Sheepdogs seek success following cover glory

Entertainment,Robert Fulton

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show sang about it in their 1973 song "The Cover of the Rolling Stone," but the Sheepdogs have lived it.

The Canadian rootsy rock 'n' roll band Sheepdogs, whose sound could be called Americana if not for the fact that they're from north of the border, won a "Rolling Stone Magazine" cover contest last year. Atlantic Records and the magazine recruited the group, one of 16 acts to compete, and they ultimately proved victorious in a fan vote for the honor of gracing the cover of the most iconic music magazine in the world.

"It was pretty wild," said Sheepdogs bassist Ryan Gullen. "Throughout the whole competition we really had no idea every step of the way where we were at. When we found out, it was really exciting."

The Sheepdogs
Where: Rock 'n' Roll Hotel, 1353 H Street NE
When: Doors 8 p.m., show 9 Friday
Info: With Black Box Revelation; $15;

The Sheepdogs perform Friday at the Rock 'n' Roll Hotel.

"It was so surreal," Gullen said, adding the band saw a display of the issue they appeared on, as well as a billboard in New York's Time's Square. Gullen added that the exposure has allowed the group to mine new fans in the States.

Not that the Sheepdogs are some sort of packaged group or marketing ploy. The band formed in 2006 and has four full-length albums to its name.

Gullen relayed stories of early struggles, including losing money while touring, 34-hour drives from the group's home of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to Toronto, and trying to find out where the band, which boasts elements of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, fit into the modern mainstream music business.

"The biggest struggle was figuring out where we fit into things and having enough money to make it a full-time job," said Gullen, who worked a job assisting people with disabilities to transition to independent living. "Right until the weekend we were on the cover we were working jobs back home in Saskatoon."

A fan vote and a cover shoot more than a year can only take a band so far. Luckily for the Sheepdogs, their self-titled major label debut, which came out earlier this month, is 44 minutes spread over 14 tracks of tight, melodic, incendiary rock 'n' roll. Patrick Carney of the Black Keys produced the album.

Gullen estimates that the Sheepdogs spent 11 out of 12 months last year on the road, and are heading for a repeat this year. He said this stems from the band's refusal to rest on its laurels, that despite already making the cover of "Rolling Stone," they still have work to do.

"The biggest thing is the spotlight and now we know we've got to hustle," Gullen said. "We've always been a hardworking band. We want to get out there and get more people into our music."

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