"You have to be true to yourself", Sean Hogan told me in his deep, melodic voice. "The music business is tough but you can't give up. You have to scratch away, not get discouraged and come back again and again. Song writing is an artistic form of expression and you need to let your imagination fly" So how did I get to the point where I was actually talking one on one with this talented Canadian country artist? It all started with ...
"Not just one line dance track or even two, I reckon they're all great for dancing" I thought excitedly to myself as I listened to the CD that had come across my desk. I had not heard of the singer, Sean Hogan, before and looking more carefully at the album 'Southern Sessions', I discovered that all the songs were written or co-written by Sean and that he was a Canadian originally from Ontario. Within a couple of weeks Fred Buckley and I had written a dance 'Small Stuff' to 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' and them my feet wouldn't stop movin' to 'Centred' and there was another dance! But we had to ensure that dancers would be able to get hold of the music. So I emailed Sean and thereby began an email conversation. He was intrigued by the line dance connection and offered a special deal to dancers who contacted him saying that "they were line dance friends of Vivienne"! I suggested that he send off his CD to Tim Ruzgar. A few weeks later we heard that Tim loved 'Southern Sessions' and had made it his Album of the Month for June. Next Linedancer editor, Laurent Saletto, was interested in hearing more about this country music talent and hence my phone call!
"It's so cool" were Sean's first words when he heard that 'Southern Sessions' was to be Album of the Month. "I've never had a music review with a dance slant before. This dancing aspect is so refreshing and unanticipated." The morning I spoke to him he had just received a note from a line dance instructor in Colorado to let him know how much she was enjoying his music. Other line dancers and instructors had also been in touch to buy his album including an instructor in the Netherlands.
Sean told me that his mother sang and played the piano and his father, who was a Korean war veteran, was involved in the theatre. Although his father didn't sing he had a 'big' voice. They were both supportive of their son and "let him breathe". They gave him the opportunity and freedom to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Sean asserted that "You have to be true to yourself even at a young age". His first public performance came when he was 12. Even though he was quite shy as a child, he entered a talent contest and did well. He told me that he surprised himself as well as others when he discovered he had something to offer. By the time he was 16 he had started putting pen to paper and his songwriting gift began to surface.
Aside from a strong love of animals and nature and a memory for retaining details about most wildlife and habitat concerns, Sean was not so much the science and maths type of student. He spent his energy rather and interest focussed on music and the arts once into high school. He studied Music business and recording engineering at one college then went off to Toronto to study music performance with a focus on jazz, taking a percussion major with a vocal minor. The drums were his main instrument. However in his early 20s he decided it was time to try a different more stable career. He moved to the west coast of Canada and worked full-time for an environmental organization for three years. But as Sean said, "You can't take the music out of the man!" It was not long before he was writing again and playing music. He taught himself how to play the guitar, quit his steady job and plunged into the uncertain life of the musician. All he took with him were his drums, guitar, vinyl records in milk crates and clothes. He played Legions, Taverns and Pubs across the country and his songs started being played on the airwaves. Sean wore a number of hats which he reckons enabled him to stay in the industry though song writing is his principle source of income.
At that time soul, Motown and rock an' roll were leading the airwaves, but Sean discovered that his music seemed to dovetail toward country music, perhaps a little edgier with a roots flavour and more acoustic. In 1996 he released his first album to much critical acclaim and it earned him the Canadian Country Music Association Independent Male Artist of the Year Award in 1997. Since that auspicious beginning CMT (Country Music Television) has played all his videos - an impressive 17 in total -- and these have helped establish his profile. His career kept snowballing as he won two consecutive West Coast Music Awards in 01 and 02 for Best Country Album and in 2003 he won C.C.M.A Root Artist of the Year, the first Independent artist to win this prestigious award. Sean's first self-released US album, 'Ruled By Mercury' made it to #24 in the AMA Americana chart in February 2003. The better part of 2003 and some of 2004 was spent working on his 4th album Catalina Sunrise. In March 2005 Sean released the album and it was nominated for 6 awards, winning 3 which included the Saskatchewan Country Music Award for Male Artist of the Year and Best Video of the Year for the title track of the Year for 'Catalina Sunrise'.
2006 found this handsome cowboy, with his intense and magnetic personality, spending a good part of his time in Nashville recording 'Southern Sessions'. Sean explained that this album was a unique recording. Unlike previous albums when he had recorded vocals separately and then brought the band together to record back-up instrumentals, Sean wanted to try something different and recorded the vocals together with the band. Initially they had considered the possibility that they might scratch the vocals but Sean was so inspired during the session that the songs were kept as recorded. The result is a professional sounding but natural and unforced album that has a wide range of songs to suit everyone from the lively shuffle 'You Can't Cry Your Way Out of This', the amusing lyrics in 'Straight', to the cheeky "Suck It Up", the catchy 'Shangri La', the hard rock track of "My Memory" as well as
the poignant 'Vulnerable'. The album is great for listening as well dancing, a perfect combination. Sean told me that coincidentally, a couple in the Nashville music business approached him about promoting the smooth cha with lyrics to live by, 'Don't Sweat The Small Stuff', at the same time as he heard from me, so we might at some point hear other singers including this song on their albums. He also commented that it intrigues him how certain songs resonate with certain individuals and even with large groups. He wrote the toe tapping 'Centred' with a Texan audience in mind. The song certainly appealed to me so I was pleased to think that this Canadian (me!) with my UK roots has something in common with those rugged Texans!
Although in the past Sean has predominantly written solo, he has more recently collaborated with other successful song writers. He told the tale of waiting for a friend at the bar in the only British pub in Nashville, The Sherlock Holmes (now gone but the equivalent in Nashville is now the Dan McGuiness an Irish Pub). A stranger sat next to him and started chatting asking Sean what his story was. He was obviously a very friendly fellow and soon Sean was explaining that he was a song writer and had a song in the Canadian top ten. The man was interested and said he was a song writer as well. When Sean asked for song titles, he was told, among others, 'The Thunder Rolls' and 'Small Town Saturday Night', a song that Sean had performed for years. To his astonishment and delight he was sitting next to Pat Alger, an enormous name in the country music song writing scene who has written many songs for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and other household names in the country music world. The two kept in touch and a few years later in March 2005 wrote 'Genuine Love' together. That song has become a wedding couple's favourite for the big day and Sean has even been informed that one couple ditched their previous selection for this beautiful ballad which is on Southern Sessions. Sean had another winning collaboration writing the classic hurtin' "Heartbreak Song" with successful Canadian song writer Darryl Burgess. Burgess won a Juno for "I Just Came Back To Say Goodbye" a song he wrote for Colin James and he has also written for Mark Chestnut and Trick Pony.
Many of Sean's lyrics reveal a philosophical, sincere and thoughtful individual. Inspired by his song "It's Christmas Time", in 2004 Sean planned and launched a Christmas Concert Tour in conjunction with country radio. The profits from the tour helped communities across Canada with funding for food banks, hospital foundations and basics for people in need. The tour was so successful it has now become an annual event with over $60,000 raised so far including the 2007 national contributions. Sean's efforts were acknowledged in 2005 when he was awarded S.C.M.A.'s 2005 Humanitarian Award.
As you might guess, Sean's favourite artists are songwriters who also sing although they are not necessarily main stream names. He particularly admires Radney Foster. Radney sings in the clubs and is not well known by most Country music listeners outside of Texas. That said, Radney's songs are sung by Keith Urban, Sara Evans, the Dixie Chicks and many more. John Hiatt is another of Sean's idols; his songs have been sung by Bonnie Rait, Jeff Healey and Dylan. Among some of the big stars, Sean favours Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett, both talented song writers.
Sean would like to move over to the more mainstream country music charts and the first step towards this goal is for him and his family to move to Nashville. As Sean explained, "On the battlefield of ideas, winning requires moving toward the sound of the guns!" Right now the family is living in the prairie Province of Saskatchewan. Sean's wife Diane is a teacher and home schools their two much loved young daughters Olivia Madison, eight years old and Tess Alexandra who is six. This makes a move to Tennessee much easier, Sean added, "The children have never known their Dad to be anything other than a musician with everything that goes hand in hand with that career choice'.
Sean has performed in Australia, the US and all over Canada. He would love to visit and perform in the UK and Europe at some point. So perhaps one of these days Sean and UK line dancers will get together in the land of Blighty? "Sounds great to me", he laughed, "I love to travel and most importantly see people enjoy themselves to my music". He added "I eagerly await my first opportunity to come over to the U.K. and Europe to perform for Country and singer/songwriter fans, hopefully with many line dancers in the audience or on the dance floor!"
To purchase 'Southern Sessions' contact Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org The price for the CD including shipping and handling will be 12 Euros and or 10 pounds.