Over the course of his 11 studio albums, acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith has, for better or worse, gained a reputation as being a bit of downer.
While this is not only categorically untrue if you couldn’t tell from Sexsmith’s self-depreciating sense of humour, one only needs to look towards the songwriter’s most recent effort – Carousel One – as proof that blue skies do exist in the world of Ron Sexsmith.
Perhaps ironically though, the musician happened upon the happier, more upbeat mood found on his latest record completely by accident.
“The happier direction on the record was more incidental than anything. It wasn’t something I was even aware of until halfway through the recording,” an amiable Sexsmith says. “Just by nature of your life, you find yourself in different headspaces. It’s only natural that that would come through in the music.”
Carousel One producer Jim Scott was introduced to Sexsmith by their mutual friend Kevin Hearn, who, incidentally is serving as the opening act on Thursday evening at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre.
To help bring the album to life, Scott assembled a veteran band to back Sexsmith on record, including bass player Bob Glaub (Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne), guitarist Jon Graboff (John Lee Hooker, Dr John), drummer Don Heffington (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris) and keyboard player John McGinty (Dixie Chicks, Matthew Sweet).
Sexsmith shares that the relatively quick manner of tracking the record was typical, but never did he expect anything less than the stellar results heard on the finished product.
“From start to finish, the whole record took about four weeks. I tend to go into the studio with complete songs. As long as you’ve got a good band of musicians behind you, which certainly was the case here, the recording process tends to go rather quickly.”
More than two decades following the release of his self-titled debut effort, Sexsmith has garnered an international following. While he continues to do well at home in Canada, selling out a significant majority of his shows, he has also amassed a dedicated following overseas.
Sexsmith had headlined London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall and has performed before sold-out audiences in Japan and Australia. All in all, it isn’t all that bad being Ron Sexsmith.
“With the release of my first record, I actually did quite well in the U.K., but then there was a lull for about a decade. Since [2011’s] Long Player, Late Bloomer though, things really picked back up in Europe. It’s humbling to do quite well when I tour there. The same could be said for playing in Japan and Australia.
“I was 31 years old when my debut was released, which is much later in life compared to a lot of other artists. I never expected to be able to still be touring more than 20 years later, never mind having the opportunity to sing with my musical heroes like [The Kinks] Ray Davies and having Elton John call me at home,” Sexsmith laughs. “Even if my music isn’t setting the world on fire, knowing it’s getting out there and reaches people is good enough for me.”
Although Sexsmith doesn’t fit the “traditional” definition of a rock star, his career has embodied something arguably more important: longevity.
In an age where comedy has been dumbed down to seven-second video clips and many millennials believe that the album format is no longer relevant, Sexsmith’s music has stood the test of time rather capably and with good reason.
Like Harry Nilsson, Elton John and Emmylou Harris before him, the latter of whom included his song “Hard Bargain” on her most recent solo studio effort, Sexsmith has never been one to make himself into something he is not in an attempt to broaden his fanbase.
He is a songwriter, a time-honoured tradition that will ensure those sold-out audiences greeting him from Canada through the U.K., Japan and Australia are indeed in it for the long haul.
“I still think my best days are ahead of me in some respects. The longer I’m around, the more people seem to be discovering my stuff. Whether or not my next album is the one that ‘breaks me’ doesn’t matter, because maybe nothing will ever happen,” Sexsmith declares.
“Realistically though, what else am I going to do? David Bowie made one of the best records of his career before he died. I saw Bob Dylan singing Frank Sinatra at the Royal Albert Hall and he seemed to be singing better than ever. Thankfully, I’ve learned you can’t ever write some artists off; there is a wisdom and subtlety that comes with age.”
What: Ron Sexsmith with special guest Kevin Hearn
When: Thursday Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $35 plus service charge. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca.