Sometimes it takes walking away from comfort and security to make you appreciate the little things in life.
For Newfoundland’s Sean McCann, that comfort and security came in the form of an impressive 20 years of tenure with Great Big Sea, one of Canada’s most popular home-grown acts. But in a relatively clear-cut case that success does not equate to happiness, McCann announced his departure from the group late last year, performing his final show with the band at Moncton’s Casino New Brunswick on New Years Eve.
It wasn’t ego that led to McCann’s departure from Great Big Sea. After all, he had released two solo efforts (2010’s Lullabies For Bloodshot Eyes and 2011’s Son Of A Sailor) while remaining a full-time member of his former group.
But one day, he realized the very thing that had helped him earn a living as a full-time musician was at the heart of a deep-seated personal unhappiness. Although he was able to chalk up some of his unhappiness to the music business itself, he came to the realization that if he continued going through the motions and putting his happiness second, his story might not have that happy of an ending.
Performing songs from his latest solo record Help Your Self at Moncton’s Tide & Boar next Friday night, McCann has no bones admitting that for years, dealing with his unhappiness was made easier by alcohol.
“Drinking was the kind of thing that would make me happy for a short period of time, followed by a very serious unhappiness in the form of a hangover,” McCann says. “I eventually came to the realization that if I am using alcohol to mask my unhappiness, I needed to make the necessary changes so that I was happy.”
Approximately two years ago, McCann put down the bottle for good. And though the ghosts that he then had to confront were not always pleasant, it proved to be a cathartic, eye-opening experience.
“I realized that I had gotten very comfortable staying with Great Big Sea. It was a great place to hide, so to speak, but it was also a huge enabler for me. It started to feel like work and just wasn’t a healthy place for me to be anymore.
“I am certainly not making the same money that I was as a part of Great Big Sea but I am going to live longer. It’s all relative. So many people can get blinded with dollar signs that other things, like personal happiness, can fall by the wayside. “
Not surprisingly, Help Your Self is McCann’s most personal work to date. The record will undoubtedly cast his music in a light far different from the upbeat shanties he was known for with Great Big Sea.
He not only admits to the personal nature of the record, he embraces it as though it has helped to lift a weight off his shoulders.
“There is a lot of myself in the subject matter of these songs but I don’t think that I could have pulled off this record had I not live through it. The record comes from a dark place,” he says. “I am proud of all I accomplished with Great Big Sea but Help Your Self is about me and what I went through over the last number of years.
“This record is like a line in the sand. I had to make some changes which were admittedly a bit of a struggle some days but have proven to be incredibly rewarding every day.”
Aside from the fact that Help Your Self has been forging a meaningful connection with his audience, McCann feels a tremendous sense of gratitude that people are coming out to his shows.
“You just can’t talk to 10,000 people in an arena the same way you could talk to 100 people at the Tide & Boar. That is what this record is all about for me: Getting out there and forging those meaningful connections with my fans. I missed that aspect of making music for far too long.”
What: Sean McCann
When: Friday Oct. 17, 9:00 p.m.
Where: The Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $23. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com and by phone at (506) 857-9118