Amy Sheppard spoke to Caitlyn Spanner about onstage style, the importance of sticking to your guns, and the international success that comes with Sheppard.
Q: What were you all doing before you started Sheppard and how did the band come together? What was the moment that made you all think, “Hey, we can actually do this!”?
A: Before the band, Emma was in high school contemplating a career in fashion, George was an actor living in Sydney and the rest of us were working hard to make some sort of living out of music. I was studying sound design at university and Dean, Jay and Michael were performing in other bands, developing their skills.
The moment we realised we could probably do this as a career was when George was back in Brisbane on holidays from drama school and decided to help me with a music assignment. We started singing harmonies on that song and our voices blended really well together, so we decided to give it a shot! We were a duo for some time, until we realised we needed to put a full band together.
Q: How do you go about writing a song? Do you all have input?
A: It varies every time. There are three songwriters in the band; George, Jay and myself. Usually one writer will come up with a hook or some chords and the other two jump on board to complete the song. When it comes to recording and performing, everyone adds a unique element or sound by the way they play, and this gives us the style of the songs.
Q: What sort of music do you all listen to? What inspires you?
A: We all have very different tastes but a band we are inspired by is Coldplay. The way they write and the way their live shows [captivate] their audiences is something to be admired. We also listen to a lot of music from the ’60s and ’70s. We thoroughly enjoy raw music and rich harmonies.
Q: Tell me about your new single, We Belong. How did it come together?
A: We Belong was one of the first songs we wrote in LA. We were super excited to be there and the studio we were in was top-notch. We had party vibes running through us and I think that’s where the whole vibe came from. We were super-excited to get new music out after Geronimo and we can’t wait for the world to hear more of what we’ve got in the tank.
Q: What has the support from legendary promoter Michael Chugg meant for your band?
A: Chugg has changed our lives. We couldn’t be more grateful that such a renowned music icon would take a chance on working with a little band from Brisbane. He has believed in our music from the beginning and has introduced us to some incredible people and provided us with some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Q: What’s it like working with family members? Do you, George and Emma have sibling fights? What’s it like working with a family for Michael, Jay and Dean?
A: We actually work really well together. It’s nice to be able to trust the people you work with. That being said, we do fight on occasion, but it’s mostly over in a second and we move on. Typical siblings! Michael, Jay and Dean are practically family too. We have all become quite close over the last few years.
Q: You and Emma have killer style! What do you look for in an onstage or film clip outfit? Do you have help from a stylist?
A: That’s very kind. Thank you! We usually style ourselves but we do get help for video clips and Sheppard photoshoots. For onstage outfits, we usually look for pants, shorts or jumpsuits - something which we can move around in comfortably. We often look for upcoming designers and draw inspiration from the ’60s and ’70s. Cher is queen.
Q: What’s your view on the Australian music scene?
A: There is a great music scene in Australia. We have some of the best musicians here and it’s fantastic that the world is taking notice of many of our artists.
Q: What do you all like to do in your downtime when you come home to Brisbane?
A: When we come home from tour we love to catch up with our family and friends as much as we can. In terms of hobbies, Emma and I usually hit the beach and the gym; George is very into tech and has a new VR gaming set; Jay likes drawing; Michael gets onto the golf course; and Dean enjoys making short films.
Q: In a recent interview, you mentioned you’ve “copped sh*t” in the past for being a pop band. Where is this negativity coming from? Millions of fans worldwide and number one status in several countries would appear to render said sh*t redundant?
A: You’re exactly right. We have loads of fans in Australia and abroad, which renders this comment redundant. The people who love and support our music are the only people who matter to us. As an up-and-coming band, there was a popular belief in Australia that “commercial music” equals “sh*t music” and we felt judged for the kind of music we made, which wasn’t fun.
We always found it quite unfair to [put] all pop music into the one basket. But we stuck to our guns and didn’t change our style to please anybody. It was an important lesson. Never change who you are or what you believe in, no matter how much flak you might get.
Q: You seem to stay very true to your colours and it appears to be working for you, but does the criticism for being a pop band ever make you want to reconsider your style/genre?
A: We just write what sounds good to us. If what sounds good falls into the “pop genre” then so be it. We will always write what feels and sounds right to us and we just hope that other people can relate to it.
Q: What was it like to have your new single, We Belong, chosen as the main theme song for the 2017 My Kitchen Rules promos? What does this extra publicity mean for a song?
A: It was a pleasant surprise! This was HUGE deal to us and we are so grateful that our music was chosen to help promote one of Australia’s biggest TV shows.
Q: You’ve toured the world, had your songs featured in movies, and performed on Jimmy Fallon. What was the band’s proudest moment?
A: We have been so fortunate to have had so many life-changing opportunities. I must say, our proudest moment was when Geronimo hit number one in Australia. It was our first number one and we were so grateful that Australia had embraced our music.
Q: What’s next for Sheppard?
A: We have completed our second album so we are currently rehearsing to go on tour again. We want our fans to have a new experience when they come to see us perform again. This year you can most definitely expect new music and lots of touring from us.
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