The Dogs Have Their Day
Since winning Rolling Stone magazine’s Choose the Cover contest, The Sheepdogs have experienced what is best described as overnight success.
They’ve gone from playing bars and restaurants that often held less than 100 people, to sharing the stage with platinum-album selling band Kings of Leon.
“It’s been the greatest thing that’s happened in my life, but it’s also been the most challenging thing that we’ve had to do,” says drummer and backing vocalist Sam Corbett.
“It’s been very exhausting. But it’s been a total game changer. It’s taken our career to places that I don’t think it ever would have gone or at least not for another couple years.”
Corbett’s bandmates are Ryan Gullen (bass and backing vocalist) and Ewan Currie (singer and guitar), who he’s known since high school.
“I’ve known Ewan and Ryan since Grade 11,” he says. “They were friends since Grade 9 and Leot [Hanson] we met when we were maybe like 22 or something like that. We’d already been in a band for a couple years by the time Leot came in.”
Hanson began to contribute more of the harmonizing guitars which The Sheepdogs have become known for.
“Our music was somewhat similar when we started. It was a bit more of riffy and bluesy. It didn’t really have the harmonies or the harmonized guitars but it was definitely still classic rock inspired,” said Corbett.
The Sheepdogs were primarily playing gigs in their hometown of Saskatoon, making it out to Toronto and Vancouver for a few shows a year.
“It was challenging,” says Corbett. “It was good in the sense that. There’s a lot of bands there, but compared to a city like Vancouver or Toronto, Saskatoon doesn’t have as many scenes, so I think that enabled us to do exactly what we wanted to do. We didn’t have to fit into a particular scene that was happening.”
But what the band didn’t know was that their manager had submitted their music to Atlantic Records, who had then submitted it to Rolling Stone.
“Our manager called us and said, ‘you’re entered in this thing. I can’t tell you what it is but if it happens it would be life changing.’ And we just said ‘Oh OK, cool.’ We kind of forgot about it and two weeks later we got a call saying what it was exactly and we were pretty ecstatic,” says Corbett.
In addition to The Sheepdogs, there were 15 other bands in the running for the cover of the Rolling Stone. Fans were recruited to vote for their favourite band out of the list. In addition to the cover, The Sheepdogs were awarded a contract with Atlantic Records.
“I had a pretty good feeling that we were going to win, not to knock our competition or anything like that,” says Corbett. “I just had a pretty good feeling about it. It seemed like the way the winds were blowing and we actually found out the day that we were doing the photo shoot for the cover. We’d actually all had about an hour’s sleep the night before so we were very tired. We were tired, but we were excited.”
The formal announcement of The Sheepdogs’ win was made on August 2 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
“I would say playing Jimmy Fallon was one of the highlights,” says Corbett. “He’s a really nice guy and really funny off stage. And as soon as we played he came up to us and said ‘you guys hit it out of the park.’ That was our first time playing on national TV to two million people, so that made me feel really great.”
Despite the overnight fame the band has received, Corbett says that he is pretty sure they will withstand the trials of being signed to a major label and beginning nationwide tours.
“I think we’ve all been through a lot together. Honestly, I think things have been going better for the band lately because when we usually fought, it was about money, and this is the first time we’ve been really making money at all as a band, and that’s exciting,” says Corbett.
“As far as our music, I don’t really know what it’s like dealing with a major label but I think what they saw in us and what they liked is that we were different and that we stayed true to ourselves. I think that they won’t push us in a different direction and we have strong enough constitutions to not let that happen to us.”
The Sheepdogs are the first unsigned band to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, and Corbett says to those who may dismiss them, “I think if they listen to our music they’ll find that we’re the real deal and hopefully that satisfies them.”
Even though the band is currently on tour with the Kings of Leon, they wanted to keep doing what they love, and make a stop at the Spiritbar in Nelson.
“We had a day off, and Nelson is between Vancouver and Calgary more or less, and we just like playing shows,” says Corbett. “We’ve never been to Nelson before. We’ve driven through it. It seems like a great place and I think we’re going to have a really good time there.”
The Sheepdogs will be at Spiritbar on September 29. The first 100 tickets are $10 and are available through the Hume Hotel. The band will be playing an early show which starts at 8 p.m.