By Alexander Varty
Indecision is a wonderful thing—or that’s how it played out for Joel Plaskett when it came time to make his latest solo effort, Three. On the line from his Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, home, the ever-animated singer-guitarist explains that he started out with a bunch of songs with titles like “Down, Down, Down”, “Rewind, Rewind, Rewind”, and “Deny, Deny, Deny”. Things just snowballed from there.
“I had a bunch of those tunes kicking around, so I thought ‘Maybe I’ll make a record where every song is the same word three times,’” he says, laughing. “And then I thought ‘That’ll get annoying,’ so I was, like, ‘Maybe I’ll make a record with my dad, like a folk record. That’s what I want to do.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh, no, I want to make a rock ’n’ roll record with drum machines.’ So I had those three ideas happening, and then I realized that maybe I had a triple record here.”
Which is exactly what Plaskett wound up with: Three contains three separate CDs, each containing nine songs. And while the response, so far, has been good—Three was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Prize—not everyone was impressed during the early going.
“I told my manager and he was like, ‘Ah… You’re joking, right?’” Plaskett recalls. “But once I fixated on the concept, I couldn’t let go.”
He also confesses that he could have squeezed all 27 tracks onto a mere two CDs, but says he’s structured the package both thematically and for ease of use. Disc 1, he explains, is about leaving or being left; Disc 2’s about missing what you’ve left behind; Disc 3 is about returning home. “I wanted it to be like a three-act play, if you listened to it all at once, but you can also just get into the vibe of any one record,” he says. “Each disc kind of has its own vibe.”
That’s especially noticeable on the middle disc, the most folk-oriented of the three. Fiddle and tin whistles lend a Celtic flavour to the mix, while Plaskett’s dad Bill—a former recording artist in his own right—turns up on five songs, playing piano, bouzouki, four-string tenor guitar, and six-string acoustic.
“He picks these melodies that are square, in a really good way,” Plaskett Jr. reports. “I’m a bit flighty, but he plays with a really straight-metred folk approach, and I like that. I find it complements what I do, which is usually something that’s a little bit more jerky, or whatever, ’cause I’m coming from that indie-rock background.”
The sessions went well enough that Joel’s invited his dad to sit in on his next Vancouver appearance, during which they’ll open for an artist they both admire.
“If I’m going to take the stage before Steve Earle I can’t just get up there and do my usual goofball shenanigans,” Joel says. “It’s a real honour for me, and so I just thought my dad would be the perfect guy to bring along.”