“Legend” is not a title John McDermott would readily embrace, but his accomplishments have become legendary in recording industry lore. He calls Toronto and Boston home, but he has also 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. He is a long way from the man for whom singing was a hobby less than ten years ago. John was discovered quite by chance, when working as a circulation sales representative for the Toronto Sun, he belted out an impromptu rendition of “Danny Boy” at a company party.
“I grew up singing, but I thought everybody grew up singing. My dad and mom introduced us to music early on, and all of the McDermott kids could unleash a verse or two of ‘Scotland the Brave’ or ‘Green Isle of Erin’ on command. My song was ‘Danny Boy,’ and I sang it with pride, because even as a kid I knew what a powerful and emotive song it was.”
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, which included appearances on ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘The Today Show.’
The outcome of that fateful performance has catapulted him into a musical career that includes three Canadian platinum records, five Juno nominations (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy), 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, began airing in March 2002 on PBS affiliates across North America. Always a generous performer and mentor to emerging artists, John shared the stage and screen with a huge cast, including explosive music and dance troupe, Chanda Gibson and Pulse, and Cape Breton Celtic prodigies, The Cottars.
His success has allowed him to express his commitment to veteran’s causes, which have always been integral to John and an important theme in his music. He is a recipient of one the United State’s highest honours – the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s “Bob Hope Award.”
John’s early 2003 release, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, as the title suggests, is a tribute to his faith that had been a work-in-progress since 1970, yielding 17 beautiful songs that range in recording from 1565 through to 2003. Late 2003 album, Stories of Love, showcased his interpretation of the classic Frank Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova canon of songs. It included such favourites as “Girl from Ipanema” and “(In The) Wee Small Hours (Of The Morning).” “I have always wanted to do this material in a manner that would present the beauty of the lyric and melody, here it is,” says John
In 2004 John released two compilations of his favourite traditional songs from Ireland and Scotland. Songs of the Isles Ireland and Songs of the Isles Scotland were both released on John’s own Bunnygee label.
In March 2005, John recorded Just Plain Folk live at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. Just Plain Folk is dedicated to the folk music genre and collects songs from that evening’s performance, along with songs John has recorded over the past few years with fellow guest artists but have not been released until now. Legendary folk artist Michael Smith performs with John on the release. Smith’s resume includes over 30 artists from Suzy Bogguss to Jimmy Buffet that have cut or performed his tunes and it became safe to assume that, “if Michael Smith has written a song, someone else has played or recorded it.”
Later that year, John released Images of Christmas with John McDermott and Friends. This holiday themed album featured John performing duets with artists such as Ron Sexsmith, Colette Baron-Reid, Murry McLauchlan, Marc Jordon, and Jason Fowler among others, as well as songs performed by Cindy Church, Lawrence Gowan, Shaye, Amy Sky, Glass Tiger and Tom Cochrane.
John has continued to keep busy, re-teaming with The Irish Tenors for a well-received tour and the 2005 album, Sacred, on Razor & Tie Records. In 2006 he released a Greatest Hits package, Timeless Memories, on EMI and, Legacy of the Patriot, on his own Bunnygee imprint.
In early 2007 he released, On a Whim, featuring the songs of Ron Sexsmith. The result is a beautiful collaboration, co-produced by the artists, that melds John’s signature vocals with Ron Sexsmith’s critically acclaimed songwriting style.
John McDermott is an artist whose sense of respect for tradition and understanding of the sentiment behind the music resonates worldwide.