Great Big Sea singer Séan McCann gets personal in new intimate shows

Séan McCann was known as a singer with well-known Canadian group Great Big Sea, and he was known for his partying. These days the man from St John's, Newfoundland, has emerged from a healing personal journey and is singing and presenting a different tune.


“If things are hard or difficult to do — I see that as sign that they must be done.”

Great Big Sea ex-band member Séan McCann’s approach to life has changed following a period of self-reflection after he left the well-known rock folk Canadian band at the end of 2013.

The musician now tours the country as a solo artist in intimate venues where he can connect with his audience, and Revelstoke is in the diary for a show on Tuesday, November 10, at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre.

The Revelstoke Mountaineer caught up with McCann for the Q&A interview here, followed by a bio story below.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Q&A

RM: What can Revelstoke expect from your show? Will it be mainly music or will you speak as well?

Sean McCann's show is an uplifting mix of story and song. Photo: David Howells.
Sean McCann’s show is an uplifting mix of story and song. Photo: David Howells

SM: You can expect me to sing my heart out. I will be drawing from my new songbook You Know I Love You and my solo album Help Your Self. I also have a Great Big catalogue of songs to choose from and I am more than happy to take requests from the audience. I was nailed to the same set list for 20 years and I am not about to climb back up onto that tree. My new show is far more intimate, open, and interactive. My goal is to get everyone in the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre to join me in a giant singalong on Nov. 10.

The timeline of your personal journey towards being a person you’re happier with wasn’t that long ago as your record Help Your Self was released in January 2014. How is your new focus on life going and do you expect to continue to grow into the future?

I am no longer living in denial. I have sobered up and faced my demons in the eye and my past is no longer my prison. I am a work in progress and everyday I learn something new because the person I am growing into is now open to that genuine experience. I still have a wife and two beautiful boys because of the decisions I made and I am really looking forward to spending the rest of my life with them.

What has the response been to the record Help Your Self record?

Help Your Self was a very personal record about my recovery from sexual abuse and alcohol addiction but it really resonated with people. I have received thousands of emails and messages thanking me for sharing my truth and informing me that I am not alone. I found this very reassuring. We all want to be happy, but no one gets to skip through this life without some pain. I believe we need to face our real problems before we can move forward and achieve true happiness and for the first time in my life, I now feel like I am heading in the right direction.

Do you maintain a relationship with your previous band mates in Great Big Sea and do they understand where you are at now professionally and personally?

Regrettably our relationship did not end as well as I had hoped. In truth, we didn’t agree on many things for a number of years and probably should have parted ways much sooner. In the end it was the money that kept us together and money never brings out the best in people. I loved the band too much to stick around and watch it self-destruct. I’m pretty sure that Alan and Bob think I’m crazy … and maybe they are right.

Music and public speaking don’t often go hand in hand. Why do these two pursuits work for you?

I believe that music is strong medicine and that songs can shed light on problems that are often just too hard to talk about. I know from experience that a song can save your life and I never give a speech without a guitar I’m my hand. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

Details: An evening with Séan McCann of Great Big Sea

Singer Sean McCann's mantra is ‘help your self’. He's broken the silence on his past addiction, abuse is using music to change his life for the better. Photo: David Howells.
Singer Sean McCann’s mantra is ‘help your self’. He’s broken the silence on his past addiction, abuse is using music to change his life for the better. Photo: David Howells.

McCann sits, contemplative with his guitar, in a video interview with National Speakers Bureau. He’s signed with the organization as a motivational speaker on mental health — it’s part of his new life direction following his self-imposed timeout and subsequent breakthroughs on his personal issues.

McCann had been with the popular Great Big Sea group for 20 years and was entrenched in the party and drug culture. But he was hurting inside and realized he used alcohol to self-medicate and avoid his issues.

“I was a high functioning alcoholic for many, many years,” McCann explained.

“We were the best party band in Canada and every night was Friday night for us and I was a world champion scotch drinker.”

From St. John’s, Newfoundland, heavy drinking is part of the culture, based in Irish history, and not considered abnormal. But McCann, moving on from 46 in 2014, decided to make some changes. He quit the band to stop drinking but in the process his past slowly caught up with him, including sexual abuse in his youth that he had not allowed himself to acknowledge or come to terms with.

“The enemy is denial,” McCann said. “Everyone carries some form of denial with them and I believe you can’t move forward without facing it.”

Soon after leaving the band, McCann ventured into his solo expression of music and came through with the album, Help Your Self, “the sound of a man facing his demons and ultimately overcoming them” his online bio reads.

McCann now uses music as therapy, working with people who face physical, mental, and addiction challenges, and is a speaker who tries to help others to help themselves find light through the darkness.


When: Tuesday November 10, 2015 – 7:30pm.

Where: Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre

Tickets: $25

Box Office: Buy tickets online and access online discounts here. Enter promo code revmountaineer for a special online-only 5% discount.