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Interviews, Music

Interview: Ron Sexsmith on Exploring Life’s ‘Big Questions,’ Success, and New Album “Forever Endeavour”

By: Curtis Sindrey –

Ron Sexmsith. (Photo: Michael D'Amico)

Ron Sexmsith. (Photo: Michael D’Amico)

Refusing to maintain the status quo with his 13th studio album Forever Endeavour, Canadian legend Ron Sexsmith explores and champions his unique brand of sharp, introspective music. “I just have so much respect for the art of songwriting and all of my heroes that came before me,” says Sexsmith in a phone interview. “I feel [songwriting] is something that isn’t the most fashionable thing in the world now, but it’s something that I’m trying to uphold and maintain for myself.”

Sexsmith commends the talented singer-songwriters of the early 1970’s for contributing honest, emotionally provocative work. He is among the contemporary artists who strive to emulate this depth of art, artists who fight for high standards, knowing; “there’s still great music being made, but all of the music that I love is older stuff, so I’m out of step! I’m just lucky I have a career at all and that there’s interest in what I’m doing.”

Switching from acclaimed producer Bob Rock, who produced 2011’s Long Player Late Bloomer, Sexsmith decided to collaborate with Mitchell Froom, who produced Sexsmith’s self-titled major label debut album in 1995, and more recently, 2006’s Time Being.

“He’s somebody that I really look up to,” Sexsmith explains. “I value his opinion and I think that he’s a great producer. He’s very old-fashioned in his approach. So I feel that we’re always on the same page when we work together.”

As Sexsmith eagerly awaited the release of Long Player during the early half of 2011, he began writing in earnest at his Toronto home in what would eventually become Forever Endeavour. Once the decision to hire Froom as producer came about, recordings began quickly in a cramped studio.

Ron Sexsmith's new album "Forever Endeavour."

Ron Sexsmith’s new album “Forever Endeavour.”

“When I decided to work with Mitchell, he had all of the arrangements mapped out, but because the studio was so small we couldn’t have a lot of musicians in there,” he says. “For the first week it was just me and my guitar and different percussionists. Then Mitchell would start bringing in bass players and horn players so it was more done in sections until we finally had all of the instruments on it.”

Sexsmith’s willingness to expand and explore his musical limits during his decades-long career has gifted his music with an eclectic mix of orchestral elements. It has always been a goal of his to recreate those sounds on stage, though it’s often too difficult. “We don’t even try [anymore,]” he says. “There was a show a few years ago at Massey Hall where I was able to have a string quartet and some horns but that was only one gig out of the entire tour because it’s just so expensive.”

Sexsmith values a simpler format for concerts anyhow. “With these types of records, my guitarist and my keyboardist will pitch in with the harmonies [on stage],” he says. “You can fill in a lot of [orchestral] spaces in a creative ways.” It is this pared down approach that has garnered him acclaim.

As for the themes explored on his latest LP, and on the eve of turning 50, Sexsmith says, “there’s definitely a lot of me looking back with regret and humour over past mistakes.” (As illustrated with tracks like “Me, Myself, and Wine.”) Sexsmith is pondering the grander questions of life, but he manages to do so with his trademark wit. “It felt much like an album where I was very wistful.”

Years ago, Sexsmith may have believed that any success he might have earned would be received posthumously. He has since grown more self-affirming and cites his consistent musical output as the reason why, and he is grateful for any amount of success bestowed upon him. “Especially in this day and age, just the fact that I have released 13 albums, that’s a certain level of success right there,” he explains. “I didn’t know what to expect when I started, I was just so relieved to have a record deal.”

And with the way that the music industry has evolved over the past few decades, catering to buyers who crave new material almost immediately after an artist’s last release, it’s no wonder Sexsmith places such great value on taking the time to nurture his music before he packages it, knowing his listeners reciprocate by taking the time to enjoy his music and not just consume it. “The people who are into my music tend to give things time to unfold,” he says. Noting, “sometimes a record requires you to listen to it a lot before it sinks in.”

Ron Sexsmith’s 13th album Forever Endeavour will be released on February 5th.

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