In part one of our interview with Séan McCann, we discussed his battles with alcoholism, his choice to leave Great Big Sea and uproot from his Newfoundland home. We catch up with McCann, now a solo musician in need of work, adapting to his new life here in the Ottawa area.
In the year since he’s been here, McCann has played a few shows in support of his deeply personal release Help Your Self.
McCann was surprised to discover how his story affected others, many who shared their own experiences with him and showed him that he was not alone. Eventually, he would start giving talks to others who have dealt with alcoholism.
Adapting to life in the capital, he has found a love of kayaking the Ottawa River and a city that has four definable seasons. He’ll be performing for his new home crowd on October 22 at the National Arts Centre. He’s also working with Ottawa Life Magazine and Vets Canada on a project which looks to bring a charity concert to the city in 2017 in hopes to raise funding for 1,000 guitars for homeless Veterans suffering from mental health issues.
Ottawa Life: How have you found adapting to a solo career?
Séan McCann: Going solo has been very hard work but I have never been a lazy person and as long as I still love what I am doing I will never give up. I believe the music industry (not unlike a typical alcoholic) has been in denial for many years and it’s inability to face the truth has caused it to lose it’s way. Good management would have served Great Big Sea well in it’s time of need but instead ours acted as a divisive force. I will not let that happen to me again. I have learned to help my self and now handle all aspects of my own career directly. I have found that most people are comforted and refreshed by my hands on and personal approach. I don’t know how much of the “music business” will really be left in 5 years, but I can guarantee you that I will still be right here doing what I love to do; writing sincere songs and sharing them with those who can still remember how to listen.
People always ask me how I managed to quit drinking, what therapy did I use to get me through the really hard days that are always part of exorcising an addiction. I believe that music is powerful medicine. These songs helped me make sense of my own desperate situation. It was a very personal record but something remarkable happened when I shared the songs online. My story resonated with thousands of people who felt the same pain. I realized that I was not alone and that made all the difference.
Last year you left the East Coast and moved close to Ottawa. What made you decide to come here?
Like many Newfoundlanders before me, I left home primarily for employment. I was only offered two shows back home last year. 2016 will see me doing over sixty events in Ontario alone. I love my job and I want to keep working.
Was it a difficult transition?
Moving is never easy but I have been coming here for 25 years and Ottawa has always been good to me. Everyone has been so helpful and my family has been made to feel right at home. We are all very grateful for the kindness this great city has shown us. I am very proud to be an Ottawa citizen.
I am an avid kayaker. I miss the big North Atlantic swells but it is nice to paddle over water that isn’t actively trying to murder you. That and maybe sunshine.
Can you tell me some of your favourite things about the Ottawa area now that you’ve had a year here?
I like that there are four definable seasons. Where I come from Spring and Autumn are a usually a bit of an afterthought. The Winter is much colder here but the increased exposure to sunlight helps make up for that. I also like the fact that most days I can drive to work. I have travelled all over this planet and Ottawa is a truly world class city. People are friendly and my family feels safe.
You have done some speaking for people going through alcoholism. How has that experience been for you?
Sharing my Truth is never easy but I believe it helps people find their own way to recovery and inspires them to help them selves. Secrets kill but a song can save a life. I have learned that we are all worthy of love and this is why I released my new songs in a book complete with lyrics, notation, guitar chords, and original artwork by my good friend Meaghan Smith. “You Know I Love You” is a natural progression; my continuing evolution out of darkness and into a lighter life.
I would like to help overcome the stigma that still persists around Mental Health and Addiction and to that end I do a lot of public speaking for a variety of organizations, sharing my story in the hope it will encourage other’s to face their own pain and move forward. After all, if the singer from the biggest party band in Canada can quit drinking, then anyone who wants to is capable of living soberly. We all have problems but I believe that many of these can be overcome when we realize that together we are never alone. I greatly admire people who have been able to face their own fear and speak their Truth. People like Sheldon Kennedy and Clara Hughes. This year I have been very impressed by the efforts of Vets Canada and Guitars for Vets. I am a devout pacifist and I have learned that most Canadian soldiers are too. We are working together to put off a show in Ottawa in 2017. The goal is to raise enough money for 1000 guitars to give to homeless Veterans offering from mental health issues.
Finally, now with roots in Ontario, what does the future hold for you?
I feel like I have been granted a second chance and I fully intend to make the most of this opportunity. Now that my freedom from addiction has been found, my future shall remain unlimited.
McCann performs at the National Arts Centre on October 22nd. Tickets can be purchased here.