Sun goes down upon the bay
Looking for somewhere to play
I came here to bring the noise
To the island girls and the harbour boys
– Joel Plaskett, Harbour Boys
Joel Plaskett is a clear-voiced singer-songwriter whose music pulses with tight rhythm and guitar. His songs are alternately packed with hard-driving rock (Lightning Bolt from the album Scrappy Happiness) and searing emotion (the gorgeous Face of the Earth from Ashtray Rock). His lyrics can be poetic, funny and often both: the chorus of an early hit, also from Ashtray Rock, tells of “fashionable people doing questionable things.”
Plaskett built his career in the bars and clubs of Halifax more than 20 years ago, and today is highly respected on the Canadian indie scene. He’s won dozens of awards, including a JUNO and multiple East Coast Music Awards.
When the National Arts Centre asked him to do a show with the NAC Orchestra on April 12 as part of the NAC Presents series, he immediately said yes.
“I’m thrilled to be playing with the orchestra at the NAC in the nation’s capital,” he said. “Gigs don’t get more prestigious. Pressure’s on!”
Joking aside, gigs like this take more people to make them work, he said.
“It’s not about jamming or directing a few musicians to an end result. It’s obviously bigger and requires a lot more people be successful. The songwriter, the performer, the arranger, the conductor, all the musicians and people behind the scenes. It requires a lot of preparation, and everyone involved has to stay on script.”
He said his music changes in many ways when he’s playing with an orchestra, starting with the dynamics.
“Distortion, big drum beats and loud volume aren’t part of the equation, so some of the rockier numbers needed to be deconstructed. Parts that had previously been really loud might change into a quiet part, to give the arrangement room to develop. Other times the orchestral arrangements fit nicely over the basic rock arrangement.”