Not long ago, Canadian indie-rock singer-songwriter Dale Sheppard released his new single/music video, “She’s Sowing Time,” a collaboration with his wife, Kim Sheppard.
Sheppard explains, “‘She’s Sowing Time’ is a song I composed from the poem my wife, Kim Sheppard, wrote during her journey with cancer. In the intro to this video, she writes… ‘It is the collision of terror and hope that are the force behind ‘She’s sowing time.’ It is the terror that drives, but the hope that saves. That, and the love and strength of my husband who took my words and so brilliantly composed the music to create this song.'”
While growing up in Victoria, B.C., Sheppard curated mixtapes and playlists for parties, events, and workplaces whenever he could. Later, to pursue his own musical vision, Dale built a home studio to record his original music.
Sheppard’s sound merges elements of rock, alternative, ‘80’s post-punk, indie, pop-rock, and industrial into unique, solid compositions, with meaningful lyrics by Kim Sheppard.
Tattoo.com spoke with Dale Sheppard to delve into why he makes music, the inspiration for “She’s Sowing Time,” and his gear.
What three things can’t you live without?
Of course, my wife and family are on top of that list. A close second would be the ability to hear music – new and old. So, my hearing. I think New York Cheesecake would be the third.
Why do you make music?
Music is a passion of mine, to begin with, and being able to make it is very satisfying. This is a hobby that allows me to escape from the daily stresses of my day job.
What inspired your latest single, “She’s Sowing Time?”
When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, our lives changed. During those initial months, she wrote these words in her darkest moments, and ‘She’s Sowing Time’ was born. I had started working on a new track at that time, so it evolved from this roller coaster of emotions we were all going through. We knew this song was special, so we wanted it to be good. I enlisted some friends of mine to supply the melody synth track and the lead guitar and backing rhythm tracks and added a real drummer for the first time, and the song evolved over a year or so to where it sits today. We are proud of this song. My wife is now cancer-free, so we are all very grateful and relieved.
Who directed the video and where was it shot?
The video was directed, edited, and produced by Ted Kuzemski, a prominent video DOP, director and producer in Victoria, BC. We shot the video in my studio with outside locations in View Royal, just outside of Victoria.
How did you get started in music?
It all goes back to my parents and their vinyl record collection, and their AM radio play in the early ‘70s. Music was always in the background at our house growing up, and my dad also played guitar and sang and entertained his friends and family. This was an inspiration. I then took a music recording class back in 1988 at the University of Victoria, and I knew from that point forward that I would do some recording of my own original material in the future.
Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?
As an avid music fan, there are too many to name. If I were to narrow it down, I would say a lot of late ‘70s Bowie, David Byrne and Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Television, to early ‘80s post-punk and synth bands like Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, New Order, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen. And later it would be REM, Radiohead, Beck, and Moby to name a few. But the old rock bands of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s also hold a special place in my musical orbit. Growing up with Led Zeppelin, The Doors, CCR, Yes, Genesis, and Fleetwood Mac, all of these bands seem to be in the musical DNA of most of us. I generally find that my own original music becomes a hybrid of so many of these great bands and artists.
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
I think it was quite natural. The song itself usually arrives with little effort. However, shaping it and adding atmosphere does become more deliberate, and the time involved during the mixing and editing stages can create a different vision than originally intended. Hopefully for the better.
What kind of guitar, amps, and pedals are you currently using?
The mood of the song is usually created by the guitar in my hand. I usually use my Gibson Les Paul, but sometimes I will strum on my Gibson ES330, or the Fender for a totally different vibe. The effects are mostly programmed from my Boss ME80, which sounds great running directly into my computer. This allows easy track editing. My amp is a modern VOX, and I just love the sounds and tones it produces.
What is your definition of tone? And is your tone evolving?
I would say for an individual song, it would be the unpolished rhythm track, very monotone at first with a bit of distortion and reverb, and then evolving along the way, once the synth melody tracks are added, creating the mood and atmosphere of the song. My songs tend to have several synth tracks overlaying each other to create the final tone and atmosphere in my music.
What can you share about your songwriting process?
It is quite spontaneous. I usually start with a simple chord progression on one of my electric guitars, of verse, chorus, and sometimes bridge, and then try out some drum sounds and tempos to create the mood I am trying to present. Then I will lay down a bass track, a simple rhythm guitar track, and then add several synth tracks to fill out the atmosphere of the song. I usually do this all very quickly, in a matter of a few hours while all the ideas are fresh. I then reach out to my wife to provide her inspiring and heartfelt lyrics which I incorporate into the song. I then lay down the vocal track, usually quite quickly and on the first or second take, as this is usually the most raw and emotional time in the process. For my latest single ‘She’s Sowing Time,’ I also enlisted the help of some musician friends for the main keyboard melody and the main lead guitar solo, as I wanted to ramp up the sound and energy of this song. From this point forward, I can spend a few months tinkering with the mix and adding chorus and background vocal tracks. Lots of visits to my car to try and perfect the final production mix. I find if it sounds great in a car, it then usually sounds pretty good on any type of system.
How do you keep your sound consistent on stage?
A this point in time, I have not played live with any of my own music, so I am not sure. If there was ever a large enough demand to hear my music, then I guess I would have to figure that out.
What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs? New material?
I usually try to write and record a new song each year. I plan to be in my studio in late 2023 and hopefully have another song and video ready for release in 2024. I work quite slowly, as my family and my day job take precedence at this time in my life. I do have some older demos that I may work on as well to improve upon their sound and release them in the coming year. We’ll see. I never know when the creative spark will hit me.