Stampeding with … James Murdoch from The Dungarees

A good run.

That’s actually a bit of an understatement when discussing the career of Edmonton country act The Dungarees these past few years.

The quintet featuring vocalist James Murdoch, guitarists Robb Angus and Kiron Jhass, steel player Darrek Anderson and drummer Ben Shillabeer, are currently celebrating three Edmonton Music Award nominations and a WCMA nomination for Country Artist of the Year, and just this week got word that they’re up for a CCMA for The Dungarees Christmas Special.

They’ve also just released a new single Don’t Hold Back, which is making noise at country music radio.

Oh, yeah. There’s also that little thing of winning the Project Wild radio station competition in its first year and the $100,953 that came with it

“It’s incredible, man,” says Murdoch with a laugh of that payday. “And it basically allows us to keep doing it. It’s like a $100,000 nudge in the right direction or pat on the back.”

Again, it’s all been part of the slow, steady climb the band has been on over the past more than half decade, and has seen them play stages all across the country, opening for such acts as Reba McEntire, Dwight Yoakam and Blake Shelton, picking up more and more fans along the way with their honest, earthy roadhouse sound.

“It feels good that we seem to be going down a path that people seem to connect with,” Murdoch says.

“We’ve all been playing for so long, we’re certainly not new to this, but you do wonder from time to time if you should be trying to go after something that maybe seems to be the next big thing. But it’s true, you hear from all of these guys who have had honest real success and careers where people appreciate what they’re doing, and the first thing that they’ll have to say is just do what you do, be yourself, and I think we’re finally starting to see why that works. It’s a cool place to be.

“And maybe that’s why it takes so long because you need to find what you’re doing and allow people to, at their own pace, discover that as well.”

Prior to The Dungarees’ Nashville North appearance on Friday, July 13, Murdoch answered theYYSCENE’s Stampede-themed questions.

Q: How many Stampedes have you performed at or attended?

A: Hmmm. Performed at, at least six, I’ve probably attended 10 in total.

Q: Is it something you get into and enjoy, or do you do your thing and get the hell out?

A: (Laughs) Is there a column “C” somewhere in there? We always just take it with a grain of salt, we love it. We always have fun. There are elements to it — the mayhem and the over-the-top aspect of it is ridiculous, but it’s kind of fun to immerse yourself in the absurd. That’s kind of actually our motto. (Laughs)

Q: Are you a rides person? If so what’s your favourite?

A: I am 100 per cent not a rides guy. I don’t care for rides whatsoever and I know at least one other Dungaree, Bob, has a pretty severe fear of heights, so I’m going to guess that he’s not a rides guy, either. But, we just went on a helicopter ride in the Yukon and went up to a glacier in a completely remote area and so if you consider that a ride. Do they have helicopter rides to glaciers at the Stampede?

Q: No, they don’t.

A: Then I’m not a rides guy.

Q: What’s your favourite midway food?

A: Corn dogs.

Q: Have you ever eaten a prairie oyster?

A: Uh, well, no, but I’ve eaten some pretty bizarre things. I think it’s just the opportunity hasn’t presented itself. I have eaten cod semen sac, raw cod semen sac in Japan, and I don’t know if it gets any more gross or weird than that, so if I’ve eaten that I probably would eat prairie oysters.

Q: What’s your go-to song to rev up a Stampede crowd?

A: We’ve been playing this one for years and I love playing Ain’t Living Long Like This. It’s a Rodney Crowell song that was actually made a hit by Waylon in like ’82. We do this powerhouse version of it and it’s so balls-to-the-wall, turn-it-up-to-11 the whole way, so I would have to say that that tune would be hopefully the one that gets people revved up.

Q: Your craziest Stampede memory or experience?

A: Four years ago or five years ago maybe, we played 26 sets in five days. That was cutting our teeth and our gums. (Laughs) So that would be one of the craziest ones that comes to mind. But of course, the first time we stepped out onstage opening for Reba McEntire on the Saddledome stage will be something I never forget ever in my life. That was a game changer.

The Dungarees perform Friday, July 13 at Nashville North on the Stampede Grounds.