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NOW Toronto, Joel "I want it to be a party."

When you’ve had an 18-year-long career in music, like Joel Plaskett, you’re bound to have a few good tour stories. He’s played everywhere from the top of the CN Tower to Massey Hall. But when it comes to smaller venues, there’s one gig that stands out for him: at the Horseshoe with his old 90s band, Thrush Hermit, bassist Ian McGettigan decided to experiment with blowing fire.

“It went up to the roof. I remember thinking, ‘We’re going to burn this place down,’” the Nova Scotian musician recalls. “There are still burn marks on his guitar.”

Don’t expect similar displays of pyrotechnics at Plaskett’s upcoming five-night stand with his band, the Emergency, as part of the venue’s 65th anniversary celebrations, though he’s still unafraid of shaking things up.

For this year’s Scrappy Happiness album (Maple Music), he took a new approach that saw him recording one song a week for 10 weeks. While he admits the process was exhausting, he also says it was creatively liberating and taught him a valuable lesson about embracing his music’s imperfections.

“The hardest thing was keeping momentum because I wasn’t able to pause,” he says. “I wanted to see if I could turn on the tap and be creative under pressure.”

Between sporadic tours this year, Plaskett also found time for one of his other loves: production. While he’s always had a hand in producing his own records, not to mention ones by Sarah Slean and Two Hours Traffic, he pulled triple duty co-writing, playing on and producing 22-year-old Nova Scotian singer/songwriter Mo Kenney’s self-titled debut album.

Kenney is one of the special guests at the Horseshoe shows, which includes an all-ages performance on December 16. Back in 2007, Plaskett also played five consecutive nights for the bar’s 60th anniversary, and says he’s honoured to have been chosen again.

“It’ll be the perfect cap to the year. We’re going to keep it interesting. Not to sound lazy, but my approach this year has been to take each day at a time and not get stressed out. I want it to be a party.”

by Max Mertens, NOW Toronto