Interview: The Sheepdogs

Photo by Vanessa Heins

Photo by Vanessa Heins

Under The Rockies photographer Joshua Platt and I had the opportunity to interview The Sheepdogs' drummer, Sam Corbett, before an incredible show at MacEwan Hall. The group confidently rocked the hall by opening with, “Where Can I Roam” and closed with their classic, “I Don’t Know” before following up with an outstanding encore, which included The Allman Brothers tune “Whipping Post”. From the opening riffs to the closing solos, everybody in the hall was either dancing, jumping, crowd surfing, singing along with the band or performing some combination of the four. The band never let up the whole night, and only took a few breaks in the set lists to thank the audience or grab a quick drink. Hours before the stellar show, while the band was getting ready, we sat down with Sam Corbett and had a laid back and rewarding conversation.

Under The Rockies: Congratulations on your Juno nomination for Rock Album of the Year, what is it like for you to be nominated for potentially a fifth Juno award?
Sam Corbett: It’s interesting. I don’t think we are going to win, because we are up against Bryan Adams and Nickleback, but you never know, we might. The first time we were nominated for the Junos, we were nominated for three, we couldn’t make it to the ceremony, and we won all three. The next time we were nominated for three and we went and we lost all three. We are not going this year, because we’re actually going to be in Europe so I think that’s a good sign. I was thinking back on how we actually won in 2011 for single of the year and now the nominees are “Hotline Bling”, “Sorry” and one from The Weekend. Those are some of the biggest songs in the world so lets just say we wouldn’t be winning it this year. 

Since you’re from Saskatoon, were on the cover of Rolling Stone as an unsigned Canadian band a few years ago and won all those Juno awards, do you find different energy levels and different behaviors when playing Canadian shows, rather than when playing shows in Europe and the U.S.?
Definitely. We always like touring in the States and Europe because it's often places we’ve never been before or we haven’t been very often. It’s nice to do different things, but we don’t play any shows there where the energy even compares to an average Canadian show. The response is much better here, with bigger and just wilder crowds we don’t find that anywhere else. We’re hoping to grow overseas and in the States but, right now, it’s always great to have Canada as a nice home base. 

I’ll try to ask you questions you don’t receive all the time and I’ll keep it light. That said, as a band or personally, what is your favourite song to play that isn’t a Sheepdogs song?
Right now we are doing a cover of The Allman Brothers song “Whipping Post”, which we just started doing for this Canadian tour and we’ve never played it before. I had played along to it, just practicing it on the drums, and I always thought it was a super fun song to play and I think everybody is on the same page with that. We do it in our encore, everybody loves doing it, and it gets a good reception from the crowd. 

Similar to that, what was the first album or live performance that blew you away and that you can clearly remember?
Legal drinking age in Saskatchewan is 19. So just after I turned 19, my first show in a bar was watching The Sadies. I had played in high school band and stuff like that, but I wasn’t really thinking about, well there was a lot of things at this time that led towards us forming a band, but this was an important moment for me. Seeing The Sadies rock this bar, Amigos in Saskatoon, was my first time being in a bar and first time being able to drink. It just started leading me, us, towards forming a band. 

How does it feel to be a highly sought after act across Canada for Grey Cup festivals, playing the Gold medal game at Pan Am and for Blue Jay games where one of you gets to throw the first pitch? What’s that like?
It’s cool, just all the experiences you get to have. Playing shows is great but being able to be at the Grey Cup when the Riders were playing in it and they were in Regina and they won, that’s something most fans don’t get to experience. Or throwing out the first pitch, I met Roberto Alomar that day and Ewan called a home run on the radio broadcast. They’re just experiences I would never have had I remained a shoe salesman, that’s for sure. 

The way you guys recorded Future Nostalgia used a very unconventional approach. Was the experience of recording in a rented lake house rewarding enough to repeat a similar process, or would you guys use a more typical recording process in the future?
You know I think one of the reasons we wanted to record it this way was because it was a completely different experience from what we had done before. We had recorded albums in Saskatoon and an album out in Nashville so I think we just wanted to get out of the city, get away from everything and totally do it ourselves. We are all about doing different experiences and trying things different ways so I think next time it might be something different. We haven’t a 100 per cent planned out what we want to do but we want to keep recording music as quickly as we can and put it back out. So something different probably, I would say.

Again to lighten things up, what is the craziest thing to happen to you guys while on stage?
The one that I think of is that we played basically in a rainstorm in North Bay Ontario. It was totally sunny when we started playing our set and it turned into a torrential downpour. I turned to the stage manager like, “Should we stop?” but he was like, “Nah keep going!” so we started playing our next song and, halfway through, somebody else came over to me and said, “You guys need to stop right now!” So we thought, “Well we’re going to finish the song,” and we did. It was crazy because everything was completely drenched; we kind of lost some equipment in that show. It was an interesting experience. 

What are some bands that The Sheepdogs would be interested in performing with?
It would be fun to play with some of our idols. We toured with John Fogerty before but there are not a lot of modern bands that would necessarily be a great fit because there is not a lot of rock on the radio. One that comes to mind is My Morning Jacket. I’ve always liked those guys. We’ve seen them a couple times. When we were touring with Fogerty, in Australia, we were in Sydney on my birthday and My Morning Jacket was playing a set that night as well. So we played our set and My Morning Jacket was playing for, like, two and a half hours, so we had lots of time to go over to their show and catch the last hour and that was cool.

You worked on an album with Patrick Carney, how was he?
He’s a great guy. He had an idea about what we should sound like and we had a different idea but they shared an overlap, sort of like a venn diagram. There was a sliver in the middle and I think that’s where the album ended up. That was another reason we wanted to do Future Nostalgia the way we did it. Just not have a big producer produce us and do it ourselves by having Ewan produce it. It was also nice to have a bit more time to record stuff. When we worked with him I think they just released their album El Camino but they hadn’t started touring yet. He had a week and a half off and he did our album during that time. It was great that he fit us in but it ended up being a little rushed.

What are the Sheepdogs plans for 2016 and the years beyond that?
Obviously we have a Canadian tour right now. We will be going back to Europe and, in summer, there will be a lot of festivals, a lot in Canada but hopefully in Europe and the Sates as well. I think we would like to record. Ideally, we would like to record this year but it won’t come out until sometime next year. That will be the plan and we will see how it goes.