Although Séan McCann is a founding member of Great Big Sea, one of the most widely known East Coast-based rock bands in Canada, the big stage and raucous partying that many a Great Big Sea song have set off, and served as backdrop to, no longer hold the appeal they once held for him.
McCann, 51, now has a tremendous enthusiasm for something far more nuanced and low-key, in his appreciation of the real human interactions that can only happen in small, intimate venues.
McCann said his new album, There’s a Place, is inspired by a desire to play in small, intimate venues, “where music still has power.”
The power of a physical gathering is enough to help people overcome their addiction to their phones, McCann noted, adding that “at big jumbotron concerts, I see people not watching, because they’re too busy taking a selfie while it’s happening.”
Seann McCann said even his target demographic is harder to convince to come out and participate in intimate musical performances, since “typically what happens is they come home, grab a glass of wine and go on Facebook. That’s considered the new ‘out.’”
Through his concert series, McCann is hoping to bring people out to smaller venues, set aside their smartphones and enjoy the power of music, and the messages that entails. He sees the stage in the Music on Main Summer Concert Series as just the right place to do that.
McCann’s performance will take place Aug. 17, in Chisholm Park.
“The promise of screens is connectivity; we all joined Facebook so we could be more in contact with each other, but that’s to the detriment of being physically face-to-face. It’s not a positive evolution – that’s what I noticed,” McCann said. “The promise of social media is a cheap, unfulfilled and superficial medium. There’s no replacement for being face-to-face, in a room, singing together.”
McCann will be embarking in a tour across Atlantic Canada for a number of reasons. One of them is to showcase the music on his new solo album, There’s a Place, which will constitute a return to his roots as an Atlantic Canadian singer-songwriter.
“Music has been a savior for me, and I want to share that with people. I am ‘the other guy’ in Great Big Sea, but I do have some things to say of my own, and something to share with people on a deeper level.”
After touring Canada, the United States and Europe, winning platinum awards from previous solo albums, McCann returning to the Maritimes will be a true homecoming, having left Great Big Sea five years ago.
There’s a Place, McCann’s fifth solo album, constitutes a return to the folksy, quintessentially Atlantic Canadian sound he began his career in music with – but with a little more to say.
His previous solo albums – Help Your Self, and You Know I Love You – were forays into a different style of music, but he believes that departure from his roots was important and necessary stage of growth.
“I consider it an evolution. I’ve learned how to engage an audience and write anthems that people can sing together (with Great Big Sea), and I kept those skills,” McCann said, noting that with his new material, “I’m saying more in those songs.”
“My songs aren’t always just going to be ‘you’re OK, and I’m OK. Let’s drink, and forget our problems and go party. There’s a time and place for that, and I don’t want to get stuck on that boat forever,” he said. “I’m trying to make more. At 51, I’m trying to say more than I ever have.”
According to information on McCann’s upcoming tour, his message is “more than just notes and melodies. There’s a Place is a cleansing of sorts.”
“Music is strong medicine, and it certainly has kept me going through recovery,” McCann said. “My guitar was my best friend, when I was recovering.”
In addition to being a musician, McCann is an advocate for mental health, and recovery from past trauma and alcoholism. McCann, who has been sober since Nov. 9, 2011, has endured struggles of his own that he wants to write and speak about, to help others.
“We’re more than blood and bone – we’re made of music. I don’t want people to forget that. My job is showing us what we are, and what we’re capable of. That’s worth fighting for.”