Joel Plaskett comes back to Moncton

As one of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters, Haligonian Joel Plaskett has been logging more than a few frequent flyer miles over the course of the past year and a half. Plaskett has been busy continuing to promote Three, his 2009 record that saw the singer’s already well-known profile rise considerably within and outside of Canada’s borders.

One of Plaskett’s best-acclaimed and best-selling records to date, Three has been certified Gold in Canada for sales of 40,000 units or more. More than anything, Plaskett is surprised and humbled at the record’s sales, believing he has always been more of a concert draw than anything else.

“In today’s day and age when everyone’s record sales are supposedly declining, mine are increasing,” he laughs. “The fact is, I have never been someone who has sold a lot of records; attendance at my live shows has always outperformed my record sales. I consider the live show to be my strong suit though. On stage, we always aim to create something unique that will want to entice people to check us out again when we play in their town.”

Fortunately for Plaskett, his profile is also on the rise internationally. He spent the bulk of his summer touring throughout Europe and is overseas again opening a string of shows for the Barenaked Ladies for the time leading up to his September 24 show in Moncton.

“Things are definitely going well in the UK,” Plaskett says. “I’ve had a lot of good opportunities presented to me so I am trying to work there as much as I can this year to help build my audience.”

Having the opportunity to open for established artists like Jools Holland and Barenaked Ladies certainly isn’t hurting Plaskett’s chances of greater success in Europe. The shows that he is opening for Barenaked Ladies are taking place in theatres ranging in capacity from 800 to 1500 people.

“Performing in theatres is not like playing a festival where you can be ignored if people want to tune out. For better or worse, those soft-seater gigs are the best because you’ve got a captive audience that aren’t going anywhere,” Plaskett jokes.

Joining the Barenaked Ladies on tour in Europe will be a reunion of sorts; Plaskett was also given the opportunity to open the band’s Canadian dates this past spring. But unlike the show that fans will be treated to on September 24, the shows he plays as the opening portion for the Barenaked Ladies’ concerts feature only him and one other band member playing acoustically.

“Honestly, I don’t think the Emergency [the name of Plaskett’s backing band] would be the right fit for the BNL shows anyway. The shows that the Emergency play can get pretty raucous sometimes so going the acoustic route is definitely the right way to go.

“And actually, I find that acoustic shows can have much more of an impact on the audience. They can sometimes be a more effective way to have people ‘get’ the music.”

For anyone who has not seen Plaskett and The Emergency anytime over the past few years, you might be interested to know that they have added a fourth member to their ranks, multi-instrumentalist Peter Elkas.

The friendship between Elkas and Plaskett goes back quite some time with the pair having met when Plaskett was still playing with his former band Thrush Hermit and Elkas performed with Montreal band The Local Rabbits.

“Pete has been playing keyboards and second guitar for the Emergency since the Ashtray Rock tour in 2007 and has been accompanying me on the duo / acoustic shows we play. We do still play some trio gigs without him if he’s not free but we’re including him in our press photos now, so now it’s like he’s officially in the band,” Plaskett jokes.

And while Plaskett is continuing to tour the world promoting Three, he confirms that he is constantly working on new material and has a lot of song ideas floating around but hasn’t yet committed when a new record will be seeing the light of day.

“Right now, I just want to play and write. I figure that come the winter, I will get back into the studio and start getting these ideas put to tape. Ideally though, I want to go into the studio with no agenda and see what these ideas turn into.

“With me, there tends to an ebb and flow between my acoustic solo stuff and material that would fit with the Emergency. I would really like to see an Emergency record come together but ultimately, it will depend on the material itself. I think it is too early to tell what the next record will be like; I’m waiting for the songs to tell me what they want.”

Before the songs will have the opportunity to tell Plaskett what they want, they may have to wait for the singer-songwriter to enjoy some downtime before they are paid much attention to. Plaskett admits that the past few months have been hectic for him and as such, is looking forward to taking some time off in October.

“I love what I do but am definitely looking forward to a little break with my wife next month.”

Article published in September 22, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript