Music Interview: Retrieving the Music and Craft

By Paul Jarvey

Whenever Ron Sexsmith blows through Calgary, he does so with intimacy, intensity and disregard for the stereotypical. Showcasing his latest release, Retriever, his driven lyricism and inescapable melodies are unmistakably contemporary but nevertheless hang with the genuflect appeal of truly being in love with his music.

Thus far, Ron’s success has taken him across most of the western world, but never far from his Canadian roots, playing with musicians like the Finn Brothers and Elvis Costello. “We’ve been all over the place. It’s nice to see that after all these records things seem to be picking up. In places I haven’t really done well, things are looking up and places where I have are looking surprisingly good,” according to Sexsmith from his hotel room in Calgary.

Not long ago Ron played lead guitar in a high school rock and roll band. His current ménage of singer-songwriter folk, country, and talented rock is part of a growing identity, as well as aspirations to be part of a globally respected community of Canadian Musicians.

“I see it as a very proud, really great tradition that I’m trying to uphold,” says Sexsmith. “There’s a fantastic tradition of Canadian songwriters, from Sarah Slean way up to those Blue Rodeo guys. That’s what I’m most proud of. All around the world, wherever I go people are asking me what is it about Canada that produces so many renowned songwriters.”

And really, it’s hard to grow old gracefully playing hard rock,” continues Sexsmith. “Some people can do it, but it’s so much about being young, about sexuality and that stuff. I think that’s why Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash can continue on these endless tours-because their music wasn’t about jumping around and being physical. Gordon Lightfoot was one of those people who got me down that road.”

Not surprisingly, Ron is beginning to experience his share of fame. While humble, Ron clearly surprises even himself.

“I hung out with Paul McCartney in his kitchen. That was 1996, on my first tour. I was being treated like royalty, after six months of touring around in North America and not really even existing. When I went over to Europe I was in every newspaper and magazine. I played two sold out shows in London. I opened for Richard Thompson, ate breakfast and played some music with Paul McCartney.”

While Ron Sexsmith might not be seeing the top ten radio play, his growing audiences reveal his comfort in the hearts of his fans. Whether they see him as a grown up boy from Ontario, a romantic and socially conscious singer songwriter, or a rock star being gentle.