How did Canada become underpopulated

Culture : I want to cut trees

Mr Sexsmith, we discovered something from your home in the supermarket ...

Mmmm, maple syrup.

Yes, probably the most successful Canadian export product in Germany.

What, you don't make your own maple syrup? It's crazy.

Can you tell us whether this is good or just cheaper waste?

(Tries a spoon) Excellent, it's the best kind.

Unlike maple syrup, Canadian musicians like you have a problem: They are often perceived as Americans. Do you mind?

I've always been a bit of both. I grew up in a town in the Ontario wine region, very close to the American border. When I was young, we used to go to America to drink and listen to music. Nevertheless: As soon as you crossed the border, you noticed a noticeable change in mood. Somehow you take a deep breath when you arrive back in Canada from the USA, everything is a little quieter, less stressful, you feel more secure.

How come?

Canada is very progressive socially, almost a socialist country with a public health system and things that Europeans take for granted. We are also very afraid of becoming Americanized and of losing ourselves completely in their culture. We're just not the kind of people who aggressively insure themselves. Canada as a country has never invaded any other country. that makes some Americans paranoid: What are they sitting up there and being so quiet? They think we're up to something. But we're just peaceful.

Canada has a long history of singer-songwriters from Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell to you. Is Canada particularly fertile for this type of music?

I think the countryside has had a big impact on us all. In Joni Mitchell's early songs you can hear that she grew up on the prairies, you can almost feel the big, wide sky above the music. Canada is very big and very underpopulated. That shapes.

With what result?

We have this earthy feel to American music, but add to that the melodic influence of our British heritage. You can hear that with Neil Young: When he plays a country song, you immediately know that it is not from the USA.

Her name Sexsmith is also the name of a town in Alberta ...

Yes it is an English name. A sex smith in old England was the knife maker, I heard. On my father's side, I am a semi-Native, Iroquois.

The Canadian writer Margaret Atwood said that the Canadian landscape and the size of your country, after all the second largest in the world, have fundamentally shaped her as an artist. How is it with you?

I didn't realize the size of our country until I was 18. I drove west with a friend for seven days before we got to the coast of British Columbia. And then we went to the east coast. That's when I realized how damn big this country is. That made me proud and humble at the same time. You find this modesty in many Canadians. For example, you hardly ever see Canadian musicians acting like rock stars, wearing sunglasses indoors and things like that. Neil Young also exudes this reluctance. That is the feeling of being small personally, but big as a country.

Douglas Coupland, a native of Western Canada, wrote that he grew up feeling inferior to the United States.

Yes, across Canada there is this need to reassure ourselves of our being Canadian, sometimes in a totally silly way, by over-emphasizing our regional accent, which in reality doesn't vary that much.

Your colleague kd Lang once said that Canadian music is shaped by a deep understanding of nature and the soul of the country.

That's true. I worked as a courier for six years and delivered things on foot in all weathers. Then I knew what power nature has over me as a city dweller. If you've walked around a corner a couple of times and had to hold on to a lamppost so the blizzard wouldn't blow you away, then you praise life in a different, deeper way. However, I have to say: I am not a nature lover.

After the more optimistic previous album “Time Being” sounds like the sad review of a lived life.

"Retriever" was very romantic because I had just started a new relationship. My girlfriend and I have now lived together for a few years. We're still happy, but other things matter more. Perhaps the sad thing about the new album is that I have often dealt with the subject of farewell in recent years. Two school friends died in quick succession.

At 42, what do you leave behind?

My son is now 21, the age I was when he was born. That's when you start to think fundamentally. It is more of a review of my life so far, in which things have turned out for the better.

That was not always so?

No, when I was in my mid-twenties and had no idea whether I could ever support a family with my music, it was very frustrating. My success came late.

Something of this dark side can also be heard in your new songs.

Yes, some songs tell dark stories. I wasn't sure people would want to hear this. So I sent the songs to Elvis Costello. He gave me very positive feedback, found the songs poppy and encouraging, even if the lyrics are sad. That's exactly the mix I wanted to get. I am not a pessimist, but we live in very stressful times, there are many worries, wars, environmental disasters, the clash of the Muslim and Western world. Sometimes I just want to disappear into a quiet part of Canada and cut trees.

It is said that Canadians even apologize if they were hit by a car. Is that correct?

Yes, that's how we are, polite and a little too guilty, even if there is no reason at all. If someone calls me with the wrong number, I apologize.

Interview conducted by Lars von Törne

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