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Sea meets mountains when shantyman Séan McCann returns to Canmore

Shantyman Séan McCann brings his East Coast flair to artsPlace this Sunday evening (May 1).

CANMORE – Séan McCann is geeking out on his latest album and for good reason.

The folk-rocker, formerly of Great Big Sea, performs at Canmore’s artsPlace Sunday evening (May 1) and is giving a big throwback to his Newfoundland roots with solo album No. 6, Shantyman.

As a master and commander of a lively crowd, it's McCann’s first tour out west since the pandemic. He plans on bringing every ounce of energy that's been stored away the past two years with Shantyman, and, surprisingly, audiences have TikTok to thank for that.

“One day, my son came in [my recording studio] and I was singing away, belting it out, and he said, ‘Dad, you’re going to be famous,’” said McCann.

Content creators had started anchoring a familiar sound to McCann that was gaining popularity on the social media platform by singing this upbeat genre of sea shanties.

Well, if Magic Johnson brought the showtime to basketball then McCann undoubtedly belts an unmatched flair of sea shanties.

After all, the man from the Rock has an undergrad in sea shanty folklore and has mastered the art of catchy singable tunes with Great Big Sea and beyond for decades.

“Here it was, all these kids singing sea shanties on TikTok,” McCann said. “Maybe that’s a sign I should actually commit this stuff to a recording, and now, it’s only a matter of time before I get famous. I just got to figure out how to use that TikTok thing.”

Back in the day, a shantyman had a responsibility like the captain does, only, the duty was to lead the beaten-down sailors in a captivating tune to sing-along to.

Essentially, sea shanties offered a voice to the oppressed and the melodies helped sailors complete hard tasks by working together. Over time, the messages in the songs evolved.

As the pandemic raged on like an angry sea, McCann released the 10-track album with an updated message.

As a champion for mental health advocacy, Shantyman is the sound of how working together can help overcome even the most difficult hardships.

“We were all working through this difficult thing ­– the pandemic – and we couldn’t accomplish and we couldn’t get through it without working together,” said McCann. “So on a philosophical level, the sea shanties seemed to resurface just when society needed it the most. That’s what I saw and that’s what I saw as the path and indulge in another sea shanty album.”

McCann added he's pleased to once again tour the Bow Valley, where he’s performed, written albums, and, like many of us, let his mind wander in nature.

“Even in my Great Big Sea days, I wrote my best songs in the mountains,” said McCann. "We tend to take things for granted, music in general. Gathering together and singing out loud, these are things we lost and ... now I can do it again, I'm not taking a second for granted."

McCann’s show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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