Polaris Music Prize 2011 Preview: Ron Sexsmith
Toronto-based singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith has been around for a long time. And his twelfth LP, appropriately titled, Long Player Late Bloomer, convinces he can still craft catchy pop hooks with a clean, pleasant sound. "I've got to raise it up / As far as my spirit can reach / That everyone might see," Sexsmith sings in the album's title track, a point he proves with the recent success of Long Player Late Bloomer.
Below, read my interview with Sexsmith.
Why do you think Long Player Late Bloomer stands out among other albums from Canadian musicians this year?
I don't honestly know... I think perhaps because it was a sort of unlikely pairing of two people (Bob Rock and myself) who seemed to come from two different worlds. I didn't personally see it that way, but I think for a lot of people it struck them as odd.
What was going through your mind when Long Player was selected for the long list? And then when it reached the short list?
It was so unexpected that I didn't know what to think at first. My (uneducated) impression of the Polaris Awards from a distance was that the nominees in general had to be more alternative or cutting edge or something. I've always considered myself to be a mainstream pop artist and most of my heroes are people some would consider middle of the road (which when you think about it, the most dangerous place to stand is in the middle of the road). So anyway, I was surprised, honoured and a little mystified.
How would you describe the initial impulse that led to the making of this album? What is the central feeling or spirit behind Long Player?
Well it came from a real disillusioned place to be honest. I was disappointed with how the last few albums had done. It seemed like my career was in the dumpster and that I had lost all my confidence. I started writing these songs in Santa Fe, New Mexico - almost against my will - and I started seeing an album taking shape. But I was afraid to make another record. So the dilemma for me was to find a producer who could help me make a more focused album somehow so that people, who never got me before, might get me if that makes any sense. I guess the central feeling behind it is that old David and Goliath story of trying to stand up for myself.
What sorts of things come up when you listen to this record? And which track from this LP should people (who have never heard of you before) listen to - a track you feel represents the album as whole?
I can hear myself just trying to rise to the occasion. It was a big deal for me, being in the studio with Bob and all these great musicians and so I didn't want to be the weakest link. I'm proud of all the songs, so I'm not sure what I would recommend for someone who's never heard of me... maybe "Love Shines".
Can you describe the process of making the LP? What were some of the things you learned while making this record and at what point during the process did you realize you were making an LP that was going to be intriguing enough to get this kind of recognition?
We did all the bed tracks in LA but we had to work fast because we only had the musicians for three days. Most of the over dubs and vocals were done in Toronto and Vancouver, and that was mainly Bob and me, with a few friends like Kevin Hearn and Dallas Good stopping by to help out. I'm not sure what I learned but I loved what I was hearing coming through the speakers. I felt we were making a great record but I didn't see any of this coming.
Which album in the short list would you partner Long Player up with and why?
I don't know. All the artists seem so different. That's a difficult question.
Aside from your own record, which album from the short list did you enjoy listening to the most and why?
I mostly listen to 50s music. So the only two I was familiar with, to be honest, were Arcade Fire and Timber Timbre, which I've only heard in passing. I hope to get more acquainted with the other nominees.
Lead photo of Ron Sexsmith by Tim Knol
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