Ron Sexsmith struggles to understand the new world order

These are strange times and no one knows this better than a touring musician. Not only do you get to see the tantalizing underbelly of a country through its various dive bars and drinking establishments but nothing gives you a better idea of where a society’s at than driving across it in a van. A month into a mammoth multi-continent tour for his latest album Exit Music for the Soul Ron Sexsmith is doing just this — experiencing a world on the brink of something big. And though he graduated many years ago from playing dive bars (he’s playing the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco this month) he still admits it can get a little frustrating.

“I mean we’ve been playing really well” Sexsmith says after a Chicago tour stop. “And the people that have been coming out to the shows have been really great but honestly I’ve been a little disappointed with some of the turnouts down here in the U.S. This record seems to be flying more under the radar than most of my records. I think it’s just a weird time to be in America right now.”

Sexsmith acknowledges that the show turnouts are influenced by more than just his music. When his band was in Nashville there wasn’t any gas — anywhere . The feeling of unease in the U.S. right now plus the evolution of Sexsmith’s tour into an increasingly mammoth undertaking have the singer disenchanted. After one listen to Exit Music for the Soul and the lush beautiful horn-and-string arrangements that accompany the achingly beautiful songwriting you’ll understand that when Sexsmith is on the road with one other guitarist and a bassist more than half of the album is missing.

“This tour isn’t initially what it was supposed to be” says Sexsmith. “This is not really the tour I wanted to do. I mean because of the horns and strings I really just wanted to do five shows in the five major cities of the world with a big show and a big band. And it went from that to me touring all over hell’s half acre. I won’t do it again. This is the last time I do this sort of thing.”

Sexsmith is sharing in the experience of many artists wondering what his cultural role is as the economy takes a turn for the worse and society seriously starts questioning the intrinsic value of art and music. He’s coming to terms with making a living as a musician while seeing entire communities up for sale and people unable to get to work because they can’t put gas in their cars.

“We kept on hearing that not a lot of people were booking this kind of tour” says Sexsmith. “I mean we’re playing everywhere. But just with the price of gas and such and especially in the States getting the feeling of this entire empire in decline or something it’s just weird. But a lot of this stuff is really beyond my control.”