With a new studio record set for release in September, acclaimed folk singer-songwriter Sean McCann is still getting accustomed to the notion of change, despite having lived a lifetime of it over the course of the last six to seven years.
In 2011, he sought to change his life for the better, and, realizing he didn’t care for who he had become, gave up drinking alcohol. More than two years later, McCann decided to step away from multi-platinum selling band Great Big Sea, who, incidentally, performed their last show at Moncton’s Casino New Brunswick as the world celebrated the arrival of 2014. He spent more than 20 years as a part of the group.
After having released two solo albums while still a member of his former band, it was McCann’s 2014 effort Help Your Self where he laid everything on the line, warts and all. Guided by his friend and producer Joel Plaskett, the album subsequently connected with fans drawn to his willingness to be open and vulnerable with the challenges he was facing.
With the follow-up effort, You Know I Love You, McCann showed signs of emerging from the darkness, having been brought into the light by the healing power of music.
He shares that while next month’s release of There’s A Place walks the cautiously optimistic paths that his previous effort did, there is little denying the impact that Help Your Self had upon both him as a musician, as well as his fans.
“To have people speaking directly to me about the impact that those songs had upon their lives was remarkable, especially because it was a personal record about me and my life.” McCann says. “But it seemed like everyone saw themselves or someone they know in the songs. That really opened my eyes to the fact you’re never as alone or isolated as you think you are.”
Now six years sober, McCann is grateful for what he considers a second lease on life.
“It took a long time for me to find that moment of clarity. For me and many other addicts, it often takes hitting rock bottom and coming to terms with the truth behind why you’re drinking or why you’re abusing drugs. Quitting drinking was the easy part for me. Facing my demons was much harder. I was essentially stuck in the same place for such a long time that when I became unstuck, it felt as though I was given the chance to make life after the age of 50 everything it wasn’t before,” he says.
For McCann, getting older means also getting wiser. Although he doesn’t quite feel as though he needs to make up for lost time, there is still an undeniable joie de vivre in McCann’s voice when talk turns to his new record, his third release in just over three years.
One theme central to his new album, however, is the fact the public – McCann included – is foregoing real-life experiences in favour of spending time on their phones making virtual connections with the world around them.
“I’m doing my best to change my priorities. I spend a lot more time online than I used to, and have come to realize it’s not a healthy place to be. As I get older, I find myself wanting to spend more time in nature; I find it incredibly therapeutic. But everybody is so consumed by social media these days. People are constantly on their devices. It’s an addiction. People are sacrificing one-on-one time with friends and family members in favour of being online. You’ll go out for dinner and drinks with someone and they’ll say ‘I’m not on my phone,’ but it’s in their hand,” McCann says, laughing.
“With this new record, I wanted to try to draw people back into the real world. I hope that ends up resonating with those who hear it.”
What: Sean McCann
When: Saturday Aug. 19, 8 p.m.
Where: Shepody House, 3476 Cape Road, Dorchester
Tickets are $25