Joel Plaskett Finds Solidarity With His Father Bill On Latest Project

Photo by Lindsay Duncan

For a man of 42 years, Dartmouth’s favourite son Joel Plaskett has been around the block more than once.

From his teen years spent playing with indie rock heroes Thrush Hermit to his wildly successful career that has birthed more than a half-dozen releases both on his own and with his backing band The Emergency, his newest release, Solidarity, brought the acclaimed singer-songwriter into new territory.

Plaskett’s latest album is a collaborative effort, a collection of original and traditional material recorded and performed with his father Bill that uniquely reflects where life has led each of them thus far. While Bill previously appeared on Joel’s 2009 album Three as a guest, Solidarity marks the first time the elder Plaskett has received marquee billing.

In the approximate eight months since their folk-inspired record was released, the Plasketts have performed in all corners of Canada, from Vancouver and Iqaluit to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Although Joel is an old hat at travelling at this point in his life, he says touring the record with his father has allowed him to see the country through new eyes.

“We’ve been having a blast touring this album, especially my father. He is legitimately getting a kick out of the idea that he is getting to see the country while doing something that he has always loved to do, which is play music,” Joel says.

“It’s even more special that we are getting to spend a lot of time together playing music. When the record first came out, the first thing people would say was how heart-warming it was to see my father and I doing this together. And then as the tour went on, it seemed like more and more people were showing up to the show with their parents, which I guess I hadn’t necessarily anticipated happening. Seeing how people have responded to the show has been uplifting, especially in this day and age where it seems like bad news permeates so many aspects of our day-to-day lives.”

Joel says that despite his father being a bit of a late bloomer to the world of touring, music has been a constant throughout his life. He shares that his father grew up in England, and developed an interest in music from his father, who played the tenor banjo as a hobby.

From there, Joel says his father began playing skiffle music, eventually moving on to play bass in a cover band called Section 62. In 1967, Bill immigrated to Canada, having come to the country on a student pass. It was in Western Canada that Bill met his future wife – Joel’s mother – and together, they relocated to the East Coast.

“For almost his whole life, my father has been a social music player. He did play in a traditional band in Lunenberg, which is where I grew up, but aside from that, this whole experience of touring is completely new to him. He’s a big heritage buff and spent a lot of his career working for both the municipalities of Bridgewater and Halifax before retiring three or four years ago to take part-time work in the same field in Lunenberg. He finally retired from that a few months ago, which finally freed him up to play music full time,” Joel says, laughing.

As he continues to relish the time they spend together, Joel says one of the most refreshing things about the Solidarity experience with his father has been the fact it has helped re-introduce him to the world of social playing.

“While my father has always been a social player, getting together with friends to play songs in the kitchen, it’s been almost the complete opposite for me. I got professional at a relatively young age, then you get older and get busy with other commitments, and so social playing wasn’t necessarily something I engaged in,” Joel says.

“One of the most exciting aspects of these shows with my father has been having the opportunity to step away from the microphone, and let my father take centre stage, which allows me to focus on playing music as an accompanist and taking in everything around me. There is something really special about doing these shows together, and me having the chance to hear my father play.”

What: Bill & Joel Plaskett with special guests Villages
When: Friday Oct. 27, 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $31 for members, $34 for others. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca