A merging of influences: Joel Plaskett and dad Bill bring gifts to Calgary audience
'At that point there, the musical common ground got stronger'
East coast singer/songwriter Joel Plaskett credits his dad, Bill, as one of his earliest musical influences. That influence has contributed to Joel earning dozens of awards and nominations over the years, from the Juno Awards to the Polaris Music Prize to the East Coast Music Awards.
Last year Joel and Bill released an album together, Solidarity, and Friday night in Calgary they take to the stage of the Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University, but not before sitting down with The Homestretch.
This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.
Q: Joel, in this season of giving, do you see your dad's musical influence as a gift?
Joel: Yes I do. I think I was lucky to grow up in a musical household and certainly I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for the fact that dad taught me the basics of guitar when I was 13 and also a credit to my mother, as well, because she was not a musician but both my parents were very supportive of me when I decided to pursue it.
Q: Bill, what is your musical background?
Bill: I grew up in a musical family, too. My father was a banjo player and that's the instrument that I learned first from him, tenor banjo, and my mother tinkled on the piano.
And then when I was a teenager I got into a British skiffle group, skinny white kids from London playing American folk music, all of that stuff.
I was briefly in a teenage rock and roll band in 1962, it never went anywhere.
Q: Did you have any idea of the effect your love of music was having on Joel as he was growing up?
Bill: It wasn't too long after I taught him the basics of guitar that he started playing in the precursors to Thrush Hermit.
Joel: Our first band was called Nabisco Fonzie.
Bill: It kind of accelerated pretty quickly and I was actually thrilled to see it all happening. When they did gigs in bars they needed an adult and I was the one.
Joel: We were playing underage for a number of years.
Q: Joel, when did you start taking it really seriously?
Joel: We were lucky to be part of the Halifax scene in the early 1990s, and by the time we were 16 we had our band called Thrush Hermit. We went from Nabisco Fonzie to the Hoods to the Hermit. And we met the Sloan guys, I saw their second show and they saw one of our early shows.
Chris Murphy said "Hey, you guys are great, you should play with us," and we did a show together and then they got signed to Geffen and all these record companies started coming to Halifax.
We had a publishing deal with BMG in New York before we graduated high school, 17 or 18, and then we hit the road and started touring, so I was really fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with great people to help mentor us and take us on the road and all sorts of stuff.
So we were just really lucky. I guess I took it pretty seriously, quickly. You know we graduated high school and hit the road.
Q: Joel, did you feel supported by your parents in choosing a career in music?
Joel: I was living at home and hitting and going on the road and coming home and staying in my folks' basement until I was about 23 when I moved out.
That support was always there. I will say we started making a little bit of money and we got a record deal so we I was making my own way pretty early.
But at the same time it was because there was that support that I didn't feel like I had to develop a backup plan.
Even when Thrush Hermit broke up, I didn't have another skill set or path that I wanted to go down and I had learned enough that I could just continue. And that's sort of what kept me in the game, was a stubbornness but also the fact that I knew that I was lucky enough to have that support.
So I think it was partly my own ambition and desire to want to play music, but also the fact that it wasn't being frowned upon.
Q: Bill, whose idea was it to work together on a folk album?
Bill: Before we did the album together, I'd gone out with Joel because I had a role to play in the Three tour. There were people that would suggest that. Have you got any recordings together? So somehow the seeds got planted and it just evolved.
Joel: We'd been talking about it for a number of years and then it was like, OK here's the window let's take it. At that point there, the musical common ground got stronger. Putting the record together was a challenge because there are two voices on it, so we are trying to find that place. This is the place where dad's influences and mine would merge.
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With files from The Homestretch