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Ron Sexsmith: Notes on the Passage of Time

Ron Sexsmith's clean pop melodies and thoughtful lyrics might have brought him fame and fortune, if he had been working in the 1960s and '70s. On today's pop charts, though, the native Canadian's songs don't quite fit.

"In America... everything for quite some time now has been kind of groove-based and R&B and hip-hop and all that stuff," Sexsmith says. "I've always felt a bit square."

His music might echo another period, but Sexsmith is one of the few singer-songwriters these days who doesn't sound as if he's treading old ground. His finely honed melodies and reflective, wistful lyrics manage to feel fresh and timeless.

But his artistry and abundant critical praise have not resulted in big hits and financial security — at least, so far.

"It's funny, you know, I'll be at these awards shows in Canada on the red carpet and everything. Then I go back to my rented house in Toronto. It's like Cinderella or something," Sexsmith says.

Still, Sexsmith isn't as downtrodden as he is sometimes portrayed to be in the press (or in the picture on this page).

"I read articles about myself where they kind of paint this sad-sack picture, which isn't really the case," he says. "When I was a kid, I dreamed about making records and doing interviews and concert tours. I'm doing all of that."

His latest record is Time Being, and the theme of time — its passage and the losses along the way — figures in a number of the tracks.

At age 42, Sexsmith isn't exactly old; but the recent deaths of friends from high school have made him newly aware of how short life can be.

"Going to funerals for people who are the same age... just makes you kind of hold on to things a little tighter," he says. "The time becomes a little sweeter and more precious, and I guess that worked its way into these songs."

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Christian Bordal
Christian Bordal is a Norwegian-American (via Australia) musician, radio producer, and freelance music journalist who contributes regularly to Day to Day. He's very good at making faces and making a fool of himself, and he once impressed his NPR editors with a drunken recitation of the gibberish poem "Jabberwocky." He briefly considered launching a career performing at children's parties, but he finds his own children to be trouble enough. In addition to this list of remarkable professional accomplishments, he is a producer at member station KCRW in Los Angeles.