While currently on a run through Canada with his late 90s band, Thrush Hermit supporting the 20th anniversary of their 1999 release Clayton Park, Joel Plaskett will be taking a night off to catch up with his band the Emergency (of Joel Plaskett & the Emergency) for a performance at Cicada Music and Arts Festival on October 5 at Henley Island.
Plaskett, with the Hermit, by himself, the Emergency and with his father, has created a storied music career, releasing twelve LPs, several EPs and garnering accolades everywhere he goes, especially back at home in Nova Scotia – a true Canadian home-town hero.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Plaskett while he was getting ready for rehearsals for his upcoming tour with Thrush Hermit.
So, I actually got to meet you ten years ago when you did your 10 year anniversary with Thrush Hermit. We went out to Peterborough because my friend Brendan McCarney was working on a documentary at the time about your opener, The Meligrove Band.
Oh yeah, the Red Dog, I remember that night.
So, I’m actually not calling you to talk about Thrush Hermit, I’m calling about the one-off show you’re doing.
The change gears show in St. Catharines, right?
Yeah, basically that was my next question: What will it be like for you to change gears, strip off the Gibson SG and do something a little less rock ‘n’ roll for a night?
It may be a bit peculiar, but also fun. Sometimes when the band has been doing one thing every single night and then you dramatically change what you do the next, you end up seeing things differently than you would if you were doing it every night. So, I’ve been living in all these Hermit songs for a couple of weeks and then I kind of get to go back to the treadmill for the Emergency material that night. I’m looking forward to it.
To be honest, I kind believe that everything happens for a reason. I might sound a bit flaky, but I look forward to it being an opportunity to have a little bit of fun and have a nice change of pace for a night.
So I had the opportunity to talk with Patrick Pentland of Sloan last month and ask him of a few stories of the East Coast and Canadian rock ‘n’ roll scene in the 90s. What was that scene like for you?
I feel really lucky to have come up in the 90s in that scene. Everything was happening in Halifax. We had really great music happening but there was also just a lot of excitement around it because there was an interest in what we were doing on not only a national scale, but to a degree, on an international scale too. Thrush Hermit were even featured in a feature about Halifax music in Harper’s Bazaar when we were 17. There was a lot of activity going on and it was really exciting.
We were so lucky and fortunate in that it really got us in the game. It helped me along with what I developed in my own capacity, and I don’t know what I’d be playing or doing right now if I hadn’t had those experiences then.
And what do you see going on in Canada right now, now that you’re on a higher tier as an artist?
I must admit that I’m less tuned in to whats happening on a national or international level just because I sort of work with my head down. I still have time for music, but as you get older you sort of start to pick things that you really like and listen to your classic records and what have you. I’m certainly as in to music as I’ve ever been, and I’m certainly quite focused on what I’m doing right now, but I’m not as hip to the national scene as I once was, although I certainly have plenty of great friends playing and making great music.
Now that your previous record, Solidarity, that you recorded with your father Bill has aged a year, how does it feel to look back on it?
I think it’s unique into itself, which is something I’m really proud of. My relationship with albums changes as soon as they’re done. I would change a bunch of things the day it came out if I could. Even the nature of that album changed as it was written during the run up to the American election and the way I thought and articulated the ways I thought about things have changed to some degree. It’s interesting how that when you write about anything that has any sort of political underpinning, it’s always sort of shifting, even though it doesn’t change that much.
You’ve been quite prolific in that you’ve been able to release a record nearly every other year. Is there something new coming from Joel Plaskett?
Its funny that you ask that. This Thrush Hermit tour kind of fell in the midst of me making a record on my own. So it’s a good distraction for from making new music and then in the middle of it, I get a distraction from the Hermit trajectory with the Emergency gig, and it’s all intersecting. The only difference is that I will be at the mic the whole time in St. Catharines and there will be far less guitar solos.
I’m kind of knee deep in what I’m working on. I have some stuff that I’m working with the Emergency, and I went down to Nashville and Memphis and did some recording down there. But hopefully, by the end of the year, whatever I have will be the new record to be released in the spring.
Joel Plaskett and the Emergency headline Cicada Music & Arts Festival on October 5 at 9:45pm.