Ron Sexsmith rides new wave of success

He has been praised by some of the biggest names in the music business, including Elton John, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello and has had his songs covered by the likes of Rod Stewart, Michael Buble and Emmylou Harris. Yet for all of the critical acclaim he has amassed over the course of 11 studio records, Ron Sexsmith remains one of Canada’s best kept musical secrets.

Sexsmith takes the stage at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre tomorrow evening. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Born in St. Catherines, Ont., Sexsmith found inspiration in the works of songwriters including Ray Davies (The Kinks), John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and would eventually relocate his family to Toronto in efforts to further his music career. And while those who know him seem to adore his oeuvre unfalteringly, commercial success has, so far, eluded Sexsmith.

Perhaps that is why for his 11th record, Long Player Late Bloomer, Sexsmith chose to shake things up, working with renowned producer Bob Rock who has worked with the likes of Metallica and Our Lady Peace but has also worked with Michael Buble. Buble was actually the one who recommended to Sexsmith that he and Rock work together.

“I had the bulk of these songs written and was asking for people’s advice on who they thought could help me make a record that was focused and might in turn get me on the radio,” a friendly Sexsmith says from his Toronto home.

“I had met Bob during the Juno Awards in Vancouver but it was actually Michael Buble that suggested I consider working with Bob to make the record,” he says. “I considered the thought of working with Bob to be insane for so many reasons but nonetheless, I had my manager contact Bob’s people to see if there would be any interest in working together and they came back to us the same day to say ‘Absolutely’.”

Discouraged by the reception afforded to his previous two records, Sexsmith says that he had a gut feeling that if he were to break out of his “rut”, he knew that changes were imminent.

“Long Player Late Bloomer was about trying to resurrect my career and my confidence,” Sexsmith says. “Bob definitely played a big part in making both happen.”

Sexsmith’s career has indeed found a second wind thanks to his latest record, released in March 2011, especially here in Canada, but also in Europe where Sexsmith earned a Silver sales award for the album.

“With this record, especially in England, I found myself reconnecting with a lot of fans that maybe hadn’t followed me in recent years. In the United States, which is probably one of the toughest markets in the world to crack, it felt as though I had some wind in my sails as well. And of course, here at home in Canada, the record did well and made the shortlist for last year’s Polaris Prize. It has been quite a good year for me. There were a lot of good things to happen for me with this record.”

While promotional efforts behind Long Player Late Bloomer are now wrapping up, Sexsmith has been anything but idle. He reveals that he recently completed a new studio record with producer Mitchell Froom that he hopes will be released in the fall.

“It is a very different record from Long Player,” he says. “I didn’t plan the record this way but it is probably one of the most lavish albums I have ever made with strings, woodwinds and horns. I am really proud of it.”

Article published in February 3, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript