first time and I got rowed about by these kids who are rowers trying out for the team Nova Scotia rowers.
Mb: Sounds like fun. Are you an actor?
JP: No, I’m not much of an actor.
Mb: You play yourself?
JP: I play myself. I’ve been in that film “One Week” which just recently came out. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m playing a busker so no stretch. I’m not really acting, I’m just singing.
Mb: And what about singing? I hear you’re a big fan of it…
JP: Ya, I love singing. I’ve never felt I’ve had a great voice but I feel I’ve gotten better. It’s funny. I can hear my voice aging and getting stronger. I’ve relaxed about my singing so I’m hearing it the way I like it.
Mb: At what point in your life did you know “this is for me”.
JP: As far as music goes? Oh boy, I was pretty young, a teenager when I dove right into it. We had this band called “Thrush Hermit” when we were younger. We started playing together as a band when we were about 14 years old. When we were 16 we started playing locally and I tend to think if I wasn’t playing music I might be a teacher or something like that. I became friends with Sloan and they sort of supported us to a certain degree. We were on Murder Records and started touring with them and got swept up in that whole Halifax thing that was happening n the early 90’s. When I graduated high school we had a record deal with Electra and we went on the road and I thought “What else am I going to do?”
Mb: If it hadn’t been music, what else would you have done?
JP: One thing I really enjoyed is passing on knowledge or teaching. I’ve done stuff like Rock Camp.They had this show and they asked me to be a coach to these kids on how to be a band. Ultimately it was just helping them put something together. I like production for the same reason. So I tend to think if I wasn’t playing music I might be a teacher or something like that. I really like young people. I always think about the teachers I had that did a good job. I would maybe have the same aspirations.
Mb: And what would like to teach people?
JP:(laughs) I don’t know. I’ve always had a fondness for language… English. Not that I use it correctly but I like words. I like books and I like poetry.. I like the written word… and the sung word.
Mb: Any time off from music?
JP: I don’t have much time. Music is all encompassing. I’ve been producing records for other people and making my own, though I’m an avid reader and I love old movies; film noir and pulp crime novels. But I’m not a gardener or an insanely handy carpenter. Sometimes I think it maybe a short coming but I tend to pour myself into my music and I don’t have a lot of other places my mind goes, unless it’s spending time with family and friends.
Mb: And where does the “rush” come from? Is it the playing or the writing or the….
JP: A bit of back and forth really. When I’m performing a lot I’m aching to get back in the studio but I love live performance. I love trying to think on my feet and be spontaneous. I like doing that in a live show and I do the same thing in the studio. Right now I’m really about playing these songs live because I’ve been in the studio for the past year and I’m tired of that. I’m now ready to rock some shows.
Mb: I see you’re playing Massey Hall before you play Cobourg.
JP: Ya I’m pretty excited about it. I’m kind of freaked out, but really thrilled.
Mb: How do you prepare yourself mentally for a show like that?
JP: I don’t know. I guess you prepare yourself physically. You play and get yourself in the zone. That sounds a bit sporty but there is a certain amount of athleticism in the sense of being relaxed. I just try to be as present at any show at any given time. It’s an important gig, but every gig is important.
Mb: And what do you want people to be thinking as they leave your show?
JP: I hope people leave thinking they’ve had a worthwhile couple of hours. The worst thing you want is for people to think they’ve wasted their time or didn’t get their money’s worth. What you’re hoping for is an overall collective experience that everyone has and that you share with them and when you hit the stage you have a “common” feeling. Even though you’re the performer and they’re the audience there’s something uniting everybody in the room.