Stampeding with … Ryan Gullen from The Sheepdogs

After a long road trip, it’s always nice to kick back with friends and unwind a little.

True, The Sheepdogs will still be working when they hit Calgary for a show at the Big Four Roadhouse, Sunday, July 7, but it will be a little more chill than the past year and a half spent on the road.

The Saskatchewan new classic rockers are nearing the end of touring the globe to support their 2018 release Changing Colours, with just a dozen or so of mainly outdoor, mainly Canadian festival dates well spaced throughout the summer.

It’s a time that bassist Ryan Gullen and the rest of the ’Dogs — Ewan Currie, Sam Corbett, Shamus Currie and Jimmy Bowskill — are looking forward to, as it not only slows down the pace, but it lets them catch up with fellow members of the nation’s music community in a pretty casual setting.

The Stampede show, for example, is an astoundingly excellent collection of acts that they’re very familiar with, such as Corb Lund and The Sadies, with whom they’ve played together “many, many times over.” The rest of the lineup — Whitney Rose and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings — are also part of the family that Gullen and Co. are eager to share some time with.

“The music scene in Canada is a very close-knit one,” the musician says. “You end up just hanging around everyone, whether it’s at festivals or events or things like that, you get to know each other. And everyone’s always trying to build each other up and support each other — it’s a very supportive community.

“So when you get to do shows like this one it’s kind of an excuse to hang out and drink some beers and play some music with buds. It’s the best part of when you travel and you’re touring around, it’s nice when you can do things at home and hang out with pals that you don’t get to see very often.”

Prior to the local show, Gullen spoke with theYYSCENE about all things Stampede.

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

A: Oh, that’s a hard one. I think this might be our sixth or seventh time at the Stampede. It’s funny, being from Saskatchewan I knew lots of people that went to the Stampede, but I never went to the Stampede until I played at it. So the only times I’ve been has been the times we’ve played.

Q: When you’re here, I know you’re performing, but is it something you get into and enjoy, or is it one of those things where you get in and get the hell out?

A: I think a lot of the times it’s get in and get out. It’s such a crazy, crazy time … We typically are just in and out, but a couple of years we have been there for a few days, whether it was playing a couple of different shows or being there early and playing, but it’s a little bit much for me. (Laughs) It’s fun being on stage and it’s fun being in the atmosphere in that setting, but it’s a little bit overwhelming, I find. Maybe that’s just showing my age a little bit or something — maybe if I was 19 I could see it, but for me it’s a little bit much.

Q: Maybe not specific to Stampede, but what’s your favourite midway food?

A: I’m pretty partial to beaver tails, I’m pretty into that. And corndogs, as well, I really like.

Q: With a corndog: mustard or ketchup?

A: I like to do both, I like a little splash of both and mix them together.

Q: Speaking of food, have you ever eaten a prairie oyster?

A: I have not, no. I have been fortunate not to have ever been offered one, so I’ve never even been given the opportunity, which I’m OK with. (Laughs) … I probably would turn it down, but I’ve never even had to.

Q: Hopefully someone will read this and rectify that this weekend. Are you a rides person and if you are, which one?

A: I’m not. I really don’t like rides. I ride motorcycles and I like driving fast on motorcycles, but I like to be in control. But I never really enjoyed rides .. I’d go to the Exhibition in Saskatoon when I was a kid — that was a big day because I would always go with my friends and I’d hate it. So when I was old enough to be, “I’m not going to go,” that was a big moment for me.

Q: OK, because you’ve played it so much, what’s your craziest Stampede memory or experience?

A: Again, it’s always just the shows. The one really cool one for us was when the mayor gave us the white hats at our show. We had come and played Calgary, did the flood relief show after the big flood, and the following Stampede we played and the mayor gave us our white hats, which is pretty cool to have the mayor come up on stage … That wasn’t crazy, just a cool memory to have been given the hats and the whole process. 

But the shows are just usually wild. We’ve done the Coke Stage a bunch of times and a couple times at Cowboys, but I think it’s because everyone spends the whole day partying and drinking and by the time you play everyone’s pretty ripe and ready to just go nuts. So it’s always just crazy shows and people being wild, which is something that you can always look forward to when you’re in a band is really getting that energy back from the crowd.

Q: Which leads me to the final question: What’s your best song to rev up a Stampede crowd, what’s the go-to?

A: Probably Feeling Good, that’s one that gets people revved up. And then we have other songs like Nobody that are a little bit more chill and vibey, where people can just sway around to, especially if they’ve been drinking all day and they don’t need to get too revved up and they just need to sway away a good seven minutes of guitar jamming. So that might be a little bit more in line with being in the sun all day and drinking beers.

Q: You said, “if they’ve been drinking all day” as if that would be a question.

A: (Laughs) Yeah, there’s not much of a question. The last time we were there, we played last year, but we just did a private show, and I was trying to find something to eat at 10 o’clock in the morning and there were people that were already drunk, they’d been drinking at a pancake breakfast or something, and I was like, “Oh, God, that’s such a long day.” (Laughs)

Q: You’ve got to pace yourself.

A: Oh, God, big time. I’m not one for day drinking, myself, I’ll mainly just stick to the evenings, but if you’re that drunk at that time in the morning, that just makes for a long-ass day. There’s many naps in your future, I feel like, if that’s the case.

(Photo courtesy Mat Dunlap.)

The Sheepdogs perform Sunday, July 7 at the Big Four Roadhouse.