As a high-school student in the 1980s, Sean Hogan was asked by a school counselor to fill out an exam that would provide an idea for the type of career he might be suited for.
In addition to an orientation toward the arts and media, the exam results indicated the teen might also be suited to an area called “helping” careers.
“I said, ‘What? What does that mean?'” Hogan recalls asking the counselor. “He said, ‘It shows you have an interest in this line of work.’ I didn’t get it.”
Since surviving a bout with stage 4 cancer four years ago, however, the Campbell River alt country recording artist gets it now.
A two-time winner in the West Coast Country Music awards and the Canadian Country Music Association’s Independent Male Artist of the Year in 1997, Hogan, 50, has already helped raise nearly $150,000 through the annual Canadian Country Christmas Tour, which he co-founded in 2004.
But, since taking a year off for radiation and chemotherapy treatments after he was diagnosed with squam cell carcinoma, Hogan has stepped up his benefit work in a big way.
His latest initiative is part of a crowd-funding effort for a retrospective double album, from which 10 per cent of proceeds will go to the production and sale of Neck Saver scarves. In turn, 100 per cent of the proceeds from the scarves will go to the Canadian Cancer Society.
“As a cancer survivor, I wanted to do more,” he said. “Since my cancer was a head and neck cancer, the Neck Saver is a natural fit.”
Hogan may be lucky to still have a performing career. After suffering through a series of mysterious maladies beginning in late 2010, ranging from strep throat to bronchitis to tonsilitis, he discovered a lump under his jaw in August 2011.
The doctors he saw repeatedly prescribed antibiotics until one doctor in Comox referred him to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who determined it was oralpharyngeal cancer.
“It went from my tonsil into the lymph nodes and my neck,” Hogan said. “It avoided my vocal chords, thank goodness. I’ve sung more in the last couple of years than I have in my whole life.”
One of his first live appearances after returning for his forced layoff was an October, 2012, benefit for the Bluewater Health Cancer Clinic in his original hometown of Sarnia, Ont.
The next year, after seeing the devastation wrought upon the Blackfoot Nation by flooding in Southern Alberta, Hogan wrote the song Hell or High Water and produced a video with the aid of fellow recording artists Beverley Mahood, Jake Matthews, Patricia Conroy and Shane Yellowbird, among others. Proceeds from downloads of the song and video were donated 100 per cent to flood relief for the Treaty 7 First Nations.
Just last month, he played a benefit in Vanderhoof for a woman struggling with leukemia.
The idea for the Neck Saver came from a show he performed along with Mahood and other artists in Sudbury, Ont., two years ago. That night, Mahood was selling fleece mittens, with the proceeds going to breast cancer research and treatment.
“A friend turned to me and said, ‘Beverley hasn’t even had cancer. You should be doing something like this,'” Hogan recalls.
So when he took his first foray into crowdfunding for his “Best of” album, he decided to designate a share of the money toward the Neck Savers.
The album is titled Noteworthy and is made up of two discs. Volume Sun contains the radio hits from the six studio albums he release from 1996 to 2012 (the last, Phoenix, was released as he was undergoing cancer treatment). Volume Moon has tunes he describes as more edgy and moody.
“These are songs that were critically lauded, but maybe not as radio-friendly, for whatever reason,” he said.
His account, on the crowd-funding platform IndieGogo, is halfway to his goal of $17,000 at the midpoint of its scheduled two-month run. Sixty per cent of the funding will go to promoting the albums worldwide, 30 per cent will be for production of the project, and 10 per cent will go to production of the scarves, which he hopes will be made in Canada.
His sister in Seaforth, Ont., has a neighbour who creates ballcaps and shirts. Though no contract has been signed, that artisan expressed interest in making the Neck Saver when notified of the project.
“It doesn’t have to be something that’s done in Asia,” Hogan said. “Here you’ve got a small, family operation that does good work. It’s nice to know we can do it in Canada.”
Hogan has lived in Campbell River for six years with his wife, 16- and 13-year-old daughters and six-year-old son, who was born in Comox the day the family learned their offer on their Campbell River home was accepted.
He studied jazz as a drummer in Toronto before moving to Victoria and picking up a guitar in 1994 while working for an environmental organization. Since 1996, Hogan has been a full-time singer-songwriter and performer.
Those who donate $20 or more to the IndieGogo fund will receive Noteworthy in digital download and/or digi-pak, along with other goodies on a sliding scale — including a Neck Saver scarf for $40 or more. For real heavy hitters, the prizes can include an invitation to appear in a future Hogan music video and even a personal house concert.
A link to Hogan’s IndieGogo fund can be found at www.seanhogan.net and through his Facebook page, Sean Hogan.