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My Soundtrack: Ron Sexsmith

Inside the Canadian singer-songwriter is a long-haired, spandex-clad rocker screaming to get out.

Ron Sexsmith

Inside the Canadian singer-songwriter is a long-haired, spandex-clad rocker screaming to get out.

All words below by Ron Sexsmith.

The Song I Fell In Love To

Buddy Holly “True Love Ways”, 1960
“When my wife and I got married, our first dance at the wedding was ‘True Love Ways’. When we first started dating she played in a band called By Divine Right, and they were about to go on tour in Australia. Before she left I made her a cassette, and ‘True Love Ways’ was the first song on it. It means a lot to both of us.”

The Song I Play Air Guitar To

Deep Purple “Fireball”, 1971
“I’m a frustrated hard rock musician. My favourite Deep Purple album is Fireball, and for my money the title-track still rocks harder than anything I’ve ever heard. You can’t help but play air guitar to it. I wish I could sing like [Purple frontman] Ian Gillan. Whenever I get a chance to do karaoke I’m always either doing a Deep Purple song or David Lee Roth. I love that kind of singing, but I just wasn’t born with that kind of voice.”

The Song That Makes Me Cry

Judee Sill “The Kiss”, 1973
“I don’t know what it is about this song but it’s so moving. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I can’t even listen to it sometimes, ’cause I just find it so devastating. It’s like William Blake or something set to music. It’s very poetic and very moving. [Hearing it for the first time] was one of those ‘where have you been all my life?’ moments. I’ve talked to other people about it and it’s had a similar effect on them.”

The Song I’m Most Proud Of

Ron Sexsmith “Heavenly”, 2011
“I was in New Mexico with my wife and I got an e-mail asking me if I had any songs for this singer from Canada called Nikki Yanofsky, she’s sort of a jazz singer. At the time I think she was 16 or something. So I’m thinking, what can a 16-year-old girl sing about? It would have to be something kind of innocent. So I wrote the song, and it’s a very pastoral kind of song about nature but also about love. I made a demo and sent it and they really liked it, but for some reason didn’t do it. I was kind of glad ’cause then I got to do it. And that album [Long Player Late Bloomer] did very well for me. After having a few in a row that didn’t do well it was nice to have one that connected.”

The Song I Want To Cover

Lorde “Royals”, 2013
“My niece is about eight or nine, and I was asking her what her favourite song was and she said ‘Royals’, and I’d never heard of it before. So I went and checked out the video. I find Lorde to be one of the more interesting of the current crop of pop acts. There’s something almost Kate Bush-like about her. I love the melody, I love the simplicity of it.”

The Song That’s Guaranteed To Get Me on the Dancefloor

David Bowie “Golden Years”, 1976
“I don’t really dance in front of people unless I’m drunk, but the opening guitar riff is so funky. You can’t resist it. I remember as soon as I heard the song ‘Fame’ on the radio I went to the record store to buy it on 45, but they were sold out of it. All they had was ‘Golden Years’, which I hadn’t heard. I bought it, and came to love that song even more than ‘Fame’. I remember seeing him do it on Soul Train and everyone was dancing, and I was at home dancing, watching on TV.”

The Song That Cheers Me Up

The Kinks “Wonderboy”, 1968
“From the very first time I heard it it was life changing. Before I heard the Kinks I was a fan of Elton John and the Beatles, but [frontman] Ray Davies was the first [artist] that made me want to be a songwriter. I heard the Kinks on the radio driving around with my dad, and the very next day I went to the record store and bought Golden Hour of the Kinks. It had about 20 songs on it, but the first two were ‘Days’, which blew my mind, and ‘Wonderboy’. I was hooked. The Kinks are still one of my biggest influences.”

The First Song I Learned to Play

Elton John “Crocodile Rock”, 1972
“I was a member of the Elton John fan club when I was nine or 10. At that point in time I just wanted to sing, I didn’t expect I’d ever be a writer and I didn’t know how to play any instruments. But when I was 14 or 15 I started playing with some friends, we had a garage band, and somebody showed me the chords to ‘Crocodile Rock’, and to know the chords to any song was just mind-blowing. That was the missing link for me. I think I just played it nonstop for a while ’cause it was cool to get through a whole song.”

The Song I Want Played At My Funeral

Harry Nilsson “Think About Your Troubles”, 1971
“It’s beautiful the way it’s written, ’cause it takes all your problems and reduces them to a single tear drop. He does it in this very beautiful and humorous way and it makes you feel better by the end of the song just by putting things in perspective. It’s very comforting.”

The Song I Wish I Wrote

Randy Newman “Marie”, 1974
“The Good Old Boys record is a bit of a concept album, and this is one of the characters on the album that’s singing. It was written for this character’s wife, and he’s full of regret about how he treated her. [Newman] says things in songs that not very many writers are brave enough to do.”