Five years and three LPs into their career, Saskatchewan’s The Sheepdogs have been chosen from 15 competitors as winners of Rolling Stone’s ‘Do You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star?’ contest, becoming the first unsigned act to grace the cover of the iconic magazine. At the same time, the flawlessly authentic, feel-good Southern rock foursome – comprising Ewan Currie (vocals, guitar), Leot Hanson (guitar), Ryan Gullen (bass) and Sam Corbett (drums) – have been handed a coveted recording contract with Atlantic Records. Even amidst this sudden fuss and excitement, a strikingly sensible Currie conveys an air of calm and preparedness; seemingly already beyond his rock star status despite only just having been named one.
How did The Sheepdogs establish their boogie rock sound?
We all felt really strongly about rock and roll music – a lot of it being older – and loved elements like harmony and guitars solos. We borrowed from all the bands we admired then combined those elements… hopefully with the result of our own Sheepdogs sound.
Do your prairie roots have an influence?
Saskatoon is an isolated city and there’s no real scene or pressure to be part of any particular kind of movement; it leaves us free to explore our musical whims and try to create music in the way we want it to sound.
What’s your focus when songwriting?
We’re about variation. When you’ve got three guys singing together and there’s a three-part harmony, it creates something special and locks into… almost a biological thing. And it’s rock and roll, so there should be a groove to it. I guess we try to keep things in our music that maybe aren’t as prevalent in modern rock.
How were you entered into the Rolling Stone cover contest?
Our album was sent to Atlantic Records because they were putting together all these unsigned bands for the competition. We were kind of confused as to what it all was about; we knew that Rolling Stone and Atlantic were involved – and they’re definitely heavyweights in the history of rock and roll – but it was a competition with a lot of levels so we weren’t sure what to expect.
What emotions did you experience as you progressed?
I think we handled it pretty well. We’ve been around for a while, so we felt confident – we knew our roles within the group and felt pretty secure – and we continued to gain more confidence as we went along.
What were your days like before the contest?
It was driving in the van for eight hours to get to a gig, then loading in and playing to hopefully a good crowd – but maybe not – then going to bed for five hours to get up early and drive to the next place.
The crowds have been better – and there’s a lot more press to do. Traveling is different because there are two rooms now, so everyone doesn’t have to cram into one… I haven’t used my sleeping bag in a while (laughs).
We’ve all seen the cautionary tale rock ’n’ roll movies – have you discussed the changes this will bring?
We joke about it all the time but we’re mature guys. We’ve got a lot of experience, we made a lot of mistakes on the road to getting here, and I think we’re aware of the dangers. I’ve seen Let It Be and that Metallica movie – so I know the fighting that goes on. We’ll do our best to get along and to navigate the potential perils.
Will you appreciate the good things more than a newly-discovered band might?
Absolutely. I appreciate every time we get a free meal and every time somebody loads our gear. We’ve been working really hard and there are a lot of people who’ve been working with us. Having it all come together has been pretty wonderful.
What’s the most fantastic experience you’ve had since winning?
I think it would have to be meeting David Crosby and Graham Nash at the Rolling Stone headquarters. It was a pretty monumental experience and it’s very unlikely it would’ve happened otherwise.
What’s the next major order of business?
We’re touring all the way until Christmas and that includes some shows by ourselves, some U.S. dates, and the big Canadian tour with Kings of Leon in the fall. We’ll just be making sure everything goes smoothly and as planned – and that we continue to spread the good word.
The Sheepdog’s Rolling Stone cover is on newsstands now. To learn more about the band and to download their new digital EP, Five Easy Pieces, visit www.thesheepdogs.com.
*Originally published under ‘Interviews’ on MyTelus.com.