Earlier this year The Sheepdogs became the first unsigned band to land on the cover of Rolling Stone after they won the magazine's Choose the Cover contest. Although they toured extensively before they entered the contest, their world was turned somewhat upside down when they finally won, and now they're enjoying an international audience.
Lead singer Ewan Currie spoke to Up On The Sun about the band's progress throughout the contest, touring with Kings of Leon, their double perspective of this year's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and more.
The Sheepdogs are scheduled to perform Tuesday, November 9 at the Crescent Ballroom.
Up On The Sun: You guys won the Rolling Stone cover contest this summer. Your dreams of becoming rock stars have been realized. How have your feelings and attitudes changed throughout the course of the competition?
Ewan Currie: What we've always dreamed of is starting to look like a reality. The goal was always to find a way to make a living through music because we wanted to be musicians and we wanted to make music. We didn't want to have to work other jobs, which we've done for years, and we no longer do that. Of course, when you play music, you want an audience and you want people to hear your music. Having all of these new fans and people who know about our music means we have so many more people listening to us and paying attention to us, and that's been the dream.
What was the band's relationship like with Lelia Broussard? The competition must have been intense. How much of it was playful and how much of it was real?
It was pretty innocent for the most part. There was trash talking online from the fans, but who cares? Sure, it was a competition, but it's not like we were playing defense on each other. We were just trying to do our thing and hoping that ours was the best music in the competition. We weren't worrying about what she was doing. We were basically taking care of business on our end.
Tell me about your experience at Bonnaroo.
I would have loved to have gone to Bonnaroo, let alone be able to play it, so I got two experiences! I got to enjoy it from a fan's standpoint, from going to see The Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Greg Allman and Dr. John, but also just to be able to play was such a thrill. We talk about the competition, and we really felt that we were the kind of band that would [present] ourselves well at an outdoor summer festival like that. It was just a lot of fun to play for all of those people. It was great.
Throughout the journey to first place in the Choose the Cover competition, you got to meet a lot of interesting, well-known people such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Jimmy Fallon. Who did you guys have the most interesting experience with and why was it the most interesting?
We definitely had a lot of fun hanging out with Kid Rock. The guy knows how to party, obviously. We also met Graham Nash and David Crosby at the Rolling Stone offices one time when we were there, and that was tremendous because we're huge Crosby, Stills and Nash fans! It was an awesome exchange where we told them we're from Saskatoon, and Graham goes, "Oh, Joni's from Saskatoon," referring to Joni Mitchell. We were like, "Yeah, she's the best." He sort of got this far away look on his face like, "No shit," like he was still hurting over this burned lover that he had from the past. It's just kind of cool when you see your icons be human in person. It's kind of a neat thing.
You guys have won quite a few awards like the CASBY Awards and the Western Canadian Music Awards. How has the band grown as you've collected those awards?
Awards are nice, and we're appreciative of the votes that people gave us, but ultimately you get into music to make the music you want to make. So as long as people are coming to your shows and having fun, that's important. But just the fact that we have people that are following us now and are invested in the Sheepdogs and are excited about the music we're going to make, ...you can see it on Twitter and Facebook, and you can also see it when you go to the shows and talk to people. It's awesome because we're music fans, and we love following bands, and we love great albums and songs and going to live shows. It's so awesome that people are feeling that way about us.
Your following has grown over so many years. It must have been crazy for it to suddenly grow so quickly.
It definitely was a quick spike. We were joking that it's been seven years that we've been working for overnight success. I think we're pretty well-prepared for it in some regards because most of us are 27, and [we've spent] a lot of years grinding out gigs and [gaining] a lot of experience. It hasn't thrown us for a loop or anything. But there are still some things where at certain shows there are a lot of people wanting our attention, especially in Canada. We're learning that sometimes you just have to say no when people are wanting your photograph because you have to go somewhere else. But for the most part, I feel like we're taking it in stride pretty well.
You guys are opening for Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears here in Phoenix. You've also toured with Kings of Leon. What do you think of them as people, despite all of their recent controversies?
Well, all I can tell you is what I experienced. They played all their shows, they [conducted] themselves well, and they were friendly to us. I didn't really see any of the drama that derailed their U.S. tour. They're almost in a different world; they're so massive in terms of their popularity and their radio play. They've been doing it since they were young. They came up a different way than we did, so it's a different world than us. But they were fun.
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Now that you've conquered the cover of Rolling Stone, what's your next mission?
There are all these people watching us, so basically the next step is to come through with the goods. Step one has been to keep playing live shows and show everybody that we know how to play live. But I think what everybody's waiting for is the next album, and that's what we'll be starting in January, with the production beginning then. It should come out some time next year. We have a lot of different musical ideas for songs that we're going to play. [We just have to] sit down and sift through all of them and see what kind of takes shape. And then as the album takes shape, then [we'll see about] a title and theme and all of that kind of stuff.
It's definitely going to have a lot of the same things. I don't think it's going to confuse anybody. It's not going to be a difficult second record or anything like that. We try to keep it in the same vein but without repeating ourselves. We'll try to do some different things, have some new colors, and maybe a few different tones and instruments. More or less, it'll be the same style.