Interview – The Dungarees

The Dungarees, hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, are more than a “country through and through” band. James Murdoch, Robb Angus, Kiron Jhass, Darrek Anderson and Ben Shillabeer who make up The Dungarees, will tell you that they are a true-grit country music band. But, there is a bit more than that to them than just being a country music band. The Dungarees (I felt that is was important for everyone to know) also believe in giving back to the community. Each year, at their “Gigathon,” they perform for 24 hours straight to raise funds for the patient financial assistance program for The Alberta Cancer Foundation. As of June 2018, they’ve raised over $30,000. This program supports those in need while undergoing cancer treatment. And, because this is so important to them, the generosity of these five men, this philanthropic endeavour has helped the program immensely.

Partly because of their 2016 Project WILD win, where the band pulled down a $100,000 cheque to help with industry development, many doors have been opening for The Dungarees and they are becoming one of Canadian country music’s fastest rising stars. They are signed to Road Angel Entertainment in Canada and Australian label Social Family Records. The Dungarees really have been making a splash in the country music scene. In 2017, with their single hit “Anywhere With You,” these talented artists won three ACMA Award wins  – Group of the Year, Video of the Year and Rising Star.

Here’s a bit about “Twenty Something.” This song reminds me of Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink.” But this is what has been said about this song.

“It’s a sentimental tune that explores the nostalgia of growing up and moving forward in life. With the melancholic tones of the chorus, “it’s credit cars, it’s college bars, then bigger houses, faster cars, just trying to be somebody but you end up somebody else,” the lyrics are reflective of yearning for who you used to be and accepting who you’ve become.”

Says lead singer James Murdoch,

““Twenty Something” is somewhat of a departure for The Dungarees.  The last year has been challenging for the guys in the band, having lost family members and close friends. That contemplative emotion is reflected in the song “Twenty Something.” It’s a song about the everyday beauty in life and embracing them moment. The result is a powerful song that speaks to everyone, at any age from one to 90-Something.”

I was able to chat with The Dungarees about their new single and video and about their life. Here’s what they had to say.

Hey guys. Let’s start off with some questions about your recently released single, “Twenty Something.” It really is a beautiful, nostalgic and meaningful ballad. Can you tell us how that song came about and what it means to you?

Originally we were going to record the song with a legendary Nashville producer that we worked with a few years back, and at the time it just wasn’t the right choice for us, based on what we were trying to put out there musically. The song was brought up again in our last go-round in the studio, and producer Russell Broom really loved it, and believed that we could do something special with it. It sure didn’t take much convincing from Russ, because we all really loved the song; it’s beautiful and meaningful, so we decided to put the song in Russ’s hands and allowed him to steer us through his vision for what the song could really be. We think that song itself is a great testament to what a song can become when a producer and a band truly commit to the collaboration and development of a song.

It was released on June 6. How has the response been and what do you hope listeners will take away from this single?

The immediate feedback has been overwhelmingly meaningful. We would say more so than any other single we’ve released, this one seems to be resonating with people on a very personal and emotional level. The message of the song clearly is hitting people the way it was intended to, and that’s a really rewarding feeling to know that we seem to have gotten it right.

Now on to the video for “Twenty Something,” was just released. Tell us a bit about the concept for it. It seems to be a very special video.

It really is. We wanted the video to mirror the storyline of the song, which is that as we all move through life, we experience a variety of things; love, heartbreak, making mistakes, getting wiser … basically growing up, until you grow old and look back on it all in both a wistful and nostalgic way. So, it was important to us that that came through in the video. Video producer Jay Lawrence really nailed it and shot a beautiful, single frame concept that we felt captured the concept of time passing, and it featured a variety of people of all ages and backgrounds. He tied it together perfectly – it’s a video we’re very proud of and excited for the world to see!

You have a lot of people in this video. Family and friends?

Entirely! Which is another reason this video is really special to us. Everyone in the video is a family member, a friend or a musician friend of ours. It was a fun shoot having so many people who are close to us, in the same room for the day. The youngest is our drummer, Ben’s little daughter and the eldest is Kiron’s, wife’s grandmother.

You are about to embark on an Australian tour. When will that be and for how long?

We head down in mid-August for a festival that we’re really excited for, called Gympie Muster, and we have some other show dates squeezed in there are the festival as well. It will be about two weeks long. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to do some recording while we’re there also. Andrew Farriss from INXS has become a friend ours and he wants us to save some time to come see him at his ranch and studio and get some songs recording done.

What can your fans there expect to see from your live performances?

We work really hard delivering an up-tempo, exciting show. It’s a rare Dungarees show if the crowd doesn’t get into it early and get up off of their seats. The harmonies are at the forefront of the performance and it’s become our signature as a band. We just love being on stage, playing music and we’ve been told that our enthusiasm is infectious.

How will this tour be different from past tours there? Especially, with your recent loss of your good friend and mentor, Glen Hannah.

Yeah – this will be a tough one with Glen being gone. It will be the first time we’ll be seeing all of our Aussie friends since his passing, so that’s going to be tough. Glen’s fingerprints are all over the country scene in Australia. We can’t imagine anyone there was left untouched by his work, his generosity and his brilliance. We were just talking the other day about what we might expect and we can’t imagine that it won’t be anything other than a really wonderful tribute to him. We miss him terribly.

What is the most important thing you have learned about being a touring musician?

I think the two things that we’ve taken away from my years touring, would be:

  1. It’s important to be a good teammate. It doesn’t take much for one person to accidentally or selfishly create hardship for the rest of the group if you’re not prepared or being considerate that there’s a larger picture. I can admit I didn’t always get this right over the years!
  2. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; we’re pretty much all the same. People are generally good, they want to have a good time, and music is a wonderful way to find common ground and similarities. It’s a pretty immediate uniting force!

Do you know what your average day will look like when you’re in Australia? (including the fun times when you have some time off?)

Touring Australia is actually very similar to Canada. The distances between the shows are very far. At times you’re driving up to eight hours between shows. So there will be a fair about of time spent on the bus. But it’s a beautiful country so we get to see some very nice vistas. We have a bit of time off and we hope to get through the wine region known as the Hunter Valley. It’s home to some of the finest Shiraz in the world. But just in case that sounds too fancy for some, Australia also has an amazing craft beer scene. Chances are, we’ll have to make a pit stop at a few of those pubs too! We’ll also be spending some time at INXS member, Andrew Farriss’s ranch. We’ll be doing some recording with him and hopefully kick back for a day but chances are, he’ll probably put us to work on the ranch!

Let’s just have a little chat about The Dungarees so those who don’t know who you are, can.

What have you learned about your career and fans now that you’ve been at this for a while?

It’s true, we’ve been at this for a while, but we’re still learning new things from our fans and from each other every day. The universal truth, it seems, is that everyone wants to relate and feel connected to something. We have an enormous privilege of being able to connect with our fans as they share the experience of our music with us. We think we’ve also found that people connect the most with music that has an honest emotion. We’ve never pretended to be anything we’re not. At times, that may have kept us from releasing a song that had potential commercial success. But we would never have been able to truly deliver or perform a song that we didn’t feel was an honest representation of who we are as musicians. And, we think the fans respect that. I know I do, in the musicians I respect.

What do you think your “biggest break” or your “greatest opportunity” has been so far in your music career? 

We’ve had so many incredible experiences with this band. We’ve had a lot of those “pinch me, I’m dreaming” moments. The first time we played a big arena show was opening for Reba McEntire. The best thing that we did was to have a band huddle, take a deep breath, and actually just enjoy the moment that night. The result was an unforgettable experience. It could have been easy to be nervous and just let the night go by in a blur, but by being present, we made a memory that’ll never fade. There have been plenty of other big shows; opening for Dwight, Miranda, and others, but that first time will always be the most special. But that being said, we’ve had moments like that in small-town halls too! In fact, last week we played one of our favourite shows to 500 people in a small town in northern Alberta. We think the key is to treat each show like it’s the biggest show you’ve ever played.

What was your reaction to the Second Ballot nominations for the upcoming Canadian Country Music Association awards, that includes some of your band members, and what they mean to you? 

It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers for your accomplishments. We love the camaraderie of events like the CCMAs or the ACMAs. To us, the best part of a nomination is just being able to hang out with your musical friends and connect with fans. This year’s Canadian Country Music Association Awards (Country Music Week) will be particularly meaningful because they’re in our home province of Alberta.  

Other than your Australian tour, what else does 2019 hold for The Dungarees? What festivals will you be performing at?

It’s a steady summer for us. We’ll be heading out to Ontario for Manitoulin Country Fest and making our way out to BC and the prairies for some festivals. We’ll be playing the Calgary Stampede in July, opening for Zac Brown Band. We’re huge fans, so that’s going to be a fun night. Then late August, we’ll be off to Australia to play some festival dates and do a two-week tour. We literally get off the plane in Edmonton and drive to Cold Lake for the last festival of the year. Then it all wraps up in Calgary for the CCMAs at the beginning of September.  Whew! I’m getting out of breath, just talking about it all!

Last but certainly not least. If you can have one thing that your fans could remember about you, what would it be?

We hope that we’re known for our authenticity and our honest appreciation of our fans. If nothing else, we hope people come to a show and are able forget about the outside world for 90 minutes and just have a good time with us. Because you better believe it, we’re having the time of our lives on that stage.

This was a truly inspirational interview for me. I hope you enjoyed reading all about these fine gentlemen, known as The Dungarees.

Stream or download “Twenty Something” here.

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