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 fourteen years old and released recordings of his own material in 1985 at age 21. Sexsmith was the subject of a 2010 documentary called Love Shines
.Early careerSexsmith 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.The same year, he won a songwriter of the year Juno Award for "Whatever it Takes".In 2011, the album Long Player Late Bloomer was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.Sexsmith's most recent album is Forever Endeavour
, released February 2013.
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
.In 2010, Sexsmith appeared on "Liberace", a track off the album Vaudeville
by Canadian rapper D-Sisive.In 2012 his song "Gold in them Hills" was covered by Katie Melua on her album Secret Symphony, and "Right About Now" was covered by Mari Wilson on the album "Cover Stories".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.
Ron Sexsmith is the subject of the film Love Shines
, directed by Douglas Arrowsmith and produced by Paperny Films. Love Shines
premiered at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival on Friday, 8 October 2010.
Sexsmith has two children with his ex-wife Jocelyne: a son, Christopher (born in 1985); and a daughter, Evelyne (born in 1989). Their fifteen-year marriage ended in 2001.His partner, Colleen Hixenbaugh, is also a musician. She is a member of By Divine Right, half of the duo Jack and Ginger, and the duo Colleen and Paul with Paul Linklater.
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,