Singer-songwriter Sherman Ewing is working on his highly-anticipated follow-up to his 2015 album, Cross My Broken Heart. His upcoming release combines elements of folk, rock and big band with personal storytelling and philosophical ideas. Eponymous Review got a chance to ask Ewing all about his new music and his successful dog walking business, Club Pet NYC.
Laurie Fanelli: Thanks for taking time out for this Q&A. I understand that you are currently working in the studio recording your next solo release – What can fans expect from the album?
Sherman Ewing: I am indeed currently working in the studio and actually just finished a late night session last night! It’s funny I was speaking with a friend who’s also a songwriter the other day and I was telling him that I was really excited about this CD and that I think it’s going to be my best yet. He kind of laughed and said “that’s the way I feel whenever I’m working on a new album.” I never really thought of it that way – but actually he was right. So I think this is going to be my best one yet – but then again, it would seem, I always think that!
This one is a little different in that half of the songs are pretty upbeat, some with a full horn section and electric guitars. And then the other half or more acoustic based – something you might find in the discarded Folk section! Lol. Big surprise I’m a huge Neil Young fan – and I always have loved the way he moves between his acoustic songs and electric. Hopefully, I’m dipping my toe in his little pond – or big huge pond as the case maybe. I would definitely say that my biggest early influences – John Hiatt, Neil Young, The Band, [Bob} Dylan, Marvin Gaye – they are all swimming in the soup.
LF: Is it influenced by real-life events in the same vein as Cross My Broken Heart was inspired in part by Hurricane Sandy?
SE: I’ve done a lot of co-writing over the years. When I decided to do this album I really wanted to take on all of the lyric writing. As was the case with Cross My Broken Heart, Anthony Krizan is producing this one – and he and I co-wrote pretty much all of the music. I’ve always been a stickler about words but when I get lazy or frustrated I’ll give a good friend a call and ask if they want to give me a hand. In this case, I really wanted to hold back from doing that, so this CD seems to be a little more personal – which was kind of the goal.
Obviously, the world’s in a really weird place – its hard to watch the news (harder than ever!). It’s infuriating and heartbreaking, two things that are actually catalysts for me as a songwriter. I think that’s actually helped me focus in on what exactly it is I want to say in each song. In terms of the songs, I think they kind of veer like a drunk driver between quasi autobiographical and pseudo philosophical – haha. I’m still stuck in the middle of two songs so there still a ways to go! But I’m really enjoying the process and especially the time spent with the crazy and uber-talented Anthony Krizan. Working with him is always amazing.
LF: How much does the vibe of New York City impact your music?
SE: I mean New York City is pretty much the center of the world, right? Haha – The vibe of New York completely runs or overruns the fabric of pretty much every day from start to finish. I was actually born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and still go back several times a year –that includes going up to Quetico in the Canadian boundary waters. Everything slooooows dooooown – it’s amazing. I seem to regularly forget that not everybody lives this way.
The hardest part is finding time to stop and be still… and, for me, that is when I’m able to tap into that creative place. That’s also when all the madness of this crazy town starts to settle down for a few minutes – and I can take in all that seems to come at me at lightning speed all day. In those moments, I can take pause and try to make sense of it all, from an emotional viewpoint – and I think that informs the creative side of me. There’s just so much in New York City – so much affluence, so much struggle, disparity. I sometimes remember to look at the faces of people walking by in the street – it’s an amazing thing to do. One of the first things I notice is that when people are walking together, with another person, they often seem to be smiling. Spending time with others is good for the soul and in this frantic crazy fast paced city, it can be too easy not to take that time, make that effort – it’s why it can be so lonely living in the midst of millions. It’s certainly not because no one is there!
New York also has an endless amount of things to do and when you live here, it’s so easy to not do any of them – So many museums, cultural events, ethnic foods, great places to go see great music… and somehow, the more I do those things, the more likely I am to sit down with my guitar and write.
LF: Do you have any upcoming musical plans with your Missing Cats bandmate, Jojo Hermann?
SE: Jojo and I have been speaking quite a bit recently and are trying to find some time to hole up and do some writing. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since we put out Larry Brown Amen. He’s been doing great enjoying time with this wonderful family – he’s got two amazing kids that are at a great age right now so he’s kind of enjoying family life when he’s not on the road with Widespread [Panic]. We both are hoping to find some time to write this year and then get in the studio in 2018 and possibly book some dates. We have such a good time, and have been friends for so long… its really just about finding a few days here, a few days there.
LF: Speaking of four-legged friends – Can you share a bit about your other love, dogs? What’s new at Club Pet NYC?
SE: Well, my first job ever basically happened when my parents got two puppies when I was in eighth grade. I was at that level and age where I could be found sleeping one off at 2:30 in the afternoon, drooling all over my parents’ lovely sofa – so my mother decided that her lovely son needed to get a job. She called the local dog trainer and I spent the time that summer training Oscar and Felix. The trainer was this amazing man named Ed Hamn who was a World War II Vet, who’d been blown up on the beaches of Normandy and after two years in the Vet Hospital was assigned to the canine unit. After training Oscar and Felix, he hired me as his assistant and I spent the next four years getting paid 20 bucks a day, a hundred bucks cash at the end of the week, as a dog trainer. I felt like I had it made. It would seem that the dogs have just followed me since.
I feel really lucky that I get to spend so much time with dogs and with people who love animals. I think it makes the city a friendlier – and on bad days more tolerable – place for me. Club Pet NYC just continues to be an incredible blessing. I have an amazing group of people who work with me and incredible clients who are wonderful to work for – and I get to spend most of my time with dogs – I mean, it may not be for everybody, but it’s definitely a good way for me.
LF: How do you balance two thriving careers, both of which you are passionate about?
SE: I think the interesting thing for me hasn’t been about balancing two careers as much as balancing THE WHOLE PIE as best I can!! I’m happiest when I’m spending time with my music and creative life (which can include just going out to a museum or to go see a band), when I’m showing up and being responsible for the folks I work with and work for – and spending time with the dogs, of course – when I’m taking time to go to the gym (boxing) and going out and having some fun. The coolest thing I’ve done in a long time was to go as my friend Trey Anastasio’s guest to sit ringside at Madison Square Garden for the Triple-G/Keith Thurman fight – that was frigging awesome – front row. Anyway – I digress – having balance takes practice and also takes a lot of time! The thing I need to do most (and that I don’t do enough) is simply hang with my friends… right now, that’s feeling like the most important thing of all.
LF: Do your music career and Club Pet NYC business ever intersect?
SE: I’ve actually done a benefit for people and pets every holiday season for the past four years. It’s been held at the Slipper Room on the Lower East Side – which is probably the coolest place to do that kind of gig in Manhattan. For the past two years Club Pet NYC sponsored the event – which featured a friend of mine opening and then my band playing two sets. It’s basically a coat drive for New York Cares, an incredible organization, coupled with a fundraiser for a wonderful Brooklyn-based no kill shelter called BARC – an amazing non-profit shelter.
It’s not something that’s going to change the course of history, but it’s certainly been a really fun night, and I think people always like to come out for a good cause! I’d say the other way the businesses intersect is that the dogs that come to stay with me are often forced to listen to my crooning – no thrown tomatoes yet, though an occasional whimper and turd on the rug!
LF: Where can people see you live?
SE: I’m just finishing a spring residency at New York’s greatest music venue, Rockwood Music Hall. It’s looking like I might have another New York date in June and then I’m gonna be spending the summer wrapping up in the studio. It’s looking to be a pretty busy fall. I have a date on the main stage at Rockwood set for September 8, that will be a REALLY fun night, and I will be following that show with a formal release party most likely in early to mid October. I’m looking at doing some East Coast dates and maybe popping out to the Midwest for some fall shows. I’m really looking forward to what’s coming down the pike!
LF: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Eponymous Review readers?
SE: I guess if there is one thing that I’d like to share with Eponymous Review Readers, it’s two things.
Life is better when you have a dog, and when you go see live music!!!