To this day, The Sheepdogs are the first and only unsigned band to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone - so the Canadian classic-rockers must be doing something right.
New album Changing Colours sees frontman, guitarists and (you better believe it) clarinetist Ewan Currie expand the band’s well-established blues roots with Motown brass and Latin percussion, while still retaining the swagger-laden licks ’n’ riffs with which they made their name.
We caught up with Ewan to hear about his prized guitars, why Betts is best and just what to do when an audience member is gunning for you onstage…
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My first electric was a G&L Strat copy - I got it when i was 19 and started the band not long after.”
2. The building’s burning down - what one guitar do you save?
“My first Les Paul, a 1973 Custom Cherry Sunburst. I got it back in 2014 and it's been my main squeeze ever since.”
3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without, and why?
“Really it's just the good ol’ Boss tuner, ’cause I'm horrible at tuning by ear.”
4. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?
“When I was starting out and had no money, I dropped 450 bucks on a Silvertone 1484 amp. We were about to go on tour and it was not a very practical touring rig. I took it back the next day and regretted it for years until i bought the same amp in San Francisco for several hundred dollars more and had to check the cab on the plane and carry the head on as carry on luggage in order to get it back to Saskatoon.”
5. And what's the next piece of gear you’d like to acquire?
“I'm always on the look out for another good Les Paul, but lately I've been eyeing up the Gibson Explorers from the ’70s. Been trying to find a clean one.”
6. What’s your favourite chord, and why?
“Cm7, ’cause it's jazzy and classy.”
7. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?
“I've been working on playing with more subtlety, using more finger and pick control. Starting out, I was a real ham-fisted strummer that relied on pedals too much. Now I look at those guys who just use their volume and tone knobs as kind of my inspiration.”
8. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
“Dickey Betts, from The Allman Brothers. He's such an incredible player with expressive solos that incorporate country blues and jazz seamlessly.”
9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
“A big son of a bitch in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was gunning for me and he tried climbing up on stage, but I just booted him right in the chest with my size 13 boot and he didn't try again!”
10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?
“Play more gently and listen to the difference in tone when you dig in versus playing softly. Also, don't play so many damn notes. Space is key.”
Changing Colours is out now via Dine Alone Records. The Sheepdogs tour Europe in June:
22 Jun | Azkena Rocks, Bilbao, ESP | https://bit.ly/2vNr6Ud
23 Jun | Black Deer Festival, Enridge Park, UK | https://bit.ly/2oUhkc3
25 Jun | Globe, Cardiff, UK | https://bit.ly/2I1fOOz
26 Jun | Fleece, Bristol, UK | https://bit.ly/2Jv8Px9
27 Jun | Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK | https://bit.ly/2HxskbS
29 Jun | Borderline, London, UK | https://bit.ly/2HU392u
30 Jun | Actress & Bishop, Birmingham, UK | https://bit.ly/2vOputf
02 Jul | Workman’s Club, Dublin, IRE | https://bit.ly/2HRIqvW