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Great Big Sea co-founder plays Red Deer concert in support of CACAC

Séan McCann performs at Red Deer Polytechnic Arts Centre
Great Big Sea co-founder Séan McCann performed at the Red Deer Polytechnic Arts Centre on Saturday evening. (Contributed photo)

A co-founder of a major Canadian band performed in Red Deer in support of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.

Séan McCann, of Great Big Sea fame, played a show featuring songs and storytelling at Red Deer Polytechnic’s Arts Centre on Saturday.

After exiting from Great Big Sea in 2013, McCann publicly admitted that he used alcohol to mask the pain of being sexually abused by a priest. Now sober since 2009, McCann tours the country as a musical keynote speaker sharing his story.

“I’m a survivor of sexual abuse and there were consequences to that. My addiction was a direct consequence of that,” McCann said before the show.

“People use drugs and drink for a reason. This is where you (may) go if you’ve got a secret and don’t know who to tell. There’s only one way to defeat a secret and that’s to share it.”

It’s important to support organizations like the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, so people who have similar experiences can receive help.

“If there’s an option to have a place for young people to go, be able to speak to professionals without judgment, share their truth and unburden themselves, that’s a huge plus and I support that 100 per cent. I wish that was around when I was young,” he said.

The day prior to McCann’s performance on Saturday, he visited multiple high schools in the area, as well as students at RDP, to share his story.

“It’s important to see people … be brave enough to share their stories. It’s very impactful and unlocks a lot of secrets. It shows people it can be done,” McCann explained.

“I couldn’t conceive of telling it out loud until I saw someone else do it – a guy named Paulie O’Byrne, who was abused by his hockey coach in London, Ont.”

In addition to being a co-founder of the iconic Great Big Sea, McCann is also a recipient of the Order of Canada for his mental health and recovery advocacy.

“I’ve always been a very busy boy and I guess I’ve accomplished a lot of things over time,” he said.

“I can’t believe it’s been 35 years since I started this. I feel strong, I feel good – this year I’ll be 56. I think the music business is pretty much doomed at this point and I feel lucky I’ve been able to make a living doing what I love, which is singing and writing songs.

“I fear those opportunities will dry up because of the streaming environment. I can’t imagine an artist starting out now. I don’t know how they would do it.”

McCann said he likes to be “the leader of a big singalong” during his live performances.

“I’m a good shanty man,” he said.

“A shanty man is historically the guy who leads the crew. My crew every night is the audience.”

For more information on McCann, visit

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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