Steve Poltz – Toronto Star

The Toronto Star
Troubadour Steve Poltz reintroduces himself to Canadian audiences

Expat Halifax native teams with Joel Plaskett for Dreamhouse
By Ben Rayner

As any expat Maritimer can tell you, the East Coast exerts a peculiar magic over its scattered sons and daughters — one that peripatetic singer/songwriter and Halifax native Steve Poltz recently experienced for himself.

Although he departed Nova Scotia for California as a toddler, Poltz still has relatives aplenty scattered between Cape Breton and Halifax/Dartmouth and friends like ex-MuchMusic VJ Mike Campbell to keep him abreast of musical goings-on back in his hometown. And so it was that during a trip to H-Town in 2008 Campbell introduced Poltz first to Joel Plaskett’s music and then to Joel Plaskett himself, hatching a friendship that would result in Poltz returning to that part of the world last year to record an entire album with the tireless former Thrush Hermit frontman.

The result is the succinct, sweet-natured folk-pop effort, Dreamhouse, a wistful effort just released in Canada through Plaskett’s own New Scotland Records that’s arguably Poltz’s most likeable work in years. The record — which features extensive contributions from producer Plaskett and fellow Haligonian Jenn Grant — is also a handy way for the veteran troubadour to reintroduce himself to Canadian audiences who, for the most part, likely don’t know much about him beyond the fact that he wrote a bunch of songs for ex-girlfriend Jewel, including her massive 1996 hit “You Were Meant for Me,” back in the day and then pretty much bailed on the entire mainstream music industry after an incredibly unpleasant experience making One Left Shoe for Mercury Records in 1998.

The Star caught up with Poltz before he was to play a pair of shows at Betty’s earlier this week.

Q: You and Joel Plaskett seem a very logical pairing. You even sound a bit like each other.

A: It was a real natural fit, you’re right. It was strange. It just worked out. Without it sounding too weird, I kinda knew it was going to. When I first heard his stuff, I really liked it and I thought, “I wanna meet that guy.” This friend of mine, Mike Campbell, played me Joel at his tiki bar and then we were at the Carleton, this bar that he owns in Halifax, and he had Joel come by and Joel really dug the live show. Like you said, there are a lot of similarities. And then I saw that he recorded to analogue, two-inch tape on 16-track, and I thought it would be really fun to go back and do an album that way.

Q: Dreamhouse gives off this really honest, unpretentious and kinda spontaneous vibe. Was it as much fun to make as it sounds?

A: It was. We laughed and just had the best time. It was so organic, it just happened. We made the record in two weeks. I had the songs road-tested and ready to go, so it was fun for him, too, because a lot of times, I think, he works with bands who are still learning the songs that they came in with and they’re doing a million takes. It’s not Pro Tools and you’re not doing a lot of overdubs so it helps if you know your songs. I’d already been out on the road and he said “Let’s make a record” so we just looked at our schedules and he said “How about two weeks from now?” The whole time I was just thinking, “This is the easiest record I’ve ever made.”

Q: Plaskett’s a pretty good connection to have in Canada, too, if you want to curry favour with the locals.

A: I told him that. When I came in, my guitar somehow got held up at customs. I don’t know what the problem was. They asked me “What are you doing out here?” And I said, “I’m making a record with this guy named Joel Plaskett.” And they were, like, “Oh, we love Plaskett!” The guy said “I’m supposed to be off work right now but I’m gonna go find that guitar.” And he did. It was locked in some other flight. I told Joel dropping his name in the Maritimes was like being tied in with the Mob. All of a sudden stuff started happening.

Q: It seems like you’ve hit upon a good way to record and travel and make a living at this singer/songwriter stuff the way you want to do it, without any of the hassles of the “industry.” I know you didn’t have the best experience with that stuff.

A: I’m really glad I got to see that part of the record business in the last days, at the waning end. It was like the last days of Pompeii. I got to see it all and be a part of it and watch a record label order a $1,000 bottle of wine because it was what Julio Iglesias drank with them the week before. I watched them order it and I remember thinking “This is cool” and the guy next to me leaned over and whispered: “You know this comes out of your account, right?” And I said: “I don’t care. Nobody ever recoups. I’m just gonna take the whole plane down with me.” So that was pretty fun. I’d talked to enough people in the industry then that I knew nobody ever recoups. Nobody ever recoups. Unless you’re Jewel. She recouped. But I didn’t.