From hobby to career for singer



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Writer-turned-singer John McDermott will be performing in Kelowna tomorrow night.

By Black Press
Apr 01 2007

When John McDermott decided to make a recording for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary back in 1993, he was working at the Toronto Sun newspaper. “I’d always enjoyed singing, but never had any plans on making it a career,” he says of those days.

His friends, however had different ideas.

“I’d done the Danny Boy album strictly as a fun thing for my parents’ anniversary but it just took off. Bill Ballard and Michael Cole (who handle the Rolling Stones), had a copy and put it into the right hands at EMI and the rest is history — right place at the right time and I was very fortunate.”

Creating the album seemed a fitting gift as McDermott credits the Friday and Saturday night get togethers his parents hosted every week as the reason he loves music so much.

“When we first immigrated to Canada, the very first weekend we moved in, my father went and knocked on all of the neighbours’ doors and invited them to come over,” he said, however, “nobody came.”

But eventually, a few people did start coming and before long, the entire neighbourhood was arriving at their doorsteps for get togethers where, he recalls, “we always got around to singing. We made our own entertainment. We didn’t have a television set.”

With six brothers and five sisters, plus all the neighbours, he recalls, “it was pretty noisy!”

With the success of his first album, McDermott wasted no time and began recording an album a year and touring relentlessly, averaging more than 100 shows every year for a decade. His current tour brings him to Kelowna tomorrow to the Kelowna Community Theatre and when asked what listeners can expect to hear, he said: “We have a lot of material to pick and choose from so there will be a lot of the old traditional stuff, some contemporary stuff and we’ll have some songs from the new CD in there as well.”

His latest CD is called On a Whim, and is a collaboration he did with songwriter Ron Sexsmith.

“I met Ron at the tsunami fundraiser at CBC a few years ago, and at the time was putting together a Christmas album by Canadian songwriters, so I asked him if he had any Christmas songs. He said he had one and when I stopped by his place to listen to it we talked about his music.”

One thing led to another and, McDermott said, “I listened to his stuff and it was so good, we got together again and picked 12 tracks. Ron played them initially on piano to give me a feel for them then I had the arrangements done by three friends with different musical backgrounds. It’s a little different from what Ron expected, but it worked out really well.”

He’s also shared the stage with some very notable singers, including Finbar Wright and Anthony Kearns with whom he formed the trio known as The Irish Tenors.

“Back in 1998 I was doing a show for PBS called the Irish Tenor. The guy producing the show met another producer at the Cannes Film Festival who was putting together a show with two tenors and asked if I wanted to come to Dublin to meet these guys and we recorded the show for PBS called the Irish Tenors,” recalled McDermott.

“Two years later, I left the group as I went through a bad period in early 2001. My mom, brother and sister all passed away. I’ve been back once with them since but to be honest, I really enjoy solo touring. With them, you were really only doing one third of the show and that wasn’t my cup of tea. I missed getting out and doing it on my own.”

McDermott is very active in the work he does for veterans, both in Canada and the U.S.

“My mom’s brother died as a POW and my father was an RAF based in Belgium so there’s always been a great respect for veterans in our home and I promised my dad that if I ever attained any level of success in this business that I would use it to garner some support for the veteran community and at least acknowledge them and understand what their commitment was,” he said.

“So, I’ve done that and continue to do that.”

And so, the Congressional Medal of Honour Society, the War Amps of Canada, the Semper Fidelis Society, the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, and others have all benefited from his work.

McDermott plays at the Kelowna Community Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are at or by calling (250) 762-5050.

© Copyright 2007 Penticton Western