Essentials… with Séan McCann

Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped get through through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.

Although he will always be known as a co-founder of Great Big Sea, since leaving the multi-Platinum selling Celtic rock group, Séan McCann has released five successful solo albums, each reflecting his other efforts as an advocate for addiction and mental health awareness, along with his philanthropic pursuits, work that led McCann to be named to the Order of Canada in 2020.

The proud Newfoundland native has just released his sixth solo album, Shantyman, a 10-song collection of traditional sea shanties, which he calls a labour of love created as an antidote to the inability to play live during the past year. By fully immersing himself in the traditional music he grew up hearing, the songs also reflect McCann’s deep passion for storytelling.

Fuelled by the necessity of pooling resources to overcome the pandemic, McCann took a similarly collaborative approach to the album, reaching out to friends such as Hawksley Workman, Gordie Johnson, Jeremy Fisher and fiddler J.P. Cormier to record parts remotely. The end results still demonstrate how the shanty remains the ultimate work song, designed specifically to help people overcome difficult challenges by working together in harmony to get the job done.

Shantyman is available exclusively through, along with McCann’s first book, One Good Reason, a memoir co-written with his wife Andrea Aragon, detailing his struggle to overcome alcoholism and childhood abuse.

Essential Album: The Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues (Chrysalis, 1988)

This was the record that ferried me over the rock and roll sea, from the sudden tsunami of The Clash to the slow rolling waves of the never-ending folk evolution. From the moment I heard the opening epic ocean tale of the title track, I knew it would be okay to bash away on my acoustic guitar with my Doc Martens on. I still listen to the entire album at least once a month.

Essential Book: Stephen Pressfield, The War Of Art: Winning The Inner Creative Battle (Rugged Land, 2002)

I keep this book on my desk to remind me what I'm capable of and that the only real failure is giving up. Every desk should have a copy of this encouraging and inspirational book.

Essential TV: Ted Lasso (Apple TV+, 2020-present)

All I can say is that I f’ing LOVE Ted Lasso—just like everybody else.

Essential Movie: Fake Famous (2021) / The U.S. Vs John Lennon (2006)

It's been so long since I've seen a good movie that I've stopped watching them. I'm definitely more of a documentary man now. I learned a lot about “likes” and “followers” from Fake Famous, and The U.S. Vs John Lennon made me wonder how John managed to survive as long as he did, and I still miss him very much.

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