15 years, I was living on my own." |
Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello praising him, and Rod Stewart covering one of
his songs, you'd think that Ron Sexmith would have a higher profile. Despite
the heavyweight attention, however, the Canadian singer/songwriter remains surprisingly
unknown. An upcoming tour for his latest album, Cobblestone Runway (Nettwerk),
will provide a chance to get better acquainted with Sexmith.
In fact, Japanese
audiences may be better acquainted with the 38-year-old than the world at large,
as Sexmith seems to have struck something of a chord here. The upcoming solo acoustic
tour will be his fifth, and he has also played Japan's marquee event, the
Fuji Rock Festival.
Notwithstanding his lack of a big commercial breakthrough,
Sexmith counts himself lucky to have survived in the business almost two decades
since he debuted in 1985 with the cassette Out of the Duff. "I just feel
that I've seen a lot of huge-selling artists disappear off the face of
the earth," he says on his website. "So I feel fortunate and yeah,
I think I'm singing better than ever now and the songs...they keep on coming."
fifth album, Cobblestone Runway, marked a turn of direction for the artist both
personally and musically. Many of the songs touch on what was a period of upheaval
for him as a long-term relationship came to an end. "There were some pretty
significant changes at the time," he says. "After 15 years, I was
living on my own-actually, I ended up moving in with my business manager.
The lucky thing was he has a piano in his house."
meanwhile, the album saw Sexmith turn from the stripped-down sound of 2001's
Blue Boy (Cooking Vinyl) to a lusher, electronica-influenced approach. Behind
the keyboards, drum machines and effects on the new album was Swedish producer
Martin Terefe. "I don't know what the knobs do and that kind of
stuff. I was in the middle of these Blue Boy dates so I basically told Martin,
'Just do what you do. Go nuts.' I knew I was in good hands."
result was Sexmith's most rhythmic work to date, and one that may help
him connect with a worldwide audience increasingly attuned to the strains of acoustic/electronic
hybrids, or what is sometimes called "folktronica." Sexmith himself
says, "You could almost dance to some of the songs-and that's
a first for me."
Meanwhile, the songs themselves display a sense
of doubt tempered by a will to keep plugging along, whatever personal setbacks
one may suffer. "A lot of my songs come from a kind realism-not
overly optimistic, but just sort of accepting of things [and] being hopeful that
things aren't going down the drain," he says. "I guess I'm
often just writing songs of reassurance to myself, really. I'm trying to
say, 'Keep going,' basically."
Ron Sexmith plays Club
Quattro on June 17. See listings for details.
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