Sheepdogs inspired by San Francisco

Courtesy PhotoFruitful break: After a busy 2011

Suppose you’re Saskatchewan rock outfit The Sheepdogs. You spent 2011 vying in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Choose the Cover” contest, then – after winning, earning a contract with Atlantic Records – filming offshoots like “Project Runway.”

In between, you squeezed in festival gigs, two back-to-back U.S. jaunts and a Canadian tour of 25 shows in 27 days.

So naturally, you’re going to Disneyland, right?

Not exactly, says bandleader Ewan Currie.

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To catch his breath and tinker material that would become The Sheepdogs’ new self-titled, Patrick-Carney-produced album, he took a different inspirational trip. Last Christmas, he flew to San Francisco alone, spent a week taking in sights, then returning to his Nob Hill hotel room to solder together the riffs, melodies and lyrics he brought along.

“It was a matter of getting the time when I’m not around the other guys, not doing radio interviews and soundchecks – just a chance to have a completely blank day where I can sit down at my leisure and turn these ideas into songs,” he says.

Currie, 28, hit paydirt. His bluesy drawl colors great, Skynyrd-beefy new tracks like “Ewan’s Blues,” “I Need Help” and lead single “The Way it is,” whose gallows-humored video features The Sheepdogs crushing a hapless little league team on the diamond.

“We had such a crazy stressful year, and I think some of those stresses came out in the music,” he says. “So I think the album just sort of represents where we’re at right now.”

Currie fell in love with The City two years ago, when he vacationed here with an old girlfriend. He came back few weeks ago to find some peace before heading out on perpetual tour backing “The Sheepdogs,” the quartet’s fourth.

But he’s over the tourist attractions. “I love all of the separate neighborhoods that you can cruise through, and that there’s so much variety,” he says. “I walk everywhere I go there, like from the lower Haight through the Mission, just to get some good Mexican food. And I went to the Swan Oyster depot, and that place is insane, just fantastic.”

Mainly, Currie enjoyed the anonymity of it all. “In Saskatoon, you walk around with long hair and a beard and people look at you sideways,” says the Rolling Stone cover honoree. “But in San Francisco? I’m not even close to being a crazy-looking dude out there!”

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