Success gives Sheepdogs something to prove

Band's first album with major label 'beefier'

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If you go

What: The Sheepdogs, in concert.

When: 9 p.m. Oct. 13.

Where: The Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., Portland.

Cost: $12-$13 through Ticketfly, 877- 435-9849 or ticketfly.com, for those 21 and older.

Information: 503-231-9663 or dougfirlounge.com

The Sheepdogs won a "Rolling Stone" magazine "Choose The Cover" competition to become the first unsigned band to grace the cover of the high-profile magazine in August 2011 — a victory that also paved the way to a deal with major label Atlantic Records.

But don't think that the Sheepdogs think everything is smooth sailing now for their career, especially when the band is just now doing its first headlining tour of the United States.

"We're eager to see what the turnouts are going to be like and if the world of radio and stuff will come around as well," singer/guitarist Ewan Currie said in an early September phone interview. "We won a competition, but you can't just kick back and say, 'Well, mission accomplished.' There's a lot for us to take care of; and a lot of it, too, is just people will probably be suspicious of some band that wins a competition. So just come and see us live, and we're going to prove to you that we're worth your time and your money. We're a kick-ass live band, and I think we can prove it."

Still, the band is in a much better place with its career than it was when 2011 began.

"We were struggling in Canada, and things were starting to slowly get better," Currie said. "But we were 27 and we had been going at it for a long time, spent all of our 20s being broke. The rate that the career was going, it did not look good. I think there was definitely a chance that we might have packed it in and called it a day. But to get this huge injection of life that the competition gave us was great."

Interestingly enough, even though the new self-titled album represented a major step for the group — its chance to build on the exposure of the "Rolling Stone" contest and prove it has the goods to go with the hype — the group found itself with just two and a half weeks to make the CD.

To be sure, the band could have arranged for more studio time if needed. But that would have defeated one of key reasons the Sheepdogs were going into the studio with such a tight deadline — to have Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney produce the CD.

The problem, of course, was that by that time the popularity of the Black Keys was mushrooming, and Carney's only window for producing the album was two and a half weeks in January.

So even though The Sheepdogs didn't have a full album of songs ready to record, the band — which also includes guitarist Leot Hanson, bassist Ryan Gullen and drummer Sam Corbett -- went into the studio ready to make the album happen.

"Certainly the time was tight, but we didn't look at it like it was this (handicap)," Currie said. "We just figured it was time we got to work on it, and let's use the pressure to motivate us."

The Sheepdogs indeed finished the self-titled album in Nashville and accomplished several goals it had for the album, including building a good deal of variety into the album.

The band was known as rooted in a Southern-tinged style of classic rock, and influences such as the Allman Brothers Band or the Marshall Tucker Band are apparent in songs like "In My Mind," "Alright OK" and "How Late How Long." But the band also has songs that show a poppier side, such as "Laid Back" (Currie is a big Beatles fan, as well) and more of a hard-hitting rock dimension on "Feeling Good" and "While We're Young."

Currie said the music of "The Sheepdogs," while it shows growth, fits the character of the three albums the band released in Canada — "Trying To Grow" (2007), "The Sheepdogs' Big Stand" (2008) and "Learn & Burn (2010).

"We didn't step out in a brave new direction," Currie said of the new CD. "We wanted to basically tread the same territory but not repeat ourselves. … So I think we did that. It's definitely different because the last album ("Learn & Burn"), we made on my computer using two microphones over a summer. So sonically, it sounds very different. We have beefier sounds, and sonically it's a lot juicier. It doesn't have the same homemade charm of that last album, but it has some sonic improvements that make up for that."

Obviously, the Sheepdogs will be playing songs from the new CD on its U.S, tour. But even though its Canadian albums remain largely unheard in the states, the band won't neglect its earlier material in its shows, either.

"There will be quite a lot of the old stuff just because it's so fun to play live, and the U.S. shows, a lot of new people are coming to hear it, so it's not like they've heard the old stuff over and over again," Currie said. " So we're going to play some new stuff, some old stuff and just make sure it's a real party and a real fun time."