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A secret can kill you, but a song can save your life

Sean McCann’s return to Victoria marks a victory of spirit
Sean McCann is one of the co-founders of iconic Canadian band Great Big Sea. (David Howells)

A Sean McCann performance is a transformative event.

Through his music, Sean has a way of connecting with every person in the audience in a unique way and it’s a powerful experience.

But it’s been a long road for the man who co-founded and played with Canada’s popular band, Great Big Sea for 20 years.

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely wonderful’: Victoria Irish Rovers co-founder celebrates nomination

McCann left Great Big Sea in 2013 to deal with the legacy of sexual abuse he suffered as a teen at the hands of a Catholic priest. The painful memory had contributed to the self-medicating use of alcohol that had grown into an overpowering addiction.

“If it wasn’t for the music, I’m not sure I would have survived to conquer my addiction,” McCann said.

“When I stopped drinking, my phone stopped ringing and all my drinking buddies were gone. I had to work through this on my own and it seemed the only friend I had was my guitar, Old Brown.”

McCann used the music to tell his story and to inspire others. In Hold Me Mother (released in 2014 as part of the album Help Your Self), he revealed his sexual abuse to his mother in song.

“I couldn’t tell her in words, but I could put it in song,” McCann said.

McCann went on to release five subsequent albums, while at the same time becoming an author, keynote speaker and mental health and addictions advocate.

In 2019, that work saw McCann awarded the Order of Canada.

Now McCann is ready to bring the magic of his music back to his fans.

“For a long time I stayed away from the Great Big Sea songs for fear that they might be triggering for me, but I’m ready now. The past is no longer my prison, and last summer I came to the conclusion that it was time,” McCann said.

The songs that McCann is singing during his current tour of 40 performances (and growing) are a tribute to the joyful, sometimes raucous Newfoundland kitchen party spirit.

“These songs are great unifiers; people know the words – they get together and sing along like the greatest backup band I could possibly have. It’s amazing.”

McCann will be appearing at Hermann’s Upstairs on Saturday, May 6. Advance tickets are available at

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