The festive season has arrived! Its that time of year where we crank out the Christmas tunes and Sheppard have release their first Christmas song Christmas Without You. Inspired by the separation from loved ones due to lockdowns and COVID-19 travel restrictions over the last two years it’s not your traditional Christmas song but it’s classic Sheppard gushing with raw emotion as well as a sense of hope. Band members and siblings Amy, Emma and George Sheppard chatted to Hi Fi Way about why they wrote the song and their upcoming live show at the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols in Brisbane at The Riverstage on December 11.
You have a new Christmas song out Christmas Without You. My favourite Christmas song is Last Christmas by Wham! because I find it very melancholic yet it has a sense of hope. Christmas Without You has that same kind of vibe. Was it intentional to have a bit of substance because it’s not your cheesy, jolly kind of Christmas song?
George: One hundred percent! We definitely don’t enjoy Christmas songs in a similar way that you’re talking about. We’ve always been asked if we would do a Christmas song or album and it never felt like an authentic or right move for us like (sings) “Here comes Santa Claus!” That felt too cheesy and not authentic so when this song came out, obviously we have a personal attachment to it because we haven’t seen our father in two years as he works in Papua New Guinea. Through Covid-19 and work he hasn’t been able to come back so there’s that element of authenticity for us with this song coming from a place where we miss our dad. We really wanted him to come home and spend Christmas with us so that’s really where the song comes from. We wanted it to be a Christmas song without having all the negative connotations that come with a Christmas song.
At the end of the day, it was a song that wanted to come out of us and it was something that was true to us and that’s where you avoid all that extra cheesiness! There so many families that are going through the exact same thing at the moment so it was an important song for us to write. It needed to be written and I really hope that it resonates with people.
With the song being inspired by your dad, did writing it come naturally and quickly?
Amy: We wrote it in two days. We had to fine tune it a bit because it was a bit too melancholy but we added in that element of hope and we really hit the nail on the head with how we were feeling. I think this whole Covid-19 situation isn’t forever, well we hope, and we are now seeing a bit of light in the tunnel with living with the virus. We wanted to inject a bit of hope into the song and I think we managed to do that in the end.
So having said that what is your all-time favourite Christmas song?
George: For me it’s Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono because it has a similar vibe of it felt Christmassy without being cheesy. It’s just a really beautiful song about unifying the globe, peace on earth, loving your brothers and sisters.
Amy: I would have to agree with that. I’m not really a Christmassy person either. I wouldn’t go out to seek a Christmas album.
Emma: What’s that song…(starts singing ‘All the little…’)
George: There’s a band out of America and they wrote it about LA. Its called Christmas in LA by Vulfpeck and you just have to listen to it! It’s the most funky, upbeat Jackson 5 kind of song. Definitely one of my all-time Christmas songs.
Emma: Yeah, it doesn’t feel cheesy!
George: We’ve also been enjoying Delta Goodrem’s Christmas album Only Santa Knows. We were lucky enough to be invited to perform with her last year for a TV Christmas special. So that album has a special meaning for us.
Speaking of performing live, you’re playing live at the Lord Mayor Christmas Carols in Brisbane at The Riverstage on December 11 and after the last couple of years where performing live was almost non-existent are you excited to perform again?
Emma: Yeah, we’re so excited. I think we were happy to have a bit of a break but then once you have a huge break you just can’t say “oh let’s go on tour!” and that’s when it starts to set in.
George: It doesn’t feel like you’re a band anymore.
Emma: We played a few shows here and there like when we played in Mt Isa we got to perform for forty five minutes and we felt positive again but then you go back to normal life not performing. So, I think it’s going to be really exciting to get back on stage and play with other Australian acts. I think the vibe will be very magical.
George: I’m actually nervous! (laughs)
Emma: Really? I am a bit nervous! (laughs)
George: Because you haven’t been on stage in a while and you’re like “Wait, how do you do that again?” “What do you mean I have to talk to the audience?” (laughs)
Amy: “Don’t look at me!” (laughs)
George: And then you get up there and after thirty seconds you think “oh yeah this is supposed to be fun!”
Your live shows are full of energy. I found myself listening to more of your music through seeing you perform live. Do you think that along with your song writing, performing live is one of your strengths as a band?
George: Absolutely! Yes! It’s what you said. It’s a nice feeling to know that people come and see our shows and then think “Oh actually they’re more than just Geronimo!” because a lot of people know just that song and they don’t even know the name of the band associated with that song. So, people come to our shows and its not until we finish the set with Geronimo that people realise “Oh! It’s that band!” and they really enjoyed the whole set. That’s a huge way we get fans by playing these shows that they haven’t necessarily come to see us but by the end they leave being fans of Sheppard. That’s part of the detriment of the last two years that we haven’t been able to get out there to play live and make these new fans. We can wait to tour Australia and the world and just get out there and keep playing.
How important is playing live? How important are live shows for an artist?
Emma: It’s so important because you get to connect with your fans. We’ve done shows online but its just not the same because you can’t see people’s faces or see if there enjoying it so you can’t connect. We are very lucky that we took the time to write and do other things with ourselves but for bands that solely rely on live music for making their money they would’ve had such a struggle in the last two years.
Amy: I can’t even imagine! We are so lucky that we are songwriters but if we were living gig to gig it would’ve destroyed us so our hearts really go out to the whole music industry at the moment. We hope we can be a part of clawing it back. I think its going to be ok but there’s still a long way to go.
Did you find you were more creative during this time period?
Amy: It has been nice to have that undisturbed time where we didn’t have to jump on a plane to Sydney or have to go on tour. It has been in a weird way a nice break from all of that and a bit of breathing room for us to really get creative. But there’s only so much you can do until you actually do need a break from the writing and creativity. You need to get out there and tour for a bit. It does work like a cycle and once that has been thrown out of whack its hard to just write, write, write and then release without connecting with the fans knowing if they even like the song. We found that challenging.
George: Especially last year where every month we were so busy pouring everything we had creatively in 2020 then the album came out in February this year and usually we’d being touring and be able to travel over to America and Europe doing a year and half/two-year tour. Whereas this year it has fallen flat and we’ve been hanging around Brisbane doing one off shows. I think for this album we’ve done a total of five or six shows which has been really tough because we’ve spent all of last year being creative and we were expecting to be on tour this year. That’s where it gets difficult. It is not an endless well of inspiration and creativity. You need that time for the sponge to soak it up which we usually get by travelling overseas and going to new interesting places meeting different people. It can be difficult to drag yourself into the studio when nothing’s changed. I feel this year’s been a little more difficult than 2020 for that reason.
So, has that changed the way you had to approach your song writing process? Do you normally get together in person or write separately then get together?
George: It’s a bit of both. Amy, Jason and I are the songwriters within the band. It was the three of us that wrote Christmas Without You back in July but otherwise we do Zoom sessions with people in Sweden or LA. It’s fine but it’s not the same vibe being in the same room playing guitars and talking. It’s a completely different kind of energy. It’s not bad but it’s just not the same.
Now that you can start planning tours what’s in store for 2022?
Emma: There might be something in the works that we haven’t announced yet. We will announce it probably early next year!
George: Obviously national touring and internationally is high on the priority list for us!
Interview by Anastasia Lambis
SAT DEC 11 | BRISBANE LORD MAYOR CHRISTMAS CAROLS – THE RIVERSTAGE (CH9 QLD BROADCAST)
Tickets Available from the Brisbane City Council Website
Registrations Are Essential
Entry $5 With All Proceeds To Charity Partner Foodbank