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The Broken Speaker: Joel Plaskett’s Pursuit of Scrappy Happiness

We dissects the Dartmouth sweetheart’s latest release track-by-track.

It’s been three years since Joel Plaskett released an album of new material. Still riding a wave of confidence from his last album, Plaskett followed his nose with an ambitious project: record and release one song a week over the course of 10 weeks. The end result? The album Scrappy Happiness.

Starting with the release of “You’re Mine” on Jan. 10, Joel Plaskett Emergency recorded, mixed and mastered a new song every week for 10 straight weeks. After a noon deadline every Thursday, the tracks debuted on CBC Radio 2, Radio 3 and were then made available on iTunes.

The experience of his last album Three – pumping out a large number of songs in a short time and receiving more adoration from his fans – gave Plaskett the confidence he needed for the new record.

“Even if it’s a song a week and there’s a deadline, I can do it. I did 30 (songs) in a relatively short period of time. And I can write a lot,” says Plaskett while sipping a cappuccino at Two If By Sea Café in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

He first came up with the idea in the fall of 2009. It was around the time he was chosen to write a song about the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia for CBC Radio 2’s Great Canadian Song Quest. He was busy working on David Myles’ album Turn Time Off. Myles was chosen to write a song about the Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick.

“Neither of us had written our songs. We were working on his album and the deadline was looming. One night after working at the studio, I went home and wrote ‘On the Rail’ and came back to the studio the next day and was like, ‘I wrote my song last night.’ (Myles) was like, ‘You bastard! I haven’t written mine yet,’” said Plaskett.

He wrote his song, recorded it and delivered it to CBC on Sunday night. On Monday morning it was on the radio. “I remember thinking it was so cool just to have done something so quick, to be so in the moment on it,” said Plaskett.

The songs from Scrappy Happiness have been kicking around in some form for over a year. The Joel Plaskett Emergency tested the new tracks in December 2010 and 2011 at The Seahorse Tavern in Halifax for its annual fan appreciation Concerts. Despite being written and performed live, the tracks were never demoed.

Plaskett recorded the new songs one at a time, released them to the public and moved on to the next track. This process differed from previous albums where he would sometimes record drums for the whole album, then guitars for the whole record.

“You can get hung up on the idea that there’s some sort of definitive version that is expected of you. I’d sooner just write it, record it, release it and then do the same thing with a new song as opposed to (thinking) I have to make this my Stairway to Heaven,” he said.

We sat down with Plaskett to go through the album, one song at a time, to get a glimpse into the process and ideas behind the tracks that make up Scrappy Happiness. An album about finding happiness in the unfinished.

View the complete review here.