The Sheepdogs Refer To The Late Gregg Allman As ‘The Real Deal’

Photo by Vanessa Heins

If Sheepdogs bassist Ryan Gullen can find any kind of solace in the recent passing of Allman Brothers Band founder Gregg Allman late last month, it is that the legend’s music will live on, even if Allman is no longer a part of this mortal coil.

While the influence of the Allman Brothers Band was arguably more pronounced on The Sheepdogs’ earlier efforts, undertones of the group continue to resonate through their most recent albums like 2015’s Future Nostalgia and 2012’s self-titled album.

“The impact that he and the Allman Brothers had upon us as a band is nothing short of incredible,” Gullen says in advance of The Sheepdogs’ imminent return to Moncton. They will perform at the Tide & Boar Ballroom on Friday night.

“They were really what shaped us into who we are today, and deepened our love of rock and roll, soul, and music from the southern U.S. It’s always a huge loss to see these guys pass away, even when it’s someone that you know that lived hard for many years like [Gregg] did. Their music is how we build a connection to our favourite artists, though, and that’s something that will never go away.”

Gullen says he and his bandmates had the opportunity to see the late Allman perform at the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee in 2011, and recalls the experience was nothing less than earth-shattering for the group.

“There are so many instances of artists and musicians being on the road where they are just a shadow of their former selves. Seeing Gregg was nothing like that at all. I think everybody – the audience and the performers alike – more than likely learned a lesson from him that day. He was the real deal, and it showed.”

Allman’s death is just one of a myriad of artists – David Bowie, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, and Prince, among them – that have passed away over the last two years. Though he is first to admit that his group is nowhere near the same level of stardom as any of those acts, Gullen admits there is something quietly humbling about a band sharing its music with the world.

“At first, you form a band with the hopes of creating something magical with a group of your friends that means something to everyone involved. When you put yourselves out there, sharing what you made with others and subsequently have it elicit any kind of reaction – that’s what makes music so special and shows the power of art. There is perhaps nothing more powerful than being in a foreign country where you might not be able to communicate with someone off stage, but you still have the audience singing along with something you’ve created. There is a power and beauty to that,” Gullen says.

Just last month, Gullen and his bandmates had the opportunity to put his latter statement to the test when the group was invited to perform in Kazakhstan, as part of an event to bring the sport of hockey to children in the country.

“There are countries from all over the world doing business in Kazakhstan, including Canada. Canada’s ambassador wanted to try to give something back to the country,” Gullen says. “They put together an event promoting Canada and hockey to citizens in the country, while also raising money for 150 kids to be able to enroll in the sport that might not have been able to otherwise.”

Gullen isn’t sure if and when the band will return to the former Soviet republic, but says the group was grateful for the opportunity to see a different part of the globe.

“It’s one of those things we have done that I don’t think any of could have ever dreamed we would have the opportunity to do. Overall, having been chosen to represent Canada, and the experience itself was a once in a lifetime kind of thing. We are beyond grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given.”

Similar opportunities may be coming The Sheepdogs’ way before long. The bassist notes the group recently completed recording its next full-length effort, which they are hoping to release later this year. Compared to the combined five weeks span in which their last two records were made, Gullen says the group took upwards of six months to bring their still to be named album to life.

“No matter where you’re at as a band, people are always curious about the next album and what it’s going to sound like. I think the band could be the worst people to ask though, seeing how we get so embedded in the creation of the album, it’s tough to have an outsider’s view on what the songs sound like,” he states.

“I can tell you that we really took our time to experiment a little more than we have done on our past two records. This is the first record that we’ve been able to leverage [multi-instrumentalist] Jimmy Bowskill’s remarkable talent in the recording process. On previous albums, we’ve thought ‘Oh, this song would sound great with some mandolin or banjo,’ but then go promptly on our way since we didn’t have anyone in the group that could play those parts. Now with Jimmy in the band, we’ve got this remarkable guy that can play more than a handful of different instruments, which in turn helps diversify our sound. It’s an exciting time in the Sheepdogs’ world.”

What: The Sheepdogs with special guest Eastcoast Love Story
When: Friday June 16, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $45. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com/music