JPR Live Session: Ron Sexsmith

Jul 10, 2015

Self-deprecating almost to a fault, Ron Sexsmith has been a critical success ever since his self-titled debut back in 1995, winning the admiration of major league songwriters such as Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney along the way. Commercial success, however, has not been so forthcoming for the boy from the blue-collar town of St. Catharines, Ontario.

Well,” he chuckles, “I guess I was chasing stardom at one point, but then I stopped. To be honest, I think the lack of commercial success has been more annoying to the folks around me. I sometimes get people saying ‘Why aren't you playing stadiums?’ Well, it's certainly no mystery to me why I’m not. It’s just not that kind of music. I really didn’t expect the Long Player album to do as well as it did either. Not that it sold like "Lady Gaga" but it did do pretty well for me. It even led to us headlining the Royal Albert Hall in 2013. My career was given a much needed kick in the pants which I didn't see coming. I thought those days were gone for me, but it definitely reawakened a dormant fan base, especially in the UK. Since then, I feel like I've got my career back.

For Sexsmith, there’s always a trigger to an album, something that sets in motion the songs he’s writing not exactly as a concept, but certainly a theme or feel. His last album, Forever Endeavour, was born of a health scare while its predecessor Long Player, Late Bloomer was born of disillusionment. His new release, Carousel One, however, finds Sexsmith in surprising territory for a man often pegged as a downbeat balladeer: he’s actually contented. “Oh I hope so. Long Player was quite a grumpy record,” Sexsmith says. “It was uptempo musically but lyrically… not so much. I didn’t realize until we were putting the songs together for Carousel One that this would be more outgoing, there's a lot more humour. I mean, there’s even a smiling picture on the cover, which I’ve never had before. I just hope it doesn’t scare the children.

Carousel One features a warm, deeply involving set of songs that showcases Sexsmith’s great empathy and occasional sentimentality, but also his often-overlooked playfulness. Although the sound and feel are inspired by ‘70s albums from the likes of Phoebe Snow and Gerry Rafferty, it’s a record that sounds very fresh and modern.