By Erin Donnelly
Photos by Andrew Hartl
The Sheepdogs are one of the best classic rock bands to come out of Canada in a long time, and they continue to spread the work with their most recent album, Future Nostalgia, as well as their current tour. The band consists of current members, brothers Ewan and Shamus Currie, with Ewan on lead guitar and vocals, and Shamus Currie on trombone, keyboards, and tambourine. Bassist Ryan Gullen, drummer Sam Corbett, and guitarist Jimmy Bowskill round out the band.
Show openers, The Beat Cops, also Canadian, got the crowd warmed up with a half-hour set taken from their most recent album, Mean Streets. Despite their position as a support band, The Beat Cops were clearly a hit with show goers.
The Sheepdogs set absolutely killed it, with Bowskill and Ewan Currie laying down classic rock riffs and powerful solos that sounded straight out of the ‘70s. It was incredible to see various band members switch up instruments regularly throughout the show as well, while showcasing each members’ passion and technique. This included Bowskill picking up the steel guitar and Shamus Currie regularly switching back and forth from trombone to keyboards. It’s clear they all possess skilled musicianship that has helped to create a unique rock band.
Their setlist included early material such as The Way It Is and Feelin’ Good, to more recent tracks like I Really Wanna Be Your Man, Bad Lieutenant, Downtown, and Same Old Feeling. After their 20-song main set, they delivered even more with a high energy encore that fans truly enjoyed, including covers songs of the Allman Brothers and Neil Young. The guitar fretwork on these was so impressive that you could almost see smoke from Bowskill and Currie’s fingertips.
Overall, this was the kind of show that any rock and roll fan, of any age, would have enjoyed.
Prior to the performance, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ewan Currie and Ryan Gullen. Check out what they had to say, below the photo gallery of the show.
Erin: Congrats on your recent album Future Nostalgia and its success. Can you tell me the history behind it’s songs, or the inspiration for the album?
Ewan: It’s kind of all over the place. Some songs were written prior to recording; some are written from years past. I think Bad Lieutenant was probably the last song we had written, just before we started recording. Downtown was two songs that got made into one. Jim Gordon is an old song, it’s about a drummer that went crazy and killed his mom, like the real story of the drummer from Derek and the Dominos. He had a million hit sessions. He also wrote the piano coda to Eric Clapton’s Layla. So I just thought it was crazy. He wrote this beautiful piece of music and then also murdered his mother.
Erin: How does it feel to be nominated for JUNO Rock Album of the Year?
Ryan: It’s very cool. We don’t make music to try to get awards or nominations. It’s like a huge amount of people within the Canadian music industry that vote on that kind of stuff, so to get that recognition from our peers and the people around us, it’s a cool honour.
Erin: I read that you recorded Future Nostalgia in a cabin on Stony Lake, ON. What made you decide to record there, especially versus Western Canada?
Ryan: Haha, we’re kind of all over the place. We don’t really have a home anymore. It was just cool to just get away from all the distractions.
Erin: Have you been there before? Is that why you decided on it?
Ewan: Nope, I went because it was suggested by somebody. We just wanted a quiet place where we could go, and just do one thing. We wanted to be secluded, no friends hanging out or coming by, no parties.
Erin: How long were you there?
Ewan: Three weeks. Wake up in the morning, have a quick bite, and go to work all day. So we really maximized the time, like we just worked the entire time we were there.
Erin: Is there any current artists that you want to work with?
Ewan: Ya, there’s this guy Paul Butler, who nobody knows, but that’s about it. I’m not really interested in new music as much.
Ryan: Which is very obvious, haha.
Erin: Is Jimmy Bowskill an official band member, and how did you all meet?
Ewan: For the future he’s playing with us. We needed a guitar player is what happened. We hadn’t actually met, Our guitar tech, Pooch, knew him, and played with him a little bit. When the situation happened where we needed a new guitar player, he said, “I got the guy for you”. So Jimmy flew in, and he’s been killing it ever since.
Ryan: He did two rehearsals with us and then played a string of shows across the US. He’s super positive, he’s a super nice guy, it’s great to have him. Having him as part of the shows we’ve been doing the last little while, is great.
Ewan: And for all the talk about his skill and all the things he can do, what’s badass is that he knows his restraint, and he knows what to play that’s tasty. He knows how to fit in, in the right style.
Erin: Were you in other bands?
Ryan: This is our first band, which is kind of funny. I always laugh about it. None of us were ever in a band, or had habits or sensibilities from previous bands.
Ewan: It worked because, even from that first day we were saying, “We’re gonna make rock music that we like,” like the stuff that we listened to. At that time the first Kings of Leon album had come out, and we thought it was really sweet. Then The Strokes had a couple albums out, so rock and roll seemed like it was pretty cool.
Erin: What’s your favourite song to perform?
Ewan: Well, there’s a song on our new album, called Take a Trip, that I really like playing live. It has a lot of guitar interplay between me and Jim. We do a harmonized guitar.
Ryan: I think my favourite off the new record is Help Us All. We switch it up – Ewan plays the keys and Shamus plays the trombone. It’s really fun to mix it up and people go nuts for that.
Erin: What moment or biggest accomplishment helped you to realize that you were really making it as a band?
Ryan: Quitting our day jobs was a big one. We did do music full time but we also had to work jobs so that we could pay our rent. So ya, the moment we did that, that was a big one.
Ewan: Going back a bit before we did any Rolling Stone stuff, we had a really good show at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg. It was like a city we had gone to over and over so we had a little fan base, and we headlined the theatre and sold a really good number of tickets. It was organic and simple, grass, and it was the first time that we had built a fan base outside of our own city.
Erin: What were you doing at that time for part time jobs or school, what were you going into?
Ewan: I was a bartender, mostly.
Ryan: I did various jobs working with people with disabilities, as a support worker. It’s a good job, it’s a hard job, and it’s very very polar opposite to playing music. There’s certain aspects of it that I miss, that I enjoy, but obviously travelling around and playing in a rock and roll band is pretty fun. Hard to pass up.
Erin: What do you like to do in your downtime?
Ewan: I watch a lot of sports. Football, basketball, baseball. I like to cook. When we’re on the road, we’re out living it. We party a little bit, and we try to see the places that we’re playing in, but off tour I hang out at home, watch some sports, and listen to records.
Ryan: Do nothing, haha. See all the people that you’re missing out on when you’re out travelling.
Erin: Okay, that’s about it. Thank you very much for your time.
Ewan and Ryan: No problem!