MCCann fills the stage with ‘the power of one’

Séan McCann once stood on the brink of destruction, although he stepped back from it and is still alive to tell the tale.

Mark Allan

Special to the Record

Séan McCann once stood on the brink of destruction, although he stepped back from it and is still alive to tell the tale.

So he does.

One of the two frontmen for iconic Newfoundland party band Great Big Sea, McCann brings his songs and stories to the Sid Williams Theatre on Oct. 4.

“In typically Newfoundland fashion,” he moved to Ottawa last fall to be closer to his work, he says in an interview from the nation’s capital. “When I moved here, I knew I had 60 shows waiting in Ontario.”

He acknowledges it was also a “good idea to get away from old habits.”

That would refer to his days of touring the world with GBS, an alcoholic in the middle of an alcohol-fuelled lifestyle.

“Great Big Sea was a show. It was a good show. It was a party band, and it was a great party band.

“Unfortunately for me, that was a very unhealthy place to be as an alcoholic. When I quit drinking, certainly the (tour) bus didn’t, so I had a really hard time.”

Getting beyond GBS involved some epiphanies.

“Once I peeled away the layers of my past and faced it, there was a sense of dealing with things on an honest level and moving beyond denial. That’s reflected in the way I write now.

“I just try to be very sincere, and very direct, and say something, say something that matters, say something real.”

His performances, he explains, go over well with audiences.

“It turns out it is a good show. People enjoy the journey I take them on, and I enjoy it every night.”

The native of Carbonear, Nfld., a town of fishermen and shipbuilders with a population of barely 5,000 plays these days in theatres that seat only a few hundred people, and that’s fine with him.

“For a long time, I was very unhappy on the big stage. I don’t care if I ever do another hockey rink again.

“I do folk festivals, but I like the intimate connection I can make by myself on a smaller stage in a smaller theatre like the Sid Williams in Courtenay.”

His show these days is “the power of one. I get up with my guitar and the focus is on the lyric. The message is in the songs.”

While he still does some GBS tunes, “I wouldn’t describe myself as a Maritime show. It’s not very Celtic, although I do take requests.”

Living in the moment and not being beholden to a set list, McCann’s performances are dominated neither by the troubled times in his life nor the happy ones.

“Music is strong medicine,” he states. “It certainly got me through the early stages of my own recovery.

“In my show, I tend to tell the truth, my truth, and I find it resonates with people.

“If the guy from Great Big Sea can quit drinking, anybody can. I’ve learned I’m not alone. So many people can relate to what happened to me and what I talk about.”

McCann has become a popular speaker talking about being a childhood victim of sexual abuse by a priest and a recovering alcoholic.

He shares what he calls his Help Your Self concept, stemming from his album of the same name.

For more about McCann, visit www.seanmccannsings.com.

Séan McCann performs Oct. 4 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay.

The 2016–2017 Blue Circle Series is proudly presented by Odlum Brown Limited.

For concert details and tickets, visit www.sidwilliamstheatre.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit 442 Cliffe Ave.

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