Towards the end of 2013, Sean McCann knew he had to start looking out for himself. He had spent two decades touring and writing with beloved Newfoundland band Great Big Sea, but McCann didn’t care for who he had become.
McCann realized that he had become too reliant upon alcohol to mask his deeply rooted unhappiness at where he was at in life – namely his role within Great Big Sea. Admitting that he had reached a point where he was merely doing the bare minimum to avoid being turfed from the band, McCann knew some big changes would need to take place if he wanted to be happy.
Having quit drinking more than two years prior, McCann made the bold decision to leave Great Big Sea at the end of 2013.
In early 2014, McCann released his third solo effort, Help Your Self, a confessional record that stood in stark contrast to the upbeat, foot stomping music he had made in his time with Great Big Sea.
Arguably more importantly however, the record served as a sort of therapy for McCann, affording him the opportunity to emerge from many of the dark shadows that had followed him in years prior.
He says that his next studio effort, You Know I Love You, is a direct reflection of a more-optimistic mind-frame, which he is happily inhabiting these days.
“Where Help Your Self was very focused on my personal truth, this next album is about where I have come since then. I’m finding myself in a very positive place these days, namely because I learned to accept things I can’t necessarily control. There is a greater focus on life and living with this new album. There is less in the way of worry coming through in these new songs, and it’s all because I find myself in a happier place these days,” McCann says.
With that happiness has come endless amounts of personal growth. Feeling as though his exit from Great Big Sea and decision to give up alcohol were both necessities to arrive where he currently finds himself, McCann has resolved to look forward with excitement and anticipation while still not forgetting where he came from.
“I am far more mature, optimistic and aware about how I am feeling about my life these days. In a lot of ways, I feel as though I’ve made it through to the other side, but that the process I went through to arrive here has been important as well. This is the next chapter of my evolution.”
As he looks forward to the release of You Know I Love You later this year, McCann decided to take a different approach to getting his new music out to the public.
Rather than releasing the album all at once, McCann will release one album track per week online, starting June 20. Despite having sold well over one million albums with Great Big Sea, McCann, like many musicians, is doing his best to find his way through the jungle that is the modern music business.
“I am very interested in trying to find new and better ways to get my music into the hands of those who want to hear it,” he says. “I don’t know that all consumers necessarily have time to sit down and listen to a record for an hour, but it seems like they can find the time to listen for three or four minutes.
“Personally, I am still very much an album guy, and so I have a hard time sacrificing the quality of what I am releasing for the sake of convenience and rushing something out to the public,” McCann says.
Performing with McCann on Sunday evening at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge is Matt Wells.
He got his musical legs with acclaimed Newfoundland heavy metal band Bucket Truck before moving onto a host of gigs in a totally different realm – television.
Wells spent more than a decade working as an on-air personality with MuchMoreMusic, hosting the show Where You At Baby, while also doing significant amounts of behind the scenes work as well.
Although some might assume that everybody in Newfoundland knows each other, it actually took Wells and McCann meeting up in Vancouver before they struck up their friendship.
“Sean and I always kind of vaguely knew one another through our respective bands, but it was during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 that we actually had the opportunity to sit down for the first time,” Wells says.
“From there, we would get together in Newfoundland on my trips home during the summer and at Christmas. The friendship just grew in this organic kind of way.”
Their friendship was strengthened even more around the time that McCann had decided to part ways with Great Big Sea. Wells, too, was making a major life change at the time: He had decided to leave his position with Much after a dozen well-spent years.
Wells credits McCann as having given him the kick in the behind he needed in order to find his way back to making music instead of merely talking about it.
“Sean has definitely had me focusing more on music over the last year and a half. He’s been shaking songs out of me, which isn’t a bad thing. He ended up booking a bunch of shows for us together, which made me focus on ensuring I had songs to play live.”
Asked how he finds performing solo compared to the comfort of having a full band behind him, Wells says he is still getting used to that notion. Later this year, he will begin work on his first solo effort.
“I am still finding the confidence to get up on stage and do it. I don’t know how comfortable I am with it just yet though,” Wells laughs. “I feel this is a pretty good indication of where I am headed though. It is how I like to approach living: I just want to try new things and not always be in my comfort zone all the time.”
What: Sean McCann with special guest Matt Wells
When: Sunday May 31, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton