It’s a strange fact that Canadian singer-songwriter has somehow become pretty famous for not being famous. Often characterised in his earlier albums by a melancholic sound, he’s experimented with a variety of folk and pop-oriented sounds, but always put his lyrics first, something that’s seen him been hailed as a master song writer (he once claimed that he only wanted to write songs that were good no matter if he was singing them or not). Despite never neglecting his art over his long career, he’s never had a great deal of commercial success, yet his work is critically acclaimed, he’s got numerous high-profile fans (including Elvis Costello, Feist, Elton John and Paul McCartney) and has been the subject of a documentary, 2010’s Love Shines. Sexsmith is now on his fourteenth album, Carousel One, and it might be one his most positive records yet.
Ahead of his gig at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle, we had a brief chat to Ron about his new album, not quite being mainstream enough and his love of Beyoncé.
Can you tell us a bit about Carousel One?
Well, it’s my 14th record. I worked with producer Jim Scott in California
What are the inspirations behind it?
All the songs are quite different from each other lyrically, but in general it captures a certain phase in my life I suppose. And it’s a travelogue of all the kinds of music that I like.
Carousel One has a noticeably lighter tone than your previous effort Forever Endeavour; was this a conscious decision?
It was a happy accident. I didn’t notice until halfway through recording the album.
A couple of years ago you said in an interview with The Globe and Mail that people should think of you as a St. Bernard because “it’s funny looking but oddly beautiful” and “it’s noble.” Now there’s a song called St. Bernard on your new album – is that a coincidence? Is the song about you?
It’s not about me, but I definitely relate to that kind of a dog. And the older I get, I think I’ve started to look like one and I’m trying to be okay with that.
“I don’t know what I could’ve done differently. I don’t think I look the part for one thing, and my music has always been unfashionable”
Many musicians have said that you’re a master songwriter but is it ever difficult to write lyrics, especially now that you’re on album fourteen?
It’s always difficult writing lyrics, although some are more difficult than others. But I know that if I put my mind to it and not be in a big hurry, I can get it done.
Elvis Costello once said that you were a songwriter “cursed by having been born out of time.” Does it ever bother you at all that despite being loved by musicians and often critics that you’ve not gained the same amount of commercial success as some of your contemporaries?
Yes, but I don’t know what I could’ve done differently. I don’t think I look the part for one thing, and my music has always been unfashionable in terms of what radio embraces.
A number of musicians have covered your songs, including Feist, Rod Stewart and even Michael Buble. How do you feel about being covered by such a range of artists?
It’s an honour that I can’t even believe sometimes.
Is there anyone you wouldn’t want to cover one of your songs?
Is it true that you really like Beyoncé’s music? I read somewhere that Destiny’s Child’s Survivor was your theme song…
Yes, I think she’s amazing. I like her more melodic stuff like Survivor and Crazy Right Now… and she looks incredible!