By Chris Illich
After nearly a year of touring his 14th album Carousel One, singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith will be finishing off his tour circuit with a hometown show at the newly formed FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on February 26.
Sexsmith, who got his start in St. Catharines performing gigs around town, moved to Toronto at the age of 22 to pursue his musical career, but he has fond memories of the city he spent his formative days in.
“I was born and raised in St. Catharines and it was a great place to grow up. My musical dreams were formed there. I’m really excited to see the new Art Centre because when I was a kid St. Paul St. was quite alive. Everyone would go there,” he recalled.
“As soon as the malls started opening up, people started avoiding downtown so I think this is great for the downtown and will help start bringing people downtown again.”
As a young father, Sexsmith saved for two years to move to Toronto. He stated that “his friends would go straight from school to a lifetime job at an auto plant or paper mill,” but he wanted to follow his passion for music and had to leave St. Catharines.
Sexsmith, who always visits St. Catharines over the Christmas break to spend time with his parents would also come into the city to perform at the Centre for the Arts at Brock University, something he “will miss, [as he] always enjoyed playing there.”
The Toronto based troubadour’s recently released Carousel One (March 2015), his most upbeat record of yet. For a songwriter known for his melancholy style, this record marked a great departure from the songs of his past.
He’s been on tour since April 2015, and has had “a really good tour,” but he also mentioned how taxing it can be as well.
“I love performing but I don’t always like travelling. It’s very stressful now. I’m very grateful, because it’s obviously easier than what a lot of people have to do for a living. But I’ve been on the move since 1993 just touring and recording and touring again – it can get very back and forth. I think as I get older it will change somehow,” he said.
“I will probably be doing less of it than more because it takes a lot out of you. Whenever I tour my health suffers. You’re not really sleeping well or eating well. I’ll just have to see. When you put out a record people expect you to go out on tour, it’s kind of something that you can’t get away from. It’s mostly just a lot of waiting around and sitting in a van or waiting to go somewhere. Though, I do love walking out on stage and playing, that part never changes.”
On the other side, Sexsmith has met a lot of his heroes, performed at the famed Massey Hall several times and headlined at Royal Albert Hallwhere he has an illustration of himself as part of a mural on the wall. To say he hasn’t had a storied career would be an understatement.
“You know, I did really bad at school and coming from St. Catharines, I didn’t think my prospects weren’t that good. I got out of St. Catharines and moved to Toronto and made it happen, I’m really proud of that too,” he said.
“We’re all really looking forward to the show and hopefully we’ll get a good turnout. This whole year has been coming down to this gig and I’m really excited to end it in my hometown.”