According to a recent press release regarding the new release: “The four-time JUNO Award-winning group, who graced the cover of Rolling Stone in 2011 when they made history as the first unsigned band to appear on the cover of the famed magazine by beating out 15 other artists in the Choose the Cover contest (Issue 1137), have expanded their sound on CHANGING COLOURS, encompassing more styles and hues to enhance their trademark beef-and-boogie twin-axe riffs, hooks, shuffles and long-haired aesthetic. THE SHEEPDOGS–Ewan Currie (vocals, guitars), Ryan Gullen (bass, backing vocals), Sam Corbett (drums, backing vocals), Shamus Currie (keyboards, trombone) and Jimmy Bowskill(guitars)–deliver passionate music born out of spontaneity on CHANGING COLOURS, their follow-up to 2015’s Future Nostalgia. Opening up the 17-song album is the euphoric “Nobody”alongside the electrifying “Saturday Night” and the driving “I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be,” the record’s infectious first single.”  We recently spoke with bassist Ryan to discuss the new disc, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out. I appreciate it. There’s a couple of exciting things going on in the world of The Sheepdogs right now. Let’s talk about Changing Colours first. The sixth full length release came out digitally earlier in February, and a physical release is coming as well. What can you tell us about this album that fans of The Sheepdogs may not get the first or second time they listen through this disc?

Ryan: I think the biggest thing about this record was that, we came off the road kind of, with the last record we were on the road pretty much two years straight. We came back and we went kind of right into the studio, with the idea we’re fresh off the road, pretty tight as a band. We wanted to just bang out a record. The last couple records we’ve gone two weeks, three weeks. We kind of set out to do that right off the bat. As we started doing it, we kind of felt like, “We’re not in a huge rush necessarily to bang this out”. We had the time and the resources. We ended up making a decision that we were going to spend more time on this one, and we did it I guess over about three, four months. Kind of working, not every day, but doing shorter days and not really killing ourselves. After a couple years of touring we were pretty worn out. We realized we were maybe not in the greatest place to just bang out a record. What came from that is that the album has a lot of different moods and colors I guess, based on the name, that kind of came out of us working over a long period of time. We were able to start working on a song, and then come back to it. Or in one case, one of the songs, “Born A Restless Man,” which is the start of the medley, we weren’t really getting the sound we wanted in the studio. We thought, “Let’s go out to”, our guitar player, Jim, lives out in the country. “Let’s go to his place and let’s set up a tape machine and drink beer and eat barbecue, and record it kind of live, all of us in a living room kind of style”.  Through the process of that, the album really took shape. We were able to kind of come back to songs, and they would kind of change how they initially were just from us having the time to go back. There is definitely a cutoff when it comes to, you don’t want to, you want to give yourself a limit because you don’t want to go full Chinese Democracy or something like that and take forever. We still got the record done. But it ended up taking a whole different shape than we originally anticipated, and we’re much happier with how it turned out because we were able to spend more time with it. I think that’s probably the main thing that stands out to me. The other big thing is that this is our first record we’ve done with Jim Bowskill, who’s our guitar player. He really brought a lot to the album. People who listen to the record will hear, there’s a lot of different instrumentation on that. We tried to kind of put all sorts of different things on it. But the big addition to him was that he can pretty much play any stringed instrument that exists. He played pedal steel banjo, mandolin, fiddle, viola, and a bunch of other stuff on there. It really added. The way we kind of approach recording is that we always focus on getting the basics down, the drums, the bass, and the structure of the song. Then from there a lot of it comes, where the name Changing Colours kind of comes from is that we always refer to adding color in the studio. That was a really big thing. The color is adding your interesting little parts. Whether that’s different keyboards or different instruments. This is one where we really played a lot with that, and as a result the shape of the record kind of came around. Having Jim be part of this for the first time was a really big thing for us.

Toddstar: You mentioned the medley that kind of kicks off with “Born A Restless Man.” A six song medley is something that’s usually relegated to something like a prog rock band, so to speak. You guys are definitely not in that prog rock vein. Was that something that you guys, as you were writing, you thought, “This is just going to be a medley. This is just going to be something that, it’s seamless. It comes together”? Or was it something you guys did intentionally?

Ryan: It was intentional. I think that, it’s funny because the prog thing is totally apt. But also bands like, some of the early Chicago records. Obviously Beatles, Abbey Road utilized medleys. It’s something that we’ve done on a fair amount of our records because it’s something that, three of our records have medleys on them. We really enjoy, often times it is things that are just kind of little bits and pieces. This one was a little bit more, it’s a little bit more thematic in the sense that the songs are sort of themed together. We really were intentional on how they flowed together and things like that. It’s definitely something we set out to do. It’s something that we really appreciate. Especially when you listen to a record on vinyl and you really get that. You can get the same sort of thing with streaming or on a CD as well. But listening to old records that are some of our favorites and hearing medleys like that, they were just something that we all really loved, so it’s something we set out to do. Nobody is really doing that anymore, aside from the occasional song that flows one into the other. Also in the way we do our live performance, we’re really into flowing songs into one or another, and doing that as well. It’s kind of taken a little bit from the way we perform live as well, in that we want to kind of keep people’s attention and we want to have things be congruent and flow together.

Toddstar: It kind of ties into something you mentioned earlier, is the addition of Jimmy Bowskill. In that if I read it right somewhere, you guys kind of tipped your hat to him and his contributions and everything in the band with “The Bailieboro Turnaround” as part of that medley.

Ryan: Yeah. He’s from a small town in Ontario called Bailieboro, so that’s definitely a tip to him. He had a part writing that song too, so that’s, I mean it’s an instrumental track but that’s definitely where that came from.

Toddstar: This is always a weird question to ask because you get bands who have been around 30 years, you get bands who have been around six years. But you guys have been around long enough to see some of the changes in the music industry. At this point, Ryan, from the moment you guys started, what do you see as the most negative change in the music industry?

Ryan: Well I mean it’s always tough because I think anyone who believes that any industry is not going to change with the advent of technology or anything like that is kind of fooling themselves. I think we saw that in the early to mid 2000’s, when labels failed to recognize the strength of the internet and iPods and how that all changed. I think you can look at it negatively. I think that obviously one of the big negative things is that bands aren’t selling records like they used to. That definitely impacts your bottom line when it comes to, especially nowadays because as a result of that your primary income as a musician is through touring and stuff. But at the same time, I’m not an anti-technology person. I’m not one of those people that really is down on streaming. Yes, it’s shitty that streaming does not pay like record royalties. It doesn’t pay like radio royalties. But I think the biggest thing is that it’s not given a platform for, you can be a band like us that plays music that’s pretty much of an era that is not modern. It’s taken from a time, from the 60’s and 70’s and whatever. But it means that you can find people all over the world without having to necessarily… You think about a band like Smashmouth. Smashmouth had a big hit and there was a time when that was the biggest song in the world, in an era when unless you sounded like whatever was really big on the radio, you were not going to get played. Now we live in a world where we have fans of our music all over the world that, it’s not through radio, but it’s because they listened to a Creedence album on Spotify, and then it’s like, “You might like this”, and they check it out and they’re like, “Oh man. This is a new band that’s, whatever”. I think the negative impact is that there definitely is less money. There’s a bit more of a divide between maybe smaller artists and your Taylor Swifts and people like that. But it’s not really that much. Things show that people still spend the same amount of money on music. It’s just like the revenue streams have changed. But it’s also leveled the playing field in a way where you no longer, you don’t have to go to a record store and have a record store employee tell you, “This is a really cool record”. You can discover that for yourself on YouTube or Spotify or Apple Music or whatever. I think that’s really cool. I come from a small city in the middle of nowhere in Canada, where it was very difficult to find music outside of basically what people were listening to at the record store, and what people were listening to that were in your high school class. Then with the introduction of Napster, that basically shapes who we are as a band. Ewan and I met in high school and we became friends because we were really into music. We were really into old music, like 70’s rock and roll, and funk and soul music. That’s actually basically why our band… But it came from an era where we could go, the early version of going down the rabbit hole on YouTube was, you just start downloading things on Napster. As a result we became much more versed in different types of music and then discovering different artists than I ever would have had I been four or five years older than I am. I think that it’s one of those things that I try to not be negative about. Obviously yes, I wish that I was a millionaire. But it’s not about that. It’s about, I’m able to make a career doing music I like, and not what some bigwig at a record label tells me is, “Three Doors Down has this number one song. You need to write a song like that”. It doesn’t matter, because it’s in level with it. I don’t know. I don’t like to look at it negatively. But I think the biggest impact is just the fact that you have to be a little bit more crafty in the way you do things, and follow along with the digital trends in the sense that you need to market your music differently. You need to look at those things and figure out how you reach those people, because it’s not as easy as just writing a song and getting it on the radio, and suddenly you’re the biggest band in the world. But I’m kind of okay with that because it means that lots of other friends of mine that play maybe not mainstream music, you see people having a lot more success with that. Not just rock and roll, but all genres. I think that’s a really positive thing.

Toddstar: You mentioned YouTube. That’s definitely a vein for a lot of artists to be able to hit when they bring out new stuff. You guys have a new video for “I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be” from the new album. I think right now it’s over 40,000 views. But like you said, a small band out of remote areas in Canada may not have gotten that 25 or 30 years ago, gotten that exposure. When it comes to the video and things like that, because you guys do some cool covers, there’s live stuff up there. But when you’re doing these studio type videos, are you guys trying to just kind of put out who you are? I dug the video because you guys kind of said, “This is who we are”. You’re not looking for visuals. You’re not looking for anything else. You’re just presenting who you are and hoping that resonates with the fans. Is it because that’s who you guys are at the heart of it? Or do you guys like the flash and the bang and all that?

Ryan: I don’t know. I mean, absolutely. That’s a live performance video. I do all of our video stuff. Again, it is who we are because you go through the channels of having people do stuff for you, and you end up becoming kind of like, either be presented as… It is a way that you’re being presented, obviously. YouTube is an avenue that people listen to music. It’s a huge avenue where people listen to music. You want to have things out there to represent you. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain who you are. It’s very easy for people to get caught up in, “Let’s make this video look like it’s from 1970”, and they kind of go over, heavy handed on that or whatever. We like to have fun with what we do. With this record I’ve done, there’s a new video coming out that I directed and edited and produced that’s coming out in the next couple weeks. I made an infomercial for our band that you can find on YouTube as well. I actually registered an 800 number and had it so you can order the record by calling an 800 number. We gave away a free Changing Colours coffee mug if you ordered through the phone number, and it was a whole thing. But it’s like, with that video, that’s just a live performance video because we felt that the live performances of our songs are very strong, and we wanted to represent that, so we went with more of a beat club kind of chroma key screen kind of thing. It’s kind of what our music is like, and it’s kind of a throwback to obviously how bands would go and promote their records when they’d come out. But at the same time it was a very honest representation of who we are as a band, because it’s actually not an edited studio track. That’s us just playing that song, and then me adding the visuals behind it.

Toddstar: That’s actually what drew me in. I’ll be honest. When I got to see the video and hear you guys, and see that you guys weren’t a flash in the pan. You guys actually were a cohesive unit. Because again, like you said, it’s a live piece. That said, you’ve got this song, and there’s some other ones on the album that I like. What songs do you feel best represent who The Sheepdogs are, and will hold up in the long run against other songs in your catalog, that have bee your personal favorites and or fan favorites?

Ryan: It’s funny because, again with this record, in Canada we have a lot of success on radio. We currently are a number one. We have a number one with “Hole Where My Heart Should Be” in Canada. We are conscious of the fact, talking about the Spotify thing, we also have success in radio. We’re conscious of wanting to put out singles. But then I think that for the other people that dig in, there’s other songs that maybe are a little bit more deep tracks, but maybe represent a little bit of growth or whatever for the band but still stand up. I think for me, a song like Nobody is one that maybe would definitely be in there. “Hole Where My Heart Should Be”. One that I personally really really like and I think it’s a little bit different for us, but I think it still stands up, is “Let It Roll.” Which is a song that was a totally different song when we first recorded it, that really took shape with us having the time, like I said, where we spent a couple months working on it. We kept coming back to that one, coming back to that one. It was probably my least favorite song on the record until we kind of came up with a whole new game plan for it, and it kind of became my favorite song on the record, I think. But yeah, a song like “Nobody” is kind of, I always like to think of our music being, good music you can drink some beers and have some barbecue in a backyard to. I think songs like “Nobody” and “Let It Roll” and “Hole Where My Heart Should Be” and “Saturday Night” and things like that kind of all fall into that vein. But there’s a lot of other stuff too, Up In Canada for example, that is definitely a bit of an anthemic kind of vibe song. But again, it’s just laid back and chill at the same time. I think it slots into how we look at our music.

Toddstar: You guys are hitting some tour dates, and you’re actually going to be here in Detroit. What’s it like for you guys to get out on the road? I know every artist wants to create and put the music out there. But do you see the touring part as kind of an addendum to that? Or in your opinion is that where the action is? Not necessarily in the creation, but in getting the art out there?

Ryan: I’m always in kind of two minds about it. I love being in the studio. I love creating. I love the aspect of a bunch of us getting together and doing that. But I think really the best test for music is not putting it out there and just kind of putting your feet up. It’s going out and playing those songs, and seeing the reactions of people. For me that’s kind of the most satisfying part, is when you get to go out and people have an opportunity to listen, and see how those people react to hearing that song live for the first time. Or hearing that song they love from the record that they’re suddenly going to hear and feel, more enjoyable live. Or has some elements to it that maybe aren’t on the record, but we’ve kind of added some different parts to it or we’ve added some solos and interplay on the guitars or whatever. That’s a really big thing for me. The touring part is obviously the work part. It’s exhausting, and you’ve been on tour for whatever, 15, 16, days, and you’ve only had one day off so far. But that’s the part where you go out and you pound the pavement. For us, we want to have as much people as possible listen to what we do and enjoy what we do. I think the best way to do that, especially nowadays, is have a really killer live show and bring it, and play the songs as good as they are on the record, and add elements to them for the live show that make it even more exciting. Getting on the road is kind of the best part, and seeing those reactions, for me.

Toddstar: That’s very cool, that insight. As far as you, Ryan, you’re in a band with some friends and everything else. But if you could step out of that for one second and there was somebody out there that you would love to collaborate with. Whether it was writing, or again because you’re also on the production end of things with the videos and things like that, if there was an artist out there who you could collaborate with, who would be on your wish list?

Ryan: Oh man. I mean, definitely I feel like collaboration as far as music goes, I’ve been in this band for 14 years. Stepping outside of that, I’ve done a few things with friends and stuff like that. But I mean as far as the production side, that’s something I’ve always been into and something I’ve been doing. I don’t know. I don’t know what would be on my wish list. I just like doing things for bands that are cool. There’s this band from California called Apache that are just kind of, they’re a newer band but they’re really great. I’d really like to do something with them. I’m actually hoping in the next little while to be able to do something with them, as far as a video goes. Because they’re, I don’t know. For me it’s like, as a musician I’m probably harder on who I’d want to do stuff with. But it just, I like doing stuff with people that are doing good, cool music and doing great stuff. I don’t know if there would be necessarily a specific artist. That’s an artist I guess that I think it would be cool to do something with.

Toddstar: Awesome. One more question for you, Ryan. Again, I know you’re busy and I appreciate the time that you’ve given me. As a young kid way back, you mentioned how long it’s been, but I think some sites state around 2006 is when the band really got the kickoff. When you first started doing this and decided you were going to be a bass player in a band and get together and do this thing, did you ever in a million years think you’d nail down a Juno Award?

Ryan: No. No, not at all. This band honestly started as three guys who wanted to get together and just play music just for something different to do. I mean, you live in a small town. You’re 18, 19 years old. You basically want a reason to kind of escape just doing the same thing over and over again. We started the band with the idea that it might give us an opportunity to do something that was different than the status quo that was the trajectory we would have been on, being from a small city in the middle of nowhere. I think the biggest thing is that it’s just always kind of grown as we’ve gone along. We’ve kind of taken it as a team. But no, I definitely never thought… My hope was just maybe we might sell out the local bar in Saskatoon. That would be awesome. Obviously to be selling out shows all over the place, in the world, is something, you never expect that. It’s obviously incredibly flatting and humbling to be like, “I’m from this place. But I never thought that I would ever necessarily even leave”. Then to be able to do that with something you’re incredibly passionate about with all of your best buds is really something. You can’t even expect that. Of course you have ideas, like, “That would be so crazy if we did this”. Then you do it and it’s pretty wild.

Toddstar: I can only imagine. Well listen, again Ryan, I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule. I know it’s not easy with the little free time that you get out on the road.

Ryan: No, I appreciate the article man. Thank you so much.

Toddstar: We wish you guys well with Changing Colours. We hope people open their minds, turn on their computers, or run out to the store as soon as the physical are available, and wrap their hands and ears around Changing Colours, and that they buy a ticket when it rolls through town, much like it’s going to do here in Detroit in a few days.

Ryan: Alright. Great. Thanks so much, man. I’ll talk to you soon.






Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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