The Sheepdogs' Ryan Gullen talks opening the Junos in the hometown


With the Sheepdogs set to play the Juno Kick-Off Concert on March 12, Ryan Gullen said he wants the band to be "ambassadors" for Saskatoon.

The Junos Awards are back in Saskatoon in March, and some of the city’s favourite sons will be opening the festivities.

The Sheepdogs — the band that originally emerged out of Saskatoon to national and international prominence — will be playing at the official Juno Kick-Off Concert at the Coors Event Centre on Thursday, March 12. The beloved local band will also take part in the Juno Cup hockey game on March 13.

The Sheepdogs are no strangers to the Juno Awards, having won three in 2012 and been nominated for two last year. Bass guitar player Ryan Gullen spoke to the StarPhoenix about what it means to have the Juno Awards in the home town.

Q: Coming back to kick off the first Junos in the hometown since 2007 — what’s the thought process?

A: It’s hard to explain. It’s an interesting thing when something like (the Junos) gets transplanted into a place that’s familiar rather than a place that’s only marginally familiar, like Calgary or Vancouver … it’s very strange to see these people you associate with seeing at a show in Toronto, are suddenly at Amigos or something like that.

Q: Is there a little bit of pride in being able to show off Saskatoon? Now that we’re going to be the hub of Canadian music for a few days, is it fun to show what Saskatoon’s got?

A: Oh, absolutely. That’s kind of the most fun part of it … it’ll be just an opportunity for us to be taking people around to different places, favourite restaurants and bars, taking them some places off the beaten path — there is a certain pride with that. And I think what’s cool about it is it isn’t a thing you get to do as much. And the other thing you have to keep in mind is we have all these friends that are musicians but we don’t get to hang out very often because we’re always on the road … so it’s a really fun thing when you get a whole bunch of your friends from all over the country that will come in to one place.

Q: What do you hope happens this year, with the awards back in town?

A:These types of events, when you’re nominated and you’re wanting to play on the show, those are definitely things that you want to do, but in this sort of situation because we don’t have that same pressure because we’re not “on cycle,” as they say (the Sheepdogs didn’t release new music in 2019), it gives us a good opportunity where we can be good ambassadors … not only helping friends from town navigate that stuff and get them involved, but also helping people from the industry know what makes Saskatoon great and what are some cool spots to check out that maybe are not necessarily in and around the three-block radius of whatever hotel they’re staying at.
Ryan Gullen, of the Sheepdogs, performs at Village Guitar and Amp on Saturday, February 13th, 2016.Liam Richards / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Q: What’s the weirdest question you’re music colleagues have asked you about Saskatoon in the lead-up to the Junos?

A: It’s funny, because it’s a lot of people from Toronto — and obviously, Toronto is so much bigger than Saskatoon — but I think what’s a weird one is that in Saskatoon, everyone drives everywhere. In Toronto, a lot of people don’t drive or they won’t have cars there. The question is always “is this too far?” but I always refer back to — it’s Saskatoon. Everything is like 15 minutes away from each other.

Q: What can Saskatoon offer the Juno Awards festivities that they won’t get elsewhere?

A: The Junos are very much about injecting a big party for a week of all this music stuff into a centre. And it’s always really fun when it’s in a place like Saskatoon. When it’s in a really big city there’s so many different things going on, but when it’s in a smaller centre … when the World Juniors or any of these big events come through Saskatoon, everyone just goes crazy about it. And it’s awesome. That’s what’s so cool about it … I can confidently say that the people of Saskatoon get so excited and so proud to have these events, you don’t have to worry about it being kind of weird or people not caring.