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INTERVIEW: Indie Rocker and Dog Walker Sherman Ewing

Sherman, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey thanks so much!!  Things are really good. As long as I don’t turn on the news, I’m pretty content these days.

I understand you are an Ivy leaguer – what eventually drew you into music?

Like any kid I was always into music. I kind of walked into being in my first band. I think it was my sophomore year at Columbia and I walked into a smoke-filled room and asked my friends what they were up to. My buddy Zuck, who played the guitar, looked up and said they were forming a band. I asked him who’s going to be in it and he said that he was playing guitar, Jojo (from Widespread Panic fame) was going to be playing drums, his music professor Jimbo would be the bass player, our friend Mark would also play guitar, and I was going to be the lead singer. I was like, “that’s cool … what’s the name?” and they offered up “Sherman and The Bureaucrats” – and that was that.

We started out playing early Beatles and Rolling Stones covers,  songs like Poison Ivy (originally recorded by The Coasters), Honey Don’t (Carl Perkins), Off My Cloud… played em fast and loud. Our girlfriends put on their skirts and sang backups and hit the tambourine – so, early on, we were Sherman and The Bureaucrats featuring The Bureaucrettes. It was super fun and a cool time. Then there came the sad day when we had to cut the Bureaucrettes loose… it’s a cold world  …

How has living in NYC in particular influenced your sound?

I’m not exactly sure it’s affected my particular sound other than the fact the guys I play with are so damn good, I’m not sure I would’ve found them were I not New York.

However, living in New York has very much influenced how I see the world, and therefore what I write about. When you live in New York City everything is just flying at you a 1,000,000 miles a second. It’s a cultural mecca with the miracle of so many different worlds all coming in and mixing in together. It’s as amazing as it is intense. My life in this crazy city informs my creative side, for sure. I think that’s probably the best way to answer the question.

When and how did the whole dog-walking scenario come into place?

When I was a kid my parents got two puppies Oscar and Felix. Their names were taken from the Neil Simon play The Odd Couple. Around this time, most late morning/ early afternoons I could be found crashed on my folks’ sofa. So, mom basically said, these dogs need to get trained and you need to get some semblance off a life and so off to the local dog trainer I went. Hammhaussen Kennels in Hopewell, New Jersey.

It would seem that I did a good job training Oscar and Felix because after I finished I was hired to become the trainers’ assistant.  That was my after school job for the next four years.

Once at Columbia,  I dipped my toe in the corporate world for a few summers. That just wasn’t a good fit for me. I truly can’t imagine spending my life in an office.

Shortly after graduating from College, I started working with underprivileged kids a place called Covenant House,  New York (which is a great organization for homeless youth.) I ended up as an assistant to the Executive Director and part of that job required going to graduate school. I was actually enrolled to get a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia when a neighbor of mine broke her ankle and needed help first thing in the morning and last thing at night walking her dog.  I needed the money and I loved dogs so I was more than happy to help out. It’s funny how things work out because while I was walking her dog I met a dog walker who was a wonderful person from Ireland, name Beth.  Beth said she was moving back to Ireland and offered to have her clients give me a call if I wanted to take over her business – and that was that. I withdrew from graduate school, left my job, and started spending my days with dogs.

How did these two very unlikely dreams end up blending together?

I really didn’t plan for things to go the way that they have gone – there was no grand vision, and that’s probably a good thing. I doubt it would have worked out if I had mapped it out.

Early on I would walk dogs all day and play in whatever band I happen to be in at the time. At one point, I left a band and decided to go back to acting.  I originally came to New York because I was interested in acting.

At some point, I decided to write a screenplay that included a creating a part for myself and writing the soundtrack. I finished the screenplay and started looking for a music producer to help me record a demo for the songs for the would be soundtrack. As luck would have it,  I met an amazing producer named Godfrey Diamond who was the perfect person for me to meet at that time.

I spent a summer getting my songs together with him and my buddy Jimbo from the Bureaucrats. As we were getting ready to record, Godfrey called me one day and said that the stars were aligning in my favor – he had arranged for an incredible drummer named George Recile to play on my record. George had been playing with a certain fellow named Bob Dylan and another guy named Keith Richards. George brought along Anthony Krizan to play guitar – Anthony had been playing with the Spin Doctors.  (Anthony and I have actually continued to do a lot of writing together – he’s actually producing the record I’m currently working on.)

After the first two days of recording, Godfrey pulled me aside and suggested that I blow off acting – including the screenplay and all that craziness – and I gladly left the acting world and we recorded Blue Moon.  Since then it’s been pretty much music and dogs.  I feel really very fortunate .. I love dogs,  I love writing songs and I love playing gigs.

I understand you are working on a new record – is it a direct follow up to your previous material or a total departure?

It’s kind of a mixed bag. It’s the first time I’ve really worked with drum loops in my writing which definitely is bringing a new vibe to some of the tracks. I think more than any of my other cds, this one is going to cover a wider range of sounds. At one point,  I was a little concerned that it may not all blend together. However,  it’s organically coming from the same place which gives it that common thread. I’m really excited about finishing the songs and playing them live.  I’m not sure what anybody else is going to think, but I personally think it’s my best foot forward and that feels really good.

How is it coming along?

It’s really coming along well. Right now I’m just putting the finishing touches on the lyrics for two of the songs and then I should be pretty much done and ready to mix. However, lyrics always seems to be the most painstaking part because it’s just a waiting game. For me, I just can’t let the song go until I know the lyrics are right. And, it seems that I know the lyrics are right when they come easy – but sometimes you have to wait a long time for “easy” to come walking through the door!!

So it’s like fishing. I just sit in a room and listen to the track over and over and over and over and over and then at some point you hope that it just pops up …  sometimes that can take a while!!  So I’ve been doing a lot of sitting around  over the last couple weeks – hahaha.

I actually had my high school friend Tom Marshall (Phish lyricist) come by the studio and he and Anthony and I sat down wrote a song we plan to add as a bonus track.  So, that was kind of fun – we had some good laughs in the process.

I would just add that working with Anthony Krizan is always a wonderful experience.  I feel so lucky to be writing and recording with him. He’s just an amazingly talented and musical guy and and a really good friend. He brings so much to every day.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

I’m looking at mid to late October for the release date.  I’ll be announcing that soon. In terms of the title .. here’s a couple thoughts:

My Life as a Dog…Walker

Come and Meet Me (title track)

Everything Is Beautiful, I’m Walkin’ The Dog (title track)

Tragedy has always in some way seemed to influence your music – what aspect of this are you exploring in the upcoming record (or will you be dealing with different themes?)

Well, one song is called “Can You Bring Us Together” and it’s basically about the tragedy that is the world today. In truth I have a lot of faith in people – there’s a lot of really amazing people doing incredible things in this world – you don’t have to look far to see that people really truly care about one another. However, I don’t have much faith in the men leading the world. It seems the biggest asshole has ended up in charge of the sandbox, rattle in hand. I haven’t written a lot of politically motivated songs, but this particular song kind of calls on the mothers in the world to take charge. I feel like the world needs a mother’s touch – probably always has.

Also, my mom died tragically when I was pretty young and she pops up in almost all of my songs  in some way. Freud would have a field day.

There’s a lot of love in loss and I had a lot of loss in the formative years of my life.  I think those themes find their way into the fabric of most of my songwriting. Recently my music hasn’t been as sad or as dark as it may have been in the past, possibly because i have tried to see or have become slightly more comfortable in understanding that things come and things go. It would seem that when I’ve had a setback, it by definition opens the door for changes – and when a new door opens,  new opportunities and experiences are possible. I guess that my deep thought for the day (aspirin please).

Any plans to hit the road?

A couple one offs here and there at this point. As I wrap up and move to mixing I’m going to start planning some tour dates.

What else is happening next in Sherman Ewing’s world?

Well after I finish recording I’m going to be actually driving a dog from New York to California and then it’s off to Africa for a couple weeks where I plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and go hang with some silver back gorillas in Rwanda… WOAH!!

I’ll be back in late August and get back to the dogs and putting the final touches on the as yet to be named new release!! I look forward to sending you a copy once it’s done!

Thanks so much for the interview.

Remember, Life is better with a dog – especially a rescue!!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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