John McDermott Looks Back

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After 20 years and more than 25 albums, many of which have been certified multi-platinum, international recording star John McDermott is coming to Moncton.

In addition to taking his music around the world over the past two decades, the acclaimed vocalist is also a tireless supporter of veterans’ causes, receiving a commendation from the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs for his work.

McDermott also has his own foundation, McDermott House Canada, dedicated to providing a warm, welcoming place to stay and quality of life for Canada’s veterans, first responders and their families when facing the final stages of terminal illness.

Growing up, music was an integral part of McDermott’s life.

“There were 12 kids in my family, all born and raised in Glasgow,” John says. “Our lives there were very similar to what you would see in Atlantic Canada. Kitchen parties are very much an intricate part of Scottish culture.

“For my family, our kitchen parties revolved around singing. My father had an unbelievably great voice and so I grew up trying to emulate him.

“My father had a routine where he would tell you about the song that he was about to sing. He would share where the song came from and what the lyrics were about. It helped those songs take on a whole new dimension. That is the way I learned the trade of singing songs.”

McDermott’s success is all the more gratifying, given he never set out to make a career in music. In fact, he was dragged kicking and screaming into the business, comfortable in his then full-time job. It was a risk that, in 1992, he wasn’t sure would pay off in the end.

“My record Danny Boy ended up being released nationally and through a series of events, the record ended up taking off. The album was selling so well, the label people were telling me that I had to go on tour, which I immediately pushed back against,” he laughs, recalling the memory.

“I had a job already. I was getting into the business at an age that some have already called it a day. I didn’t feel it was necessary to go on tour. But after the album had sold somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 copies (Ed. note: the album has now sold more than 200,000 copies in Canada), my father was the one who suggested that I take a leave of absence from my job and give it a shot.

“I had never been on stage before but by great fortune, I put a band together comprised of many of Atlantic Canada’s finest musicians.”

McDermott is now at an age where many consider retiring from their careers, but he has no such plans in the works. The touring lifestyle seems to suit the tenor well. Despite a relatively hectic schedule of 100 concerts over the course of the year, John never forgets to count his blessings. While some artists negatively dwell upon their tour schedule keeping them away from home and perhaps missing key moments of life, John acknowledges being able to experience a side of life that others are not always fortunate to see.

“People ask me all the time how many shows I do in a year and then comment how it must be so busy and hectic for me. But you know, those people punching the clock from 9 to 5 every Monday to Friday work a whole lot harder than I do. Joe Public is obliged to be somewhere for a certain amount of time every day where we really have no such constraints. We are able to do what we want to do with our day as long as we make it back in time to put on a show. It is because of the public’s ongoing support that we have been able to travel on this amazing journey for the past 20 years.”

Asked how he anticipates the next two decades of his career unfolding, John says that he has a myriad of projects in the works, including a DVD box set as well as a book. He shares that the latter project is a biography of his career that will also feature commentary and insight from the dozens upon dozens of people with whom he has worked over the last 20 years.

“I love the way that Keith Richards’ book Life is written,” John says. “You can open up the book at almost any point and get a grasp of what he is talking about. Keith involved a lot of outside perspectives in his book, which I really enjoyed. Letting people share their insight puts a whole new angle on things and is something I am looking to incorporate into my book as well.”

By the time John reaches Moncton this weekend, his recently sustained broken wrist should be healing well. He shares that the incident occurred when he and his guitarist were out for a walk on Vancouver Island. They both slipped and fell, but his guitarist escaped relatively unscathed, save for a bruised bottom and a bit of a bruised ego.

“We were out for a walk and both happened to hit a piece of moss. We both went down at the same time. I broke my wrist in three places and he bruised his backside. It could have been worse; it could have been the guitarist (breaking) his wrist instead,” John laughs.

What: John McDermott
When: Saturday, Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 
 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets: $48.50 plus service charges. Advance tickets may be purchased at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca

Article published in the November 20, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript