Brisbane chart-toppers Sheppard are announcing the biggest tour of their career today, visiting over thirty regional, metro and suburban communities to celebrate their #1 album Watching the Sky.
With a victory lap that covers far flung communities from Port Hedland to Cairns, to Hobart to Darwin, Adelaide with Foreigner and Cheap Trick in Botanic Park to Newcastle and everywhere in between, the band are heading out to do what they do best—playing live with hits from the new album including Hometown, Coming Home and Keep Me Crazy as well as their multi-platinum smash hits Geronimo and Let Me Down Easy. I had a wonderful chat with Amy Sheppard about the making of the new album and the challenges it came with.
It seems like for Sheppard that the band is riding the perfect wave that does not look like breaking anytime soon?
We’ve been lucky that everything is going great.
Do you feel like pinching yourself with how great it is going?
Everyday! I’m so grateful that we are in this position, for this to pay off is a dream come true.
Have you had much of chance to stop and take stock of how much you have actually achieved?
It can get hard when things don’t go to plan and if you don’t sell out all of the shows you can get down on yourself. I think it is something that we have learnt that you have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We have people coming to our shows! It is hard to take a step back but we do it.
It must be great looking at your passport with all the stamps for all the countries around the world you have toured and some of those places you would have never got to?
I know, I definitely wouldn’t have got to some of them. I used to get upset when some of my friends used to travel the world having a great time but now I’ve got the chance to travel.
Have you been happy with how Watching The Sky has been received?
It is always really nerve wracking releasing a second album from what I hear from other bands. It was really quite a daunting time for us because it is a different sound to Bombs Away and we didn’t know how the audience would receive it. When we released the album it went to number one and was a huge weight off our shoulders. It felt like that we had done our fans proud.
Did you have that moment in the studio playing the final mix back thinking that the band had nailed it or was there a moment of doubt?
I think there was doubt because it had been a long time between albums and we weren’t sure if people were still interested in us or if we had waited to long between albums. I guess there were a lot of people waiting which was nice.
In that four years was it hard finding the right time to get in the studio and focus on making an album?
Definitely! Obviously Bombs Away and Geronimo took us around the world for two years before we could even think about writing or even slowing down. Writing took up a year and then the recording, the time just goes.
Did you try writing on tour or do you need to be one hundred percent focused?
Honestly, we found it really challenging to write because we were so slammed every minute of the day. You would end up in bed at 1am then have to be up early for a morning show, some days we would only get one hour sleep. By the time you get some time off you just don’t feel creative. We did get a huge amount of writers block when we finished touring. Management, the label and everybody was wanting new music and we were just drained and couldn’t write anything for a really long time. It was something we had to connect as writers before we could come up with anything.
How did you get through the writers block?
We ended up going to Stradbroke Island and got a beach shack. George, Jay and I… none of the songs we wrote made it on to the album but we knew just to be creative, a lot of the time we were starting songs and throwing them out because they weren’t going to be as good as Geronimo or thinking someone from the record company would say that this wasn’t going to work. We took the time in Stradbroke Island to write what we wanted and finish a couple of songs rather than just throwing them in the bin because they weren’t poppy enough or catchy enough. That trip was really important for us.
With the second album blues in mind did you think that people were almost expecting a Geronimo II?
Totally! We tried to not let it get to us and when a couple of songs were knocked back by people in our team that’s when you start thinking oh god what are we going to do, we’re not enough, it was just a fluke. That’s why Stradbroke Island was great as we were shut off, no internet and just writing for fun and bring the fun back in to it.
Has the creative process continued to alleviate some pressure when you start thinking what might be album number three?
We have some leftover songs but I don’t know if we will save them, there some leftovers from Bombs Away still sitting there that we’re probably not going to use. We might have to take some time to find a place for those songs for another artist or as jingles I suppose. With the next album, I don’t know whether we’ll release another b-side or being at that stage about what we’ll do with the extra songs. I think we work best when we focus on the tour and get through the tour cycle and then start going in to the creative writing process rather than trying to spread ourselves to thin.
Going back in time this is a question I have always wanted to ask but when you recorded Geronimo did you think right then that this song would be so special and take off like it did?
I would get goose bumps every time we would play it back. Every time our producer Stuart would hit the space bar and listen do it, it would be like oh my god! It was so exciting that we just needed the opportunity for people to hear it. At that stage we were trying to be let down easy in terms of people getting to hear it so when it was released it went to number one, it was a huge surprise to us and we weren’t expecting how big it was going to be.
Is the expectation even greater now with whatever the band decides to do next?
We definitely use it to push ourselves and we’ve grown past the phase of writing songs to a formula or for radio. We write what feels good and that seems to work for us and that’s the path we have chosen.
What has been the biggest highlight of 2018 for you?
It has to be the ARIA number one, just having something that you have worked so hard on do so well, we didn’t expect it to go to number one, we were feeling nearly down on ourselves because we were doubting ourselves a little bit and when Australia got behind us and got it to number one it did take us by surprise. We were all in tears and that was definitely the highlight of my year so far.
The tour coming up is absolutely huge, you must be excited?
Really excited, it’s thirty plus something dates now! It is going to be our biggest tour ever but looking at the list there’s so many good shows coming up and I can’t help but be excited for it.
In Adelaide, playing with Foreigner and Cheap Trick doesn’t get any bigger than that?
We know Foreigner’s songs from way back and it is crazy to think that listening to those songs as a kid that never in your wildest dreams that you would be playing the same stage and meeting these people. It will be a big crowd to, hearing that many people sing your song back to you is the best thing in the world.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Sheppard with Foreigner and Cheap Trick in Adelaide
Or around the country on the following dates…