Joel Plaskett has earned an awful lot of honourifics in his career so far, counting folk hero, indie darling, and national treasure among them. And that’s just since the Halifax musician started making records of his own in 1999. For a decade before that, he was one-quarter of Thrush Hermit, a band of scrappy Superchunk mimics who became hard-rock revivalists and one of the last survivors of the ’90s pop “explosion” of major-label interest in Halifax.
Canada’s east coast has never been much of a pop-culture mecca. Most musicians from the region who’ve ever made it big moved away. But armed with a stubborn streak and a knack for great songwriting, Plaskett has kept Halifax as his home, building both a career and a music community there. Along the way, he’s earned great respect: when he plays shows in Alberta, east-coast expats literally thank him for staying home.
Nowhere With You is the study of how he pulled this off, from the origins of Canada’s east-coast exodus to Plaskett’s anointment as “Halifax’s Rick Rubin.” It’s a story about what happens when you call a city “the new Seattle,” about the lessons you learn playing to empty rooms in Oklahoma, and about defying radio-single expectations with rock operas and triple records. It’s about doing what you want, where you want, no matter how much work it takes.
Journalist O'Kane entertainingly chronicles singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett's remarkable career, first as a member of the indie rock band Thrush Hermit in the 1990s, when his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia was being heralded as "the next Seattle," and then as a solo artist and bandleader for the Emergency, with whom to become a Canadian icon and international folk star. The author describes how Plaskett met his Thrush Hermit bandmates while they were in high school, and skillfully depicts the East Coast alternative music scene at the time. The book offers a well-researched account of how artists such as Plaskett and Chris Murphy of Sloan made it in the tough music business, and what it took for Plaskett to do what everyone else in the scene found impossible: stay on the East Coast and build a successful career. O'Kane gives readers a clear-eyed inside view of the musician's hard work, demanding touring schedule, and other sacrifices. The book celebrates an artist who "fashioned himself as regionalist-in-chief of a lovely, if regularly overlooked, corner of Canada," took creative risks, and made it on his own terms to become one of Canada's best-loved voices.