Great Big Sea (often shortened to GBS) is a Canadian folk-rock band from Newfoundland and Labrador, best known for performing energetic rock interpretations of traditional Newfoundland folk songs including sea shanties, which draw from the island's 500-year-old Irish, English, and French heritage. The band also performs original material.
The band played its first official gig on , 1993, opening for the Irish Descendants at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland. The founding band members included Alan Doyle (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin), S?an McCann (vocals, bodhr?n, guitar, tin whistle), Darrell Power (vocals, bass, guitar, bones), and Bob Hallett (vocals, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, concertina, bouzouki, whistles, bagpipes).
Power, McCann and Hallett had already been playing together with a woman named Jackie St. Croix in a band called "Rankin Street". The band found its name as original bassist Jeff Scott rented an apartment on Rankin Street, St. John's, where the members first met and discussed the formation of the band. In the winter of 1989 the band, a six piece with guitar, bass, fiddle, accordion and mandolin played its first ever gig, two songs, at the Memorial University's winter carnival talent show under the name "Newfoundland Republican Army" or NRA, and won first prize. The band's only other appearance as NRA was later that winter at the university "Grad House". The band then dropped the fiddler, accordion player and the name.
As a four piece, the band first appeared as "Rankin Street" at a little pub in downtown St. John's called "The Rose and Thistle", playing for $100 and beer. For the first gig the band played through Sean McCann's stereo system as renting a PA would be more than the night's earnings. Susan Hickey (guitar and vocals) left the band months later to attend school in Halifax and was replaced by Darrell Power. The band gained much popularity playing such local pubs as Bridgettes and Greensleeves. In 1991 Jeff Scott was replaced by Jackie St. Croix on bass. The band released one recording on cassette titled "Rankin Street".
According to Doyle, Rankin Street owned a PA, and he owned a van, which made Great Big Sea "a match made in heaven.". They toured nearly constantly for the band's first several years, sometimes travelling as many as 300 days a year.
Power retired from Great Big Sea in 2003 to spend more time with his family and friends. Supporting members of the band include Canadian freelance drummer Kris MacFarlane (2002) (drums, accordion, guitar, backing vocals) and Murray Foster (2003, formerly of the band Moxy Fr?vous) (bass, backing vocals).
The band won the Entertainer of the Year award at the East Coast Music Awards for every year between 1996 and 2000. In 2001, they decided not to submit their name for nomination in order to allow other bands to compete. They have also been nominated for several Juno Awards, including Group of the Year in 1998 and 2005.
In the 2000 Canadian Federal Election, controversy occurred when Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance used the band's hit single, "Ordinary Day", at a rally without their permission. The band noted that this was a copyright violation and ordered that Day cease using the song for campaigning purposes.
Great Big Sea's first concert DVD and videos collection, the Great Big DVD, saw release in Canada and the United States in 2003 and Europe in 2004.
In late 2005, the band released its long-awaited "traditional" album, The Hard and the Easy, on which they recorded their favourite Newfoundland party songs. The title of the album comes from a line of the song "Tickle Cove Pond", one of two songs on the album about a horse falling through ice.
Also in late 2005, Great Big Sea released its first podcast, with clips of the band bantering back and forth in the studio mixed with various songs by them and other artists. They have since released several podcasts.
On , 2006, the band's tour bus tipped on its side into a ditch on the Trans-Canada Highway about 80 kilometres east of Vancouver near Abbotsford. Their driver suffered minor head injuries, but everyone in the band was unhurt. The band went on to continue their tour including their performance that evening at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts just hours after the accident.
On , 2006, the band released their second concert DVD, Courage & Patience & Grit, recorded in Belleville, Ontario. It is also the second release by the band to be titled by a line from their 2005 song, "Tickle Cove Pond".
On , 2007, the band announced they would return to the studio with producer Hawksley Workman. On , 2008, the band announced that the title of the new album would be Fortune's Favour, borrowing a phrase from one of the songs on the album, "England". Prior to the release, a few of the songs that were eventually included on the album were played at live concerts, including "Love Me Tonight", "Walk on the Moon" "The Rocks of Merasheen", "Straight To Hell", and "Oh Yeah". On , 2008, the band's website announced that the first single from Fortune's Favour would be "Walk on the Moon". People who pre-ordered the album from the band's official website were also treated to exclusive digital downloads of the songs "Belong (A Capella)" and "Gallow's Pole". The album was officially released on , 2008 across all of North America.
Ships and Dip
The band joined two fan cruises called "Ships and Dip III" - , 2008, and "Ships and Dip V" - 2009, both hosted by Barenaked Ladies. The artists on Ships and Dip remain onboard for the duration of the cruise (other than shore days), in contrast to some cruises where the artist or artists travel separately to one of the cruise destinations and perform there, or join the cruise for only a portion of the trip. Band members enjoy other artists' shows and the ship's amenities freely with the other guests. Great Big Sea performs several full shows on each cruise.
Other artists who performed on for "Ships and Dip V" include The New Odds, Sloan, Butterfly Boucher, The Weakerthans, Gaelic Storm, Boothby Graffoe and many others including Barenaked Ladies side projects The Brothers Creeggan, Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle and The Vanity Project. The ship also features stand-up comedy from Kids in the Hall members Dave Foley, and Kevin McDonald.
All Great Big Sea lyrics
- A Boat Like Gideon Brown
- Bad As I Am
- Barque In The Harbour
- Beat The Drum
- Berry Picking Time
- Billy Peddle
- Boston And St. John's
- Buying Time
- Can't Stop Falling
- Captain Wedderburn
- Clearest Indication
- Consequence Free
- Demasduit Dream
- Demesduit Dream
- Donkey Riding
- Drunken Sailor
- End Of The World
- Everything Shines
- Excursion Around The Bay
- Fast As I Can
- Feel It Turn
- Ferryland Sealer
- Fisherman's Lament
- French Perfume
- General Taylor
- Goin Up
- Great Big Sea/Gone By The Board
- Hangin' Johnny
- Hanging Johnny
- Haven't Seen You In A Long Time
- Home For A Rest
- How Did We Get From Saying
- I'm A Rover
- Irish Paddy/Festival Reel/Roger's Reel
- I'se The B'y
- It's The End Of The World As We Know It
- Jack Hinks
- Jakey's Gin
- John Barbour
- Jolly Roving Tar
- Let It Go
- Little Beggarman
- Lucky Me
All lyrics are property of their respective owners and are strictly for non-commercial use only.