As Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s favourite son Joel Plaskett celebrates the first anniversary of the release of his latest studio effort The Park Avenue Sobriety Test, the prolific singer-songwriter is looking to get back into the swing of things following a relatively quiet winter. Of course, precluding Plaskett’s relatively quiet winter was a 2015 chalk full of activity:
In addition to the near universal acclaim that greeted his latest album, Plaskett ventured into previously unchartered territory with the opening of the New Scotland Yard Emporium in Dartmouth.
Plaskett purchased a building on Portland St. in 2013. In the back of the building, he constructed his New Scotland Yard recording studio, which has since played host to many a fellow Maritime artist including Erin Costelo and Shotgun Jimmie.
After the tenant occupying the front portion of the building decided not to renew her lease, Plaskett set about bringing his vision to life:
“Once my previous tenant had vacated, I thought about how great it would be to have a record store at the front of the studio without me needing to run a record store,” Plaskett says with a laugh. “I started a dialogue to that effect with the owner of Taz Records a number of years back, so it was only natural that we would finally pursue that idea.”
Before long, Plaskett had also secured a barber along with a coffee shop, allowing each of the tenants to benefit from the shared space offered within the New Scotland Yard Emporium without any one of them being solely on the hook financially.
“The space is probably only 800 square feet in total, but it’s comfortable and casual. People often come in, buy a coffee and browse records. We’ve strived to make the atmosphere welcoming for anybody that stops by. Dartmouth has often played second fiddle to Halifax when it comes to shopping, but so far, we’ve received great support from the people here. The community has been really excited to see businesses setting up shop here, which has been great for us.”
Indeed, Plaskett’s road and musical career have proven to be unique in some ways. From his start as a teen with pop band Thrush Hermit through to his nine solo records, he has carved out a rather impressive career for an independent Canadian musician, who serves as the focus for Nowhere With You, a biographical look at Plaskett’s life, written by Globe & Mail writer Josh O’Kane.
The musician laughs at the suggestion a biography was owed to him, and admits to feeling a little sheepish about the whole idea when O’Kane first reached out to him.
“I was beyond flattered, I just didn’t know that my life story or musical story warranted a book at this point. It’s not like I’m 70 years old looking back on a lifetime of accomplishments and achievements,” he shares. “I’ve been touring from the time I was 18 years old, and have had a few different phases to my career. I’ve always taken pride in what I do. I’ve found an audience that, while not huge, I am extremely grateful to have.”
Plaskett shares that as the author thoroughly dove into his past, interviewing a bevy of former bandmates and other colleagues from along his journey, a central theme emerged: Plaskett’s success has not only come on his own terms, but he has, all the while, remained a resident of the Maritimes.
Has Plaskett’s decision to remain in the Maritimes helped evoke a sense of Atlantic Canadian pride amongst those Maritime ex-pats who now call other provinces home? Understanding the natural pride that seemingly goes hand-in-hand with being a resident of Atlantic Canada, it certainly is in the realm of possibility.
“It’s interesting in that, no matter where I happen to be playing, it never fails that there will be someone from the Maritimes there. For a lot of them, even though their work has taken them out of Atlantic Canada, they are using my music as a means to reconnect to the region. It’s humbling, of course.”
Looking to the future, Plaskett confirms he is currently in the process of writing material for a new release. Despite being unsure whether the songs are leaning more towards solo territory or full band material, both may in fact have to wait just a little longer while he concentrates on releasing an album with his father, Bill Plaskett.
Bill previously accompanied his son on record [2009’s Three] as well as the tour associated with that release.
“I’ve been trying to get together with my dad once a week or so in order to workshop songs. I want the album to be collaborative and not just him playing over top of my music. That tends to be where I’m leaning these days. I think it’s the right time to pursue it.”
To Plaskett’s last point, he asserts that he has been fortunate with respect to the way that his career has evolved. Not only are his full band shows with the Emergency quickly becoming the stuff of Canadian legend, Plaskett has proven to be an engaging solo performer, capable of rendering beautiful, heartfelt songs armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar.
Bridging those two divergent worlds isn’t a given for any musician, but is something that Plaskett has successfully pulled off.
“I’ve been so lucky to have fans that support whatever endeavour that I happen to be pursuing. Some like the acoustic stuff more than the full band, and vice versa, but I often see a lot of familiar faces at shows, no matter what the format.”
What: The Joel Plaskett Emergency
When: Friday May 6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $35 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at www.capitol.nb.ca.