There’s a good reason Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith titled his latest CD “Forever Endeavour” and included on it mortality-minded musings like “Nowhere to Go,” “Deepens With Time,” “The Morning Light” and “Lost in Thoughts.”
Thanks to a health scare two years ago, he says, “I had a few months of just worrying about stuff that I never had to worry about before, and that was just the worst – just lying awake at night thinking ‘Is this my last record?’”
Things had been going well for the cult artist, who plays San Francisco next week. His last pop-sugary release, “Long Player Late Bloomer,” was his best-selling album yet.
On a 2011 Los Angeles tour stop, he planned to slip some early “Forever” demos to legendary metal producer Bob Rock, but bumped his old friend Mitchell Froom at the club instead. And Froom – who oversaw Sexsmith’s eponymous U.S breakthrough in 1995 – was so excited about the new material, he immediately scheduled California recording sessions.
That’s when the singer first felt the unusual lump in his throat.
“I started detecting this thing whenever I swallowed,” recalls Sexsmith, 49. “And I’m one of those guys who – if I have any kind of mystery pain – goes straight to the doctor. So I went to my throat doctor, and it just became this whole series of of tests. And waiting.”
In October 2011, he flew back to his native Toronto for an MRI, an ultrasound and finally a CAT scan. While Canadian health care is free, he says, results often take several weeks to return; it wasn’t until December that he learned it was only a benign tumor.
In the interim? “It was still in my throat, so I was thinking of three scenarios,” Sexsmith recalls. “One, that it was nothing; two, that it was something that I would have to spend the next year fighting; or three, it was something that they’d caught too late, and I was screwed. So I was trying to prepare for all of the above.”
With added irony, he began running into long-lost friends, who greeted him warmly. Was this what death was like? He wondered. “People coming out of the woodwork to say their last kind words?”
The worst moment was the diagnosis itself. Sexsmith’s physician asked him to come in to discuss the CAT scan results. “So I still had a week to wait for the appointment, where I kept thinking, ‘Well, it’s got to be bad if he wants to see me in person.’ But that was the home stretch. And after the appointment that day, I was walking on a cloud!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $25 to $30
Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com