Ron Sexsmith in July 2004
|Birth name||Ronald Eldon Sexsmith|
8 January 1964 |
St. Catharines, Ontario Canada
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano|
|Associated acts||The Uncool
The Kelele Brothers
Ronald Eldon "Ron" Sexsmith (born 8 January 1964) is a Canadian singer-songwriter from St. Catharines, Ontario. Sexsmith started his own band when he was 14 years old and released recordings of his own material in 1985 at age 21. He was the subject of a 2010 documentary called Love Shines.
Sexsmith was seventeen when he started playing at a bar, the Lion's Tavern, in his hometown. He would gain a reputation as "The One-Man Jukebox" for his aptitude for playing requests. However, four to five years of this led him to play original songs and more obscure music his audience did not favour. He decided to start writing songs after the birth of his first child, Christopher, in 1985. That same year, still living in St. Catharines, he collaborated on recording and releasing a cassette, Out of the Duff, with a singer-songwriter friend named Claudio. Side one of the cassette contained five songs written and performed by Sexsmith; side two featured Claudio.
A year later, Sexsmith and his family moved to Toronto, living in an apartment on Woodbine Avenue in The Beaches neighbourhood. Still in 1986, Sexsmith recorded and released the full-length cassette There's a Way, which was produced by Kurt Swinghammer. Meanwhile, he worked as a courier, and befriended Bob Wiseman whom he met at an open stage. They became friends, and Wiseman agreed to produce and arrange Sexsmith's next release in between his tours with the band Blue Rodeo. Because of Wiseman's busy schedule, work on the album stretched out over several years, overlapping the birth of Sexsmith's second child, Evelyne, in 1989.
Grand Opera Lane finally appeared in 1991, after every Canadian label who Wiseman took it to rejected it. As a result, the album was released independently. Grand Opera Lane was credited to "Ron Sexsmith and the Uncool", utilizing Ron's backing band of Don Kerr and Steve Charles, and also featuring Wiseman regulars Sarah McElcheran (horn arrangements) and Kim Ratcliffe on electric guitar. Eventually on the strength of this album, and the attention garnered by the song "Speaking with the Angel", Sexsmith earned a contract which led to his self-titled album in 1995. The album received wider attention when it was praised by Elvis Costello, for whom Sexsmith later opened.
Increased success and recognition
Between 1997 and 2001, Sexsmith released three more albums before the acclaimed Cobblestone Runway in 2002. Retriever, his next album, is a more pop-oriented album and is dedicated to Elliott Smith and Johnny Cash. In 2004, he performed at the RuhrTriennale in the concert series Century of Song hosted by Grammy Award-winner Bill Frisell.
On 1 May 2001, Sexsmith performed "Just My Heart Talkin'" on the BBC's Later... with Jools Holland musical showcase, alongside R.E.M., Orbital, India.Arie, and Clearlake. Holland backed him on piano. It was his second appearance on the show. He continued to grow in popularity, and began to have some radio success, particularly on Canadian adult oriented radio.
In 2002, Sexsmith recorded a cover version of "This Is Where I Belong", the title track for a tribute album called This Is Where I Belong – The Songs of Ray Davies and the Kinks, and including contributions from Damon Albarn, Bebel Gilberto and Queens of the Stone Age, among others. About this recording, Ray Davies later wrote, "he has a great voice". On 16 June 2011 Ron and his band performed the Kinks' song "Misfits" with Ray Davies at the Meltdown Festival in London, England.
Sexsmith's most recent album, his 14th full-length work, is Carousel One, released in March, 2015.
Collaborations and covers
Sexsmith has collaborated with many artists. A version of his song "Gold in Them Hills" from his 2002 album Cobblestone Runway features vocals from Coldplay's Chris Martin. Sexsmith sang on "An Elephant Insect" which appears on the 2003 Shonen Knife album Heavy Songs. In 2005, he released a collection of songs recorded with drummer Don Kerr during the production of Retriever, called Destination Unknown. Also in 2005, Sexsmith sang on the track "Song No. 6" by Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun, which featured on her album A Temporary Dive and again on her Duets album later the same year. In 2006 he performed a duet of "So Long Marianne" with Leonard Cohen in Yorkville, Toronto. In 2014 he wrote and sang a duet together with Dutch singer-songwriter Marike Jager, the song 'Don't you' featured on her album "The Silent Song".
In addition to Chris Martin, Sexsmith has a number of famous admirers, including Elvis Costello, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Steve Earle, and Sheryl Crow, many of whom have covered Sexsmith's songs. His song "Secret Heart" has been covered by Rod Stewart, Feist, and Nick Lowe. Sexsmith co-wrote "Brandy Alexander" with Feist—versions appear on Sexsmith's Exit Strategy of the Soul, and on Feist's international hit album The Reminder. More recently, a version of Sexsmith's "Whatever It Takes" appeared on Michael Bublé's 2009 album Crazy Love
In 2004, fellow Canadian singer-songwriter k.d. lang covered Sexsmith's song "Fallen" on her album Hymns of the 49th Parallel. He also wrote the title song of Emmylou Harris' 2011 album, Hard Bargain.
Sexsmith sang the lead vocal on a song from Ryan Granville-Martin's 2013 album Mouthparts and Wings which features a different vocalist on each song. The song Sexsmith sang, "All Good Things (Come to Those Who Wait)", is currently a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition.
His first five albums are generally melancholic pop folk with elegant melodies, accentuated use of guitars and economic application of other instruments. On his sixth album, Cobblestone Runway, producer Martin Terefe supplemented this style with, among other things, synthesizers, back-up singers, gospel choirs, and string sections. Retriever is considered his most pop-influenced album.
He has said, "...my main objective is to try and stay out of the way of the song. I want to write songs that are good whether I'm singing them or not."
In a July 1999 interview, a Triste Magazine contributor said the following: "Every record seems to get great reviews, but then your sales don't ever really match." Sexsmith responded,
|“||It does get frustrating. Every record you make you think there's another chance to bat and you're always striking out. So it is frustrating. I don't want to be like Nick Drake and Tim Hardin. They never really had much success in their [lives]. ... All my heroes had big hits and success. I see progress in the way it's building, but it is not in the way the general public can detect. ... It's out of my hands. I'm a 35-year-old guy from Canada and I don't write groove-oriented music. So, I can't expect too much.||”|
- 1991: Grand Opera Lane (Linus Entertainment, produced by Bob Wiseman, with The Uncool)
- 1995: Ron Sexsmith (Interscope/Warner, produced by Mitchell Froom & Daniel Lanois)
- 1997: Other Songs (Interscope/Warner)
- 1999: Whereabouts (Interscope/Warner)
- 2001: Blue Boy (Cooking Vinyl, produced by Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy)
- 2002: Cobblestone Runway (Nettwerk, produced by Martin Terefe)
- 2003: Rarities (Linus Entertainment)
- 2004: Retriever (Warner)
- 2005: Destination Unknown (V2, with Don Kerr, released as Sexsmith & Kerr)
- 2006: Time Being (Warner, also released in 2007 by Coppertree Records UK on 180g vinyl)
- 2008: Exit Strategy of the Soul (Yep Roc)
- 2011: Long Player Late Bloomer (Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl)
- 2013: Forever Endeavour (Cooking Vinyl)
- 2015: Carousel One (Compass Records)
- 1995: For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson – "Good Ol' Desk"
- 1999: Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the 60's – "Reason to Believe"
- 2002: This Is Where I Belong - The Songs of Ray Davies & The Kinks – "This Is Where I Belong"
- 2002: WYEP Live and Direct: Volume 4 - On Air Performances – "Just My Heart Talking"
- 2002: Maybe This Christmas – "Maybe This Christmas"
- 2003: Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot – "Drifters"
- 2004: Beautiful Dreamer - The Songs of Stephen Foster – "Comrades Fill No Glass for Me"
- 2006: Our Power – "Love Henry" (with Don Kerr)
- 2008: Northern Songs: Canada's Best and Brightest – "All in Good Time"
- 2008: Redeye 2008 Holiday Sampler – "Something to Hold on To (At Christmas)"
- 2012: Textuality OST – "Since I Don't Have You"
The Kelele Brothers
- Escape from Bover County (Gas Station Recordings)
- Has-Beens & Wives (Gas Station Recordings)
- Steven Wilcock. "Ron Sexsmith interview – Triste Magazine". Triste.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- "Ron Sexsmith Biography". Yahoo Music. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- Perusse, Bernard (2 March 2011). "Montreal Gazette". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- Randy Krbechek. "Metronews Music Reviews". Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- allmusic ((( Ron Sexsmith > Overview )))
- "Ron Sexsmith's Beautiful View". Rolling Stone. 9 June 1999. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- "Retriever: Music: Ron Sexsmith". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- "biography". BillFrisell.com. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- "Billy Talent, Avril, k-os win big at Junos". CBC News. 4 April 2005.
- "Ron Sexsmith in Concert : NPR Music". Npr.org. 12 January 2007. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- Doole, Kerry (5 September 2013). "Ryan Granville-Martin – Mouthparts and Wings • Pop & Rock Reviews •". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
- "International Songwriting Competition | The No. 1 Song Contest for Songwriters". Songwritingcompetition.com. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
- VIFF: World Premiere of Love Shines, VanMusic
- "A master of restraint". Fairfax Digital. 18 August 2004. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- "Ron Sexsmith: Cobblestone Runway – PopMatters Music Review". Popmatters.com. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- "Ron Sexsmith : Ron Sexsmith Talks on 'Time Being' and Songwriting : Soul Shine Magazine". Soulshine.ca. 27 July 2006. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- "Colleen and Paul | Ladybug songs for the terminally wasted". Colleenandpaul.com. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
- Feature and interview with Ron Sexmith. Metro Morning, CBC Radio One, also Our Toronto, CBC television, broadcast April 6, 2015.
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