Hot Gig Alert (6/8): Australia’s Sheppard make their long awaited return to Boston

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Hot Gig Alert (6/8): Australia’s Sheppard make their long awaited return to Boston

As the summer heats up in Boston, be it packed festivals, local bands galore, and those still beautifully intimate club shows, one that definitely needs to be on your radar is the return of Brisbane’s Sheppard. Best known for radio smash Geronimo, amongst many others,   the band has been keeping busy and is on the cusp of the release of their new album, “Zora,” dropping just a few weeks from now, June 21st. The band will be making their return to Boston on June 8th at a personal favorite, Cafe 939, and the gig will serve, according to George from the band, as a re-connection to their longtime fans. While the hits will be sure to be in heavy rotation when it comes to the set, I’m sure a new track or three will be present from their upcoming record, serving as a sneak peek for fans on what the band has been working on.

I caught up with George a while back to talk about their move to Nashville, the recording and writing process for the latest album, and even the band’s historic show on top of the Great Barrier Reef. According to Sheppard, the band intends to make the best of their time state-side, and it’s sure to be a wild ride you’ll want to be a part of. Tickets can still be purchased for the gig here, and I hope to see you there!

Colleen Johnson: To jump right in, you have a lot going on. The new album is coming out in just over a month, and you have your first US shows in several years. It’s something soft to start. I saw that you just played a show on the Great Barrier Reef. How was that experience being the first full band to do that? 

George Sheppard: Yeah, that was an incredible experience, as you would imagine. Quite possibly the most beautiful stage we’ve ever played. But yeah, it was wonderful that we got to fly back to Australia for that. We love living in Nashville, but there’s really no ocean here. So, getting to be the first band in history to perform on the Great Barrier Reef, I mean, what an honor—quite the pinch ourselves moment; We just had a great time. 

CJ: Then, speaking of that, you have been in Nashville, from what I know, for at least six or so months. How has that experience been so far? Australia is a very music-driven country, but Nashville is clearly different. How has that experience been so far for the band? 

GS: Yeah, it’s been a huge change for us, personally and professionally. Again, uprooting your life is never easy, and we knew moving here would be challenging. But we did not expect the winter that we got here. It was just brutal. We had a good six weeks of doing events, meeting people, and doing the hustle, and then it just kind of shut down. The city just became this miserable place. It was like, “Oh no, what have we done?” But when we came back in March, we went back to Australia for Emma’s wedding, and then when we came back, it was a totally different city. It was like someone had breathed life and color into it, and we were like, “Okay, we get it now. We see how it’s a beautiful place to live and a great place to be making music.” 

Since then, it’s been absolutely epic. Like, I just stepped out of a songwriting session today; it’s so nice to move into a city like Nashville. We can pick up the phone and write a song on any given day. And all the most amazing, talented songwriters, producers, and session players live here in Nashville. It’s an amazing place to be creative. It’s an incredible new chapter in our professional lives. 

CJ: Then, even while listening to “Zora,” I know Amy has started a solo country career in addition to her time with Sheppard. You definitely see some of that influence in this record. When it comes to this record, when did you start writing for this album? Was it in the same period, or were these all songs that had been accumulating with you two and Emma over these past few years? 

GS: Yeah, we started writing this (the new album) right at the tail-end of Covid. So we released Kaleidoscope, our third album, in February of 2021. We had hoped that by that point, Covid would be over, and we’d be able to tour the album, and lockdowns wouldn’t be a thing anymore. But unfortunately (laughs), it lasted a lot longer than that. So we were kind of feeling down about it, and we put a lot of those emotions into writing a brand-new album. We just got into it kind of straight away. Over the next two or three years, we started collecting songs again. It has this underlying theme of just holding on and waiting for the darkness to pass. It will be okay when the sunrise comes again, and there will be a new day, so we’ll all have a moment of rebirth. Many of those themes came through the songs we were writing. We didn’t have the album’s name until much later, but we knew that would be its general theme. I’m not sure if you know the story, name-wise. 

CJ: It was your grandmother’s name, right? Or it happened to be what you wanted to call the album. What did it mean?

GS: It’s our grandma, yeah. But the way we discovered it, the way the name chose us. Is that we were kind of looking through Croatian words. We wanted to pay homage to our grandma. A lot of the album resonated with things she taught us. We knew she had the toughest life I could imagine having. She was living in a war-torn country; she never saw her family again. She had seven children with the love of her life, for him to pass away of lung cancer at 54. She just had these most devasting occurrences in her life, but she’s the happiest person we know. Resilience in the face of tragedy and adversity really inspired this album. 

So we were trying to pay homage to her and our Croatian heritage. So we just looked up what dawn was in Croatian, and it was Zora. It was our grandma’s name. It just didn’t seem real. It was kind of like, oh, someone’s playing a prank on us. How did this coincidence happen? It’s just one of those moments where the name chose us, and it was meant to be.

CJ: That’s incredible. That’s fate; that’s beautiful. Then, from listening to the album, I know you’re still in this band with your two sisters. But the setup since day one was the three of you and other bandmates from the past. But in listening to this album, sometimes you take the lead; sometimes Amy takes the lead. With the songs, was it something where you each bring your individual ideas for this record? Were they all written together? How was that approached? 

GS: With the songwriting, it’s mainly whoever had the idea who takes the lead on the song. But we write all of the songs together. And there are songs where I bring in an idea where Amy still has a lot of influence, or vice versa. Yeah, it’s bringing a song into the room, and it becomes more of a democracy than someone saying exactly how it should sound and go down, depending on who takes the lead. It makes sense in the room; it’s not like we decide who should be singing and for what songs. It kind of chooses itself, if that makes sense.

CJ: No, that’s great! That’s what I was hoping to hear when it comes to that. And then I know you played at that Nashville Predators hockey game; that was your first show back in the States in several years. But you’re about to do this first run of US shows; maybe preparations being made for these shows, considering it will be your first US shows since, I believe, 2018, which is wild to think about. 

GS: Yeah. We’ve had one-offs like that Preds game, some showcases, and festivals, but it’s not our personal fans. So we’re excited to get out there for people who have bought tickets to see us and our show. So we want to make sure that we’re playing not just the new songs, not just songs off the new album, but songs that span over our entire catalog. Greatest hits kind of show, like it’s not called the “Zora” tour. It’s called the “Say Geronimo!” tour. We wanted to remind everybody who we are and what songs we sing. And we want just to bring a really positive epic vibe each night. We always have so much fun on stage. We bring the energy and don’t want to leave anything on the stage whenever we perform. And I think that everybody that comes will have a fantastic time. If you’re a Sheppard fan, you’re going to love it. 

CJ: Awesome, then I know this will be the tenth anniversary of “Geronimo,” the tenth anniversary of the Bombs Away album. That first album. We’re in our thirties now, maybe things you would have told yourself back when you first put out “Geronimo.” Something that you would have done differently, something you’re happy you did, if that makes sense. 

GS:  Yeah, it’s hard to predict what happened with “Geronimo.” We all knew that there was something special about it. And it felt nice to play it and sing it live. These kinds of things you can never put in a sure thing box. We’ve been incredibly lucky in the past ten years. The people that we’ve met, the people that we’ve worked with. A lot of hard work went into it as well. It was just sort of luck meets opportunity. If I had to change anything, I probably would have moved to the US sooner. But even then, it just wasn’t the right time; our partners weren’t able to come with us, and that was something that we weren’t interested in. It had to happen now, when all six of us, I’m talking about my sisters and all three of our partners. We all moved over together, and it couldn’t have happened at any other time. But yeah (laughs), it’s really hard to answer that question because it very much happened all the way that it should. The only way that it could. 

CJ: That’s incredible that you guys could all move together and now be all here. So, to end it off, like we just talked about, obviously, you have these shows coming up, the album’s about to come out. Maybe hopes or goals for these next few months as a band or personally? 

GS: In the next few months, we’ve got three-year visas, so there’s no rush, but we really want to make sure that we get out there and tour as much as we possibly can. We want to make sure that all the fans who have stuck with us for the last six or seven years since we’ve been to the United States to play shows we want to see them. Being in a room with people, shaking their hands, spending time with them. We really want to be there for our fans, with our fans, that’s like the main goal. Anything else that comes out of it would be fueling that fan base again and sharing our energy, joy, and love for life with as many people as possible. I think that’s the main goal here. 

Featured image by GG McG


About Author


Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.