Article and images by Vjosa Isai
Gin Sexsmith takes a quick glance at the list of 12 songs scribbled on the underside of her arms. The strawberry streaks in her blonde hair catch the blue and green stage lights as she turns around to make eye contact with her band mates. The bassist, guitarist and drummer finish their equipment adjustments and give her a quick nod. Gin reaches for the mic and silence sweeps the intimate crowd at Duffy’s Tavern in downtown Toronto.
She quickly introduces the next number on their set called “Where am I”, a slow ballad about falling out of love. Three words printed on Gin’s fitted black and grey dress say it all: Love is hard.
“Listening to my music is like reading my diary,” says Gin, who recently completed her studies in Ryerson’s journalism program this April. “I wrote ‘Where am I’ when I was going through a breakup after being together with my boyfriend for two and a half years.”
For Gin, song writing is therapeutic. “I write to help me figure things out,” says the young musician.
While trying to articulate her thoughts on elusive feelings of love and disdain, one of the things that Gin figured out was that she wanted to start a band. The strenuous process of putting up audition calls or Facebook posts for a band mate was not even an issue as Gin had all the home video she needed to sign on her guitarist, Andrew Sexsmith. From jamming together on Lego guitars as toddlers to doing covers of songs together, Gin and her younger brother had already developed a shared passion for music.
The self-taught duo combined their songwriting talent last January. Gin finds it “surprisingly easy” to work with Andy, who is 18 months younger. “We have a really good dynamic and I love his writing style,” the proud sister says.
Despite the sexually charged nature of some of her lyrics, Gin is happy to say that Andy is really mature and never questions her choices. His trust in Gin’s writing ability can be owed to how intensely she keeps in practice. The stationary addict has notebooks upon notebooks packed with lyrics, and more than 300 voice recorded melodies on her phone alone.
“As for writer’s block, often if ideas are not coming to me I don’t sit down to write, I’ll busy myself with something else, practice guitar or piano, go on a long walk, read, go for a drink with my best friend,” Gin explains. “I don’t force myself because I find the best ideas are the ones that just pop into my head and almost write themselves.”
Many of Gin’s songs are based on what is going on in her life at the moment. She capitalizes musically on the hard times, like relationship troubles, by songwriting.
“If I’m too happy, I’m actually writing garbage,” she laughs.
The pair did open mics around the city and started looking for more band mates after Andy moved to Toronto from Belleville last summer. After some failed attempts at finding band mates on Craigslist, the Sexsmiths opted to recruit friends instead.
Gin brought in Kai Benson, a journalism student from her year, who played drums. Their search was complete when Andy found out that an old friend from high school, Macaulay Hicks, now studied in Toronto and happened to play bass.
“The band fell together,” says Gin.
Unsure of what to call themselves, they decided to leave it at “Sexsmith”. After only three weeks of jamming together, Sexsmith landed their first gig in October 2012 at Duffy’s Tavern.
Since last October, Sexsmith has been performing in the city at pubs like Cherry Cola’s, Rock Pile, and Rancho Relaxo. They have also been recording a demo of 10 to 15 songs at Lake Effects Studio in Lagoon City, Ont. At the same time, Gin and Andy are working together on another demo that they can shop out to studios.
“Hopefully when all that’s done, we can go on tour,” she says.
While the thought of performing can make some new artists nervous, Gin is not intimidated by standing in front of a crowd. In fact, the spirited musician says, “My favourite feeling is to be on stage and singing.” Friends and family of the band usually come out to see Sexsmith perform, but Gin also hopes to generate a fan base by using social media tools to share her music.
The main goal Gin wishes to accomplish through her music is to have a lasting impression. “I want people to realize that my music is really honest,” she says.
“You can listen to it, or you can party to it, but it is leaving something with you.” M
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