John Mann celebrates new lease on life

Several events planned to launch The Waiting Room solo album

John Mann: Kay Meek Artists Confidential Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m. at the West Vancouver Memorial Library; The Waiting Room Record Release at Vancouver's FanClub, Thursday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets $25/$22; and at West Vancouver's Kay Meek Centre, Friday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. Tickets $30/$25. johnmann.ca.

Following John Mann's diagnosis with cancer, he took comfort in the countless discussions he found himself engaged in within the confines of hospital walls.

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With other men battling the disease as well as with their spouses who came to visit, "We just ended up having these conversations," the singersongwriter recalls.

Throughout the two years Mann fought rectal cancer, from 2009 to 2011, those sorts of exchanges were a welcomed part of his day.

"I just started writing, and writing down what we had all been talking about and what we were going through," says the former West Vancouver resident who currently lives in Vancouver's Commercial Drive neighbourhood.

In the years since, Mann, who's currently believed to be cancer-free, has continued to reflect on his cancer journey. This month, the founding member of Spirit of the West is releasing a new solo record, The Waiting Room, inspired by his experience.

"It has been a long time and I've actually enjoyed a lot of it, not so much when I was in the hospital, but it's been a neat kind of journey, and talking to other people in their journeys as well," he says.

Mann hopes the new record resonates with those who've similarly been diagnosed with cancer, and that by sharing his story he's ensuring they too feel like they have someone they can relate to.

"I hope that. .. for some people hopefully it will be solace for them and they will feel like they're not alone at all because there's so many people out there with it," he says.

Mann plans to mark his new record's official release at Vancouver's FanClub Thursday, Jan. 30. That show will highlight The Waiting Room's 10 tracks, "Surgery" and "These are the Instructions" included. The following evening Mann is set to take West Vancouver's Kay Meek Centre stage for a longer show, featuring songs from throughout his career.

As part of the Kay Meek show, Mann will give a talk at the West Vancouver Memorial Library Tuesday morning. Joining him will be his wife, Jill Daum, an actor (Mom's the Word).

"She has a completely different outlook than I have because I was the person that was in the hospital. Plus she just has a better memory than I have," he laughs.

Daum enjoys being able to share their cancer story. "If somebody else is going through it you have something that you can offer them," she says.

Daum says she'll often send Mann's new song, "Thank You" to people who've just been diagnosed or who are facing surgery. "The whole world is always concerned with living and then when you're sick, you're kind of in a little separate world because you're in the world of the people that are coping with that. So to have music that reflects your reality is I think a really beautiful gift and so I'm really happy for him that he's done that," she says.

"John's thing is, he was really lucky. He didn't have chemo, he didn't have radiation. He had surgery and he had a colostomy bag for a short amount of time - he doesn't still have it. He was so lucky, and in a way, the fact that he was so lucky, he can afford to be generous," she adds.

An actor as well, Mann is currently working on a theatrical show based on his illness also titled The Waiting Room. For the project, he's collaborating with Morris Panych, a Toronto-based playwright, actor and director.

"He is absolutely amazing," says Mann. "He's just got a wicked sense of humour and he is just a delightful person to be around."

The pair is in talks with the Arts Club Theatre Company and the production could see its premiere in Vancouver as early as the fall.

The play will feature music from Mann's new record, performed by him, coinciding with action on the stage.

When asked how he's managed to stay positive following his cancer diagnosis, Mann credits the support of family and friends, and humour, something that comes across on The Waiting Room.

Something else that comes across, his wife points out, is a major lesson learned. "People spend a lot of their time waiting," she says, whether they're sitting in a hospital waiting room, or generally in life.

Something they've walked away with through their cancer experience is the realization of the importance of transitioning from someone who simply waits for things to happen in life to someone who instead lives in the moment. They've learned, "To stop waiting for things to happen and to live that day," she says.

Apart from promoting his solo effort, Mann is also gearing up for a St. Paddy's Day show with Spirit of the West at the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday, March 15. Opening the show will be Dustin Bentall & the Smokes.

For tickets and info, visit sotw.ca.

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