There is no doubt singer Sean McCann is at one of the best, most happiest and creatively-rich places he has been in quite some time.
The acclaimed singer/songwriter is hitting the road for his first official tour as a solo artist, with a show at Fratters set for Nov. 11th.
The ‘You Know I Love You Tour’ takes McCann through Ontario and western Canada and is in support of You Know I Love You Collection of Songs that was released over the summer. This tour marks his first since leaving the hugely popular folk band Great Big Sea in 2013.
“I feel like I have a second chance – like I’ve woken up and I’m now free to do what I want to do, the way I want to do it,” he said during a recent chat. The last few years have been a critical time for McCann, who, besides leaving Great Big Sea after a lengthy but hugely successful stint, also gave up drinking and has taken the time to really reflect on his life and being the person that he truly wants to be.
“For me, making those fundamental changes – stopping drinking and then facing my own past, dealing with it and owning it and not living in shame and denial – those things have fundamentally changed my life,” he said.
“I feel like I’m living, for the first time in 35 to 40 years, a very sincere and authentic life. And because of that, I feel like I have a real purpose again,” he said. “I’m extremely motivated. And even though I left Great Big Sea, the music didn’t leave me,” he added. “In fact, it really has saved my life as well. It was my guitar and my songs that have really gotten me through some dark days.”
In January of 2014, he released his first solo album. Produced by Joel Plaskett, Help Your Self helped him deal with his issues of addiction and abuse, showing him there is strength in pain. “It was kind of like my line in the sand; my declaration. I’m now changing my life. I’m acknowledging what’s happened to me and I’m going to help myself first, and then I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
He launched the album not really knowing what to expect, but the response was striking. “No manager, no agents, no nothing,” he added with a laugh. “But it just blew up, and with a different audience obviously. People responded by sending emails, by buying the record and the songs.
“They would say, ‘I know that story because that happened to me’, or ‘My wife suffers from this’, or ‘This happened to my uncle’. I immediately realized that I was not alone and that the ‘eureka’ moment. And because of all that, I started to play shows again, sing songs for people and I started to reengage with the world,” he said. “It changed my life to have that opportunity.
“The new project, You Know I Love You, is where I’m at today, which is a far more stable, satisfying and content place. I’m still moving – I’m still in motion. I’m not finished – but I think I’m heading in the right direction for the first time in my life,” he said.
It’s been quite the season in his life. Leaving GBS wasn’t exactly easy, and in some ways, it didn’t go as smoothly as he would have hoped. But it involved leaving an identity that didn’t ring true for McCann anymore.
“People didn’t really know me. Great Big Sea was a great party band, and it was all positivity,” he said. But clearly, life is complicated and not without darkness and pain, and McCann began to gradually feel a disconnect from the main essence of what has largely over the years defined GBS.
“People know who I am now – I’m not wearing this mask every night,” he explained, adding that his drinking was also making things worse as time passed as well. “I just had to get off that bus literally.”
Meanwhile, the You Know I Love You Collection of Songs was recorded earlier this year at the New Scotland Yard Studio in Dartmouth Nova Scotia with acclaimed artist/producer Plaskett.
The project boasts 10 original, upbeat tracks written by McCann, including This Life is an Ocean of Love, Set Me Free and Little Miss Know-It-All which are available on seanmccannsings.com and iTunes.
And even without the spirited energy that resonated through so much of what Great Big Sea has been and continues to be, McCann, 48, said he has by no means lost his sense of fun.
“My shows are not downers – there very upbeat. And I still have some Great Big Sea songs. But I do allow for some truth to happen there. I always try to make people cry a little bit, and laugh a lot. And I think that brings more to the table. I have more to say now.”
It was back in the early 1990s that McCann shot to fame as a founding member of the renowned Newfoundland band Great Big Sea. But after millions of albums sold, countless hit songs and record-breaking tours around the world, he realized music had become something he was hiding behind.
“Once your focus becomes maintaining a brand, as opposed to being a band – then you start to lose credibility – for me, anyways,” he said. That said, he is ultimately positive about his years with GBS and is certainly proud of what the band accomplished.
These days, his tour has McCann performing in intimate venues where he can connect with his audience in the way he had always hoped.
He has also found himself using music as therapy, working with people who face physical, mental, and addiction challenges, and has become a sought after speaker trying to help others find light during difficult times. As a completely solo artist – no label, manager, no booking agent – he controls every aspect of his career as well as his destiny – and that’s the way he likes it.
“I’m doing smaller rooms which are more sincere and there is real connection. I would rather do 10 small theatres with 200 seats then a hockey rink ever again,” he said, adding with a laugh that if, “I work for 10 nights, then I’ll be staying out of trouble for 10 nights.”
Tickets can be purchased tickets on seanmccannsings.com.