John McDermott Biography (Courtesy of the Artist’s site, 2005)
"Legend" is not a title John McDermott would readily embrace, but his accomplishments have become legendary in recording industry lore. Part of John's legend has always been his remarkable work ethic, releasing at least an album a year, and averaging more than 100 performances a year over the last decade (263 in 1997 alone). So when John announced that he was taking a break from solo touring through 2005-06, some might have found it unexpected, but no one would call the break undeserved. John has worked tirelessly since he burst onto the scene with the million-selling Danny Boy Collection in the 1993, and he would like to take this opportunity to pursue business and philanthropic pursuits, as well as quality time with his family, all things he has had to put off while touring over the last decade.
John sums up his feelings: "First and foremost I would like to send a message to the fans and friends who have been the reason for my success since day one – Thank you! Words alone cannot express my gratitude".
John's "legend" is the story of a hard-working everyman who found a home as an international recording star and household name – known as much for his successful musical career as for his commitment to veterans' causes. An international touring presence, as well as an entrepreneur, producer, and head of his own label, John is a long way from the man for whom singing was a hobby little more than a decade ago.
John's first album, Danny Boy, was originally recorded as a very private and personal 50th anniversary tribute for his parents. Its quality could not be ignored and it eventually found its way into the hands of EMI Music Canada. Danny Boy subsequently garnered strong sales for a debut release in the U.S. and Canada; it even reached number one on New Zealand's album charts, and was certified double platinum in that country. This success, in addition to a fast-growing North American fan base, won through a tireless touring schedule, led to his participation in the PBS phenomenon The Irish Tenors. John's presence helped generate a US gold record, three US tours and a high-profile media schedule including appearances on 'Good Morning America' and 'The Today Show'.
The outcome of that fateful performance has catapulted him into a musical career that, not even ten years later, includes nine full-length albums, three Canadian platinum records, five Juno nominations and a solid international touring schedule.
In November 2001, John taped John McDermott - A Time to Remember at the Living Arts Centre outside Toronto. This, his first solo television special, has been broadcast on PBS affiliates across North America beginning in March 2002. Angel Records and EMI Music Canada released the companion CD and cassette on February 26, 2002. There will also be a DVD and VHS of the special released in June 2002. As a viewing and listening experience, John McDermott — A Time To Remember is unlike anything that has come before. Always a generous performer and mentor to emerging artists John shares the stage and screen with a huge cast, including the explosive music and dance troupe, Chanda Gibson and Pulse, and Cape Breton Celtic prodigies, The Cottars.
John could have easily rested on his laurels, but in recent years he has only stepped up his productivity. 2003 saw the release of no less than 3 new products: Great Is Thy Faithfulness, a collection of John's favourite spiritual and inspirational music; Legacy, a CD Single to be used as a fund-raising tool for veterans organizations; and Stories Of Love, a dream project on which John interpreted the music of two of his great heroes Frank Sinatra and bossa-nova king Antonio Carlos Jobim.
In 2004, John has been on a creative tear, in and out of the studio working on four separate projects, that should keep loyal fans occupied throughout 2005: A new Christmas album, a contemporary folk project and two albums that will return him to his foundations – Songs Of The Isles: Ireland and Songs of the Isles: Scotland. The Songs Of The Isles recordings were released in the fall of 2004, with Just Plain Folk to hit in 2005 and a new Christmas CD for fall 2006, all of his new projects are controlled by his own Bunnygee Music label.
As if that were not enough, in October 2004, John announced that he would be rejoining old friends Finbar Wright and Anthony Kearns as part of The Irish Tenors. As an original member, this reunion brings him full circle with the Tenors. They toured 11 U.S. cities in November 2004, with additional European dates in late December. A new Tenors recording entitled DEUS MEUS will follow in 2005.
John recently completed a live recording with folk legend Michael P.Smith , Michael and John have been trying to collaborate for a number of years, they completed the recording "Just Plain Folk" in March of 2005, the release is slated for a September 2005 and a tour to support the release will happen in October of 2005.
The ninth of twelve children from a traditional Glasgow Irish family who emigrated from Scotland to Canada in the 1960s, John's musical roots are equal parts Scottish and Irish. His songs showcase his innate understanding and facility with traditional folk melodies as well as more contemporary stylings.
To the generation that remembers the wars, John's music conjures up a vivid emotional landscape, evocative of love, loss and history. For the rest of us, his simple but richly textured arrangements allow him to weave narratives — folk tales — that conjure up an exact moment and place. This subtlety for the texture and meaning of the lyrics has resulted in John's recordings becoming definitive renditions of folk classics like "Danny Boy", friend Eric Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", and Phil Coulter's "The Old Man".
The themes of war and remembrance are common in traditional folk music – and the fact that the songs in his carefully selected repertoire are stories that must hold meaning for him is apparent. One example is his 2001 recording A Day to Myself (EMI/Canada), on which he includes liner notes to explain why each song has particular significance and was chosen to be included in the album. There's the poignant story behind "Love Remembers When" – inspired by the songwriter's experience of his family's coping with a beloved uncle's battle with Alzheimer's. Or his powerful interpretation of "Streets of London" to be a universal message about getting on with the business of life no matter how difficult that may seem.
John's success has provided him with the ability to express his commitment to veterans' causes, which have always occupied a central place in his life and been an important theme in his music. The 1999 album Remembrance and successive concert tours based on that material have raised his profile further in the United States, as he revived songs like "We'll Meet Again" and "I'll be Seeing You" that were popularized during wartime.
"The veterans population has historically been ignored outside of one day a year, but I hope that recent events will change that," John explains. "So much of the music I sing really speaks to the veterans' experience and I feel a great deal of respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line for the sake of their country".
n recognition of this commitment to veterans' causes John was awarded one of the United States' highest accolades - the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's "Bob Hope Award". Despite the demands of his increasingly busy career as an entertainer, John continues to devote much of his time to these causes, just as Bob Hope has done. Especially important to John are the legions of homeless veterans in big cities and small towns from coast to coast. His concern is borne out through innovative projects such as McDermott House, a transitional housing cooperative for veterans in Washington, D.C., and more recently, the Hope McDermott Day Program Center in Boston, MA. In November of 2002, John spoke on his commitment to housing and servicing the veterans' population from the prestigious podium of the National Press Club in Washington, DC, a speech and performance broadcast nationally on C-Span.
Of course John is passionate about all his philanthropic causes and continues to work publicly and privately to bring aid to veterans' and military organizations. A large part of this commitment is to live up to the responsibility that the Bob Hope Award carries by working with groups such as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the War Amps of Canada, the Semper Fidelis Society, the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, and others. His time away from solo touring will allow him to work with organizations in more ways than simply performing at fundraising events.
Part of John's focus in the immediate future will be a new business venture. He will be spearheading the expansion of Dore Achievement Centers into Canada. Dore Centers employ a revolutionary non-invasive, drug-free approach to learning disorders. The program utilizes basic physical exercises to stimulate a part of the brain called the cerebellum. Specialists design each program based on the individual's specific symptoms or needs. Over time, the process allows Dore clients to process information more rapidly, leading to improved learning, language, emotion and motor skills. John is passionate about the Dore Method and its potential to change millions of lives for the better.
"By no means am I leaving the joy of touring or recording", John said. "I am simply going to spend more time with my family, while finding new ways to engage the creative and entrepreneurial energies that have always driven me. Although I am taking a break from solo touring, I am confident the future will hold plenty of opportunities for my loyal fans to experience my music, on stage and on CD. The future is bright!"
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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