He gets a phone call from an orbiting astronaut, performance requests from the Kennedys, and a Bob Hope Award for supporting veteran’s causes.
You could say quitting his day job turned into quite an adventure for Canadian singer John McDermott.
He’s also recorded 25 albums, including three platinum-sellers since quitting his job in the circulation department of a Toronto newspaper in the early 1990s.
The Scottish-born artist of Irish descent will bring his latest stories and songs to Red Deer’s Memorial Centre on Friday, May 27.
McDermott will share with his Central Alberta fans some selections from his new album, Raised on Songs and Stories. It was recorded as a continuous piece of music, event though it actually contains 21 assorted tracks, including traditional tunes, Celtic covers and instrumentals.
He wanted to create a “musical ribbon” of songs that gently flow from one into the other.
“Personally, I like (an album) to pull me in,” added the 55-year-old, who believes this isn’t possible if a recording sounds disjointed, with songs of various moods. “It takes you out of it if the music stops and something else cranks up.”
Most tracks on the recording are Celtic or Anglo standards, such as The Bluebells of Scotland, Gin a Body Meets a Body (Comin’ Through the Rye), and The Rose of Allandale. But a few were written more recently, such as I No More Will Be Passing This Way.
It took many years for McDermott to be able to sing this latter tune, penned by D’Arcy Broderick while he was with The Irish Descendants. Broderick’s inspiration was the death of McDermott’s dad in 1995.
“We’d been touring together when my father died,” McDermott recalled. Although he greatly appreciated the poignant song, his feelings were too raw to perform it for many years. “I put my head towards recording it” this time, he said.
Feedback on the album, released just before Christmas, has been “really amazing, overwhelming. The response has been just terrific,” said the singer, whose 2016 got off to an auspicious start when he received a phone call from outer space on New Year Day.
American astronaut Scott Kelly, whom McDermott met through mutual friends, was commanding the International Space Station. And since the station was flying over McDermott’s place in northern Ontario, Kelly took the opportunity to give him a ring.
The four-minute conversation, which can be heard on his website, includes McDermott’s performance of an Irish standard. Kelly said “would it be too much of a cliché if I asked you to sing Danny Boy?” the singer recalled, with a chuckle.
Cliché, or not, how do you say no to an orbiting astronaut?
McDermott’s singing career was launched after some movers-and-shakers, including Conrad Black, concert promoter Bill Ballard, and late radio announcer Peter Gzowski heard his music and began spreading the word.
He’s performed many honours, including the Canadian anthem at Toronto Maple Leafs games and singing at the funeral of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009.
Kennedy became a friend after hearing McDermott’s first U.S. concert at Boston’s Ritz Carleton Hotel in 1995. McDermott was frequently invited to visit the Kennedy Compound at Cape Cod, and performed at the U.S. Democratic National Convention in 1996.
McDermott also met five American presidents, was nominated for multiple Juno Awards, and received the U.S. Congessional Medal of Honour Society’s Bob Hope Award for supporting veterans’ causes.
His latest campaign is to raise $3.6 million to expand and enhance the palliative care wing of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. He wants to boost the quality of care to patients, including many veterans and serving members of the military. (To donate, or for more information, please visit www.mcdermotthousecanada.org).
Tickets are $51.20 to the 7:30 p.m. show from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.