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East Coast musician Séan McCann returns to Airdrie

Newfoundland singer and songwriter Séan McCann will take to the stage in Airdrie May 2, when he performs at the Town and Country Centre. The show, set for 7 p.m.
Healing through music
Former Great Big Sea member Séan McCann is returning to Airdrie May 2 for a performance at the Town and Country Centre.

Newfoundland singer and songwriter Séan McCann will take to the stage in Airdrie May 2, when he performs at the Town and Country Centre.

The show, set for 7 p.m., will mark the former Great Big Sea member’s second time performing in the city, after playing a small solo concert at the Woodside Golf Club in 2017.

"I was there for a fundraiser for SLAM [in Airdrie],” he said, from his home near Ottawa. “It almost got cancelled because there was a freak windstorm that had damaged the Town and Country Centre.

"I finally get to go back. It's repaired, apparently, from that freakish windstorm. So we get to do what we said we were going to do. And I hear it's a really nice venue, too.”

McCann was a founding member of the East Coast folk/rock group Great Big Sea, but left the band at the end of the group’s 20th-anniversary tour in 2013.

It was shortly after leaving Great Big Sea that McCann came forward with the news his priest had sexually abused him when he was a teenager in St. John’s, N.L. He said the trauma led to more than three decades of drug and alcohol addiction, including most of the time he spent touring and recording with Great Big Sea.

“I carried this secret around for 35 years,” he said. “I hid in plain sight in Great Big Sea for 20 of those – I was an addict and was in denial.”

McCann said coming forward about his past and being vulnerable – on and off stage – was the first step in his recovery. Openness about mental health has been a big part of his solo career, he said, adding the only way to beat a secret is to tell it.

“I've been in recovery now, it'll be eight years Nov. 9,” he said. “I credit music and songs that I've been writing over the past eight years with enabling my recovery, and giving me the strength to continue.

“I believe music is incredibly strong medicine, and it's given me the courage to be up front and open, to make myself vulnerable. I think it's led to better and stronger songs.”

McCann’s performance in Airdrie will be in support of Guitars For Vets, a program of Veterans Emergency Transition Services, that matches veterans and still-serving military members who have PTSD with gently-used guitars and music lessons.

The artist said he became acquainted with Guitars For Vets in 2017. Despite being a pacifist and supporting the anti-war movement, he said the program spoke to him in that it showed the similarities he had with some veterans.

“It's not just about the guitar, it's about being able to talk about [the trauma that] happened,” McCann said. “And I understood that. That was my experience. I understood it completely, especially the role of the guitar in that process, and music as a healing force.”

With a catalogue of more than 300 songs to choose from, McCann said he intends to play “whatever the audience needs to hear” when he performs in Airdrie.

"I still love singing,” he said. “The act of singing still moves me physically, it breaks me out of depression and keeps me engaged in society. The more I sing and the more people I meet face-to-face...I realize I'm not alone because we all share, we all have troubles in our lives and we all want to be happy. And music is a way to get us there.”

For tickets to the May 2 show, visit

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