Ronald (Eldon) Sexsmith. Singer-songwriter, guitarist, b St Catharines, Ont, 8 Jan 1964. Raised in St Catharines, Ron Sexsmith aspired to songwriting at a young age and in his early teens began to teach himself the guitar. By age 17 he had secured a regular solo gig, primarily playing covers at The Lion's Tavern and other St Catharines clubs.
In 1985, Sexsmith became a father for the first time and spent several months in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Québec, experiences that inspired one of his most prolific phases of songwriting. Sexsmith returned to southern Ontario in 1986 and recorded the independent release There's a Way with Niagara-area songwriter Kurt Swinghammer. Sexsmith relocated to Toronto in late 1987 and formed the band The Uncool, releasing the cassette Out of the Duff. The move produced an acquaintance with Bob Wiseman, keyboardist of Blue Rodeo, with whom Sexsmith and his band recorded a second independent album, Grand Opera Lane (1991).
The Los Angeles company Interscope Music Publishing offered Sexsmith a publishing deal in 1991, followed by a recording contract with Interscope Records in 1993. With producer Mitchell Froom, Sexsmith released his self-titled label debut album in 1995. The melancholic tone and sparse acoustic arrangements of Ron Sexsmith met with initial disapproval from Interscope. However, an enthusiastic endorsement from Elvis Costello drew media attention and the album was declared a critical success. In his review for Rolling Stone, 7 Sep 1995, Bud Scoppa wrote: "He just may be the most fluent balladeer to come along since Tim Hardin or Harry Nilsson."
Growth and Success
Sexsmith's songwriting style has evolved into a unique and timeless blend of classic pop, contemporary folk, and roots-rock idioms. He has built a steadfast reputation with critics and with songwriters Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, John Hiatt, Elton John, and k.d. lang for his characteristically honest, sensitive, and enduring approach to the craft of songwriting.
Sexsmith has released albums on a consistent basis since 1995, and has recorded with producers Froom, Daniel Lanois, and Martin Terefe. In 2001 Sexsmith worked in Nashville with US roots artist and producer Steve Earle on the album Blue Boy. His twelfth album, Long Player Late Bloomer (2011), was made with hit-making Canadian producer Bob Rock. Although a commercial Canadian fanbase has been slow to develop, Sexsmith has secured a substantive cult following and an international touring career. Sexsmith has performed with, among others, Elvis Costello, Elton John, The Tragically Hip, Coldplay, and Leslie Feist. His songs have been covered by Rod Stewart, k.d. lang, Emmylou Harris, Dallas Green, Michael Bublé, Mary Black, and the Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter.
In 2001 Sexsmith sat on SOCAN's songwriters' panel at Toronto's North By Northeast (NXNE) music conference, and performed at the induction of Gordon Lightfoot into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition, he has been broadcast on the US radio program "The World Café" and frequently on BBC radio and CBC radio, and has appeared on the PBS series "Sessions at West 54th." In 2002 he was featured on CBC TV's "Songwriters' Circle" and Bravo's "Live at the Rehearsal Hall"; in 2010 he was the subject of the documentary Love Shines, directed by Douglas Arrowsmith.
Awards and Accolades
In 1998 Ron Sexsmith was awarded his first Juno for the album Other Songs. In 2002 he won the Genie for best original song for "Love Is Free to Go," featured in the film The Art of Woo; for his album Blue Boy, he received a Canadian Independent Music Award. In 2005 Ron Sexsmith was awarded the Juno for songwriter of the year.
Grand Opera Lane. 1991. Ronboy Rhymes ACC-49255
Ron Sexsmith. 1995. Interscope Records CD 92485
Other Songs. 1997. Interscope Records INTSD-90123
Whereabouts. 1999. Interscope Records INTSD-90299
Blue Boy. 2001. Linus Entertainment 2-70001
Cobblestone Runway. 2002. Linus Entertainment 2-70011
Rarities. 2003. Linus Entertainment
Retriever. 2004. Warner Canada 2-61600
Destination Unknown. 2005. Sexsmith and Don Kerr. Ronboy Rhymes 2 91667
Time Being. 2006. Warner Canada 2 63185 WEA
Exit Strategy of the Soul. 2008. Warner Canada 2 959211 WEA
Long Player Late Bloomer. 2011. Warner Canada 1 745692
Attenborough, Debra. "Niagara's voice," Jamm Niagara, 8 Feb-8 Mar 1986
Chiclo, Ian. "Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith's simple voice," Vox, May 1995
Scoppa, Bud. "Ron Sexsmith," Rolling Stone, 7 Sep 1995
Murphy, Angela. "The boy next door," Standard (St Catharines), 27 Dec 1996
Jones, Christopher. "Small songs, big punch," Words and Music, Jun 1997
Powell, Betsy. "A musician's musician," Toronto Star, 23 May 1999
Contemporary Canadian Musicians, Apr 2000
Doole, Kerry. "Stranger in his own land: songwriter Ron Sexsmith...," Globe and Mail, 5 Jun 2001
Cooke, Stephen. "Sexsmith out of the blue," Chronicle-Herald (Halifax), 7 Jun 2001
Bliss, Karen. "The evolution of a songwriter: how Ron Sexsmith learned to write songs... and really doesn't care if he ever has another hit," Canadian Musician, Jan-Feb 2005
Wheeler, Brad. "Is it finally Ron Sexsmith's time to shine?," Globe and Mail, 4 Mar 2011