An In-Depth Interview With the Americana-Fueled Country Rock Boston-Based Band, DALTON & THE SHERIFFS!
Posted On 08 Mar 2019
Fronted by Brian Scully — a former Boston Bruins staff reporter turned educator — the Americana-fueled country rock Boston five-piece, Dalton & The Sheriffs has headlined Bud Light SEC tours, opened for Jason Aldean at Fenway and more. Scully credits the sporting community for the band’s success. Whether if be a three hour set at Boston’s famed Paradise Rock Club or a support date with Jason Aldean at Fenway, Dalton & the Sheriffs are “taking the world of country by storm” (Metro).
Brian Scully (vocals/acoustic guitar), Jon Silva (lead guitar), James Zaner (drums), Sam Bouve (bass) and Ryan Jackson (keys/guitars) rip through shows with frenetic energy, perhaps best described as country music, tinged with Americana heartland vibes, and played with a bar-friendly edge-of-punk rowdiness. Everyone sings along. The patrons are as much a part of the show as the band itself. The result is a live band that manages to make every show — from small clubs to the largest of festivals — feel a little like a reunion of like-minded souls at their favorite local bar.
Their debut live album, After the Parade, cracked four Billboard Country and Heatseeker charts in 2018, and a newly recorded album is on the way. Always good for a draw, Dalton & The Sheriffs have been chosen to open for artists such as Sam Hunt, Lee Brice and Old Dominion, and the band has earned their own fervent headline following throughout New England. In addition to packing them in at prestigious venues like Paradise Rock Club and the House of Blues, Dalton and the Sheriffs quickly sold out four sets in one fall Nashville weekend, and 2019 will see this tremendous live band expand their fan base coast to coast.
Learn more about Dalton & The Sheriffs in the following All Access interview:
Now that a new year has started, what musical goals does this band have for 2019?
We are very lucky to have the support we have in Boston and in the Northeast. Our goal for 2019 is to become a viable national act. We are incredibly lucky that Jordan Burger, from Madison House, took the time to figure out who we were and why what we are doing is working. With Jordan on board, we have now have an opportunity to play our music outside of the Northeast. All we’ve ever asked for is a stage and an opportunity to play for folks. We’re very excited to see what we can do with it.
What are you most proud of about 2018? Do any of you make any New Years Resolutions?
I’m most proud that our debut live album made four Billboard charts in January of 2018. The folks who support us in Boston made that possible and I think it’s a testament to what we’ve built together. My resolution for 2019 is to focus on what’s real. At the end of the day, we have this opportunity because of the kids who come to our shows and sort of pushed us here. I really want to make sure that we don’t get caught up in things that are not representative of who we are and how we got here. It’s really about our friends and playing the music that I love to play for folks who want to sing along. I think there are a lot of things and opportunities that can sound really important, but at the end of the day, it’s about the folks willing to show up and sing along.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on?
This band came together pretty organically. It started as an acoustic project and grew from there. Initially, it was called the Brian Scully Band. I was still teaching high school English back then. We released a song to YouTube and I walked into my first period class and every student started playing the song on their computer at the same time. So, we needed a new name. One of the guys in the band had taken to calling himself Dalton, after Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse. I’d always been a fan of Hootie and the Blowfish and names like that, so I just cycled through “and the” options and fell upon Dalton & the Sheriffs. I kind of hated it at first, but we got our first big show a few weeks later and it was locked in. Now people think my name is Dalton.
There’s no single moment where I thought, “Hey, this band might be able to do something.” In the end, it’s been a ton of little victories that have led us here. I think that the moment that it sort of became reality for me was when we played our first headlining show at the Paradise Rock Club back in 2017 and we sold it out. All the Bud Light was gone before we took the stage. I think we all sort of looked at that and saw a pathway to something more.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
I think Boston has left an indelible mark on this band; it’s almost a sixth member. It obviously permeates the songs, but I think it’s there in the performance and in the way our friends participate in our shows by singing along. There’s an energy to the crowds and there’s an energy to the band. It’s a little raw, but I think it’s authentic. At the end of the day, the lyrics that my wife and I write are about our lives. It’s about being parents and married and living in Boston chasing down a crazy dream with our friends behind us. The band members — Jon Silva, James Zaner, Sam Bouve, and Ryan Jackson — are all incredibly talented and they then take these songs and make them come to life. I’m very lucky to have them.
How has your various musical backgrounds helped shape the sound of this band?
I think it has been key. All of the guys come from very different musical backgrounds. And all of them bring the strengths of those backgrounds to Dalton and it makes for a very unique sound. The lyrics and melodies lean country. My singing leans a little rock. James’ drumming is just so alive and 90s driven. Jon is like a musical encyclopedia and he brings all of what he knows to the table, from alt-country, to punk, to metal. Sam grew up playing in reggae and jam bands and brings his own unique style to the rhythm section. And Ryan, who was just added in the past year, has done an incredible job tying all the disparate parts together on keys and guitar, building on his progressive/indie rock background He’s the guy who can play more than he does, but chooses to just play the right part. It’s one of those things that maybe you wouldn’t have set out to build, but once it’s built, it’s a pretty awesome mix. Another key member is our production manager, Bryce Brashears. He runs sound for us and having someone on our team behind the mix board is a key part to our success. We get a consistent sound that other bands might not get on the road.
How do you think that you have grown as a band since forming? What has remained the same?
I think we’ve grown as performers and I think we’ve started to make in-roads in understanding the music industry and where we fit (I don’t think you ever are in control of that). I think that the thing that hasn’t changed is how much we all enjoy playing music live in front of an audience. I think that’s where the energy comes from. A good show, with a cool audience, sort of keeps you going to the next town.
Do you guys have plans to release new music soon?
We do! We have a new EP coming out in May. It’s going to be called “Luckier By Half” and it’s going to be distributed by OneRPM. The first single, “Boston,” will be out very soon. It’s being produced by Pat Hanlin from Revival House Records. We’re fired up.
Generally, how do you all go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately?
Usually my wife — Kate Scully — and I sit down and write the songs and then I bring them to the band and they sort of give them life and make them “Dalton.” I’ve had a number of different band lineups over the years, but this lineup — with Jon, James, Sam, and Ryan — is just different and special. There’s no set way for songs to build (Jon wrote “Nights Like This” on the first record and that is favorite of a lot of our friends), but generally that’s how it happens.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
I’m happiest when I’m singing as hard as I can and folks are singing right back to me. That’s how this was built and that’s how we’ll move this forward.
How is your current 30+ date national headlining tour? What can fans expect from one of your shows? Where can fans see you perform next? What do you think makes an ideal show for this group?
We are learning a ton. We’re lucky that we have a base of Boston followers who have sort of spread around the country over the past eight years. So, we’ve had some incredible successful first play appearances in places like LA and Chicago, and Buffalo, where I’d never even really been before because we had friends in town (not to mention a tradition of folks flying into our shows because they’re nuts and we’re lucky).
We’ve got a bunch of new dates up on on our website (www.daltonandthesheriffs.com), but we’re especially excited about our first real show in New York City on April 16th at Mercury Lounge (http://bit.ly/daltonmercurynyc) and our debut at The Cowan in Nashville at Top Golf on April 27th (http://bit.ly/daltontopgolfnash).
I think an ideal show for us is one in which we’ve got a few of our Boston folks in the house to break the ice. And then we just play as hard as we can and let what happens, happen.
Do you find that all of social media and keeping up with your fans has gotten so overwhelming? Or do you rely heavily on others to take care of that for the band? Which platform would you say that you enjoy engaging with the most?
You know, I really like handling the social media. I focus almost exclusively on Instagram. It’s the medium that has worked best for us in terms of getting information to our friends who want it. We’ve never tried to buy followers, so everyone who follows us chose to do so, which makes it very effective. I like being the guy who answers the messages and we’ve used Instagram DMs as a huge tool to get word out about shows. We built this band on the backs of four or five shows a week and Instagram is great tool to connect and to thank folks for helping us.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
It think that this is an incredibly trying time for our country. I’ve always used music to keep myself balanced. There is an emotional release that comes from sharing songs with folks that sort of keeps my Irish down. We’re not a political band, but I think the band is full of politically aware members. But, we don’t write overtly political songs.
I know — for certain — that not everyone who likes our music would agree with us politically. But, I’m little older and I remember late nights at Boston University arguing politics with lifelong friends who I vehemently disagreed with over policy. And it was OK. And we’d have a beer and argue again the next night. That being said, there’s definitely a scarier side to our disagreements in 2019. Many of them feel more moral than political.
I still feel like it might be OK for us all to put that aside for a few hours and sing songs together. I understand that approach could be fairly criticized as avoidance. I’m sure that our feelings on this subject will continue to evolve as they have throughout our lives.
Personally, where I draw the line is in the acceptance of people for who they are, who they love, or what they look like. And I think that is right in line with the inclusive feel of our shows. I wouldn’t want to look back a question like this and not have that be there, just because we’re a new band trying to not make too many waves.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not afraid of having difficult conversations. So, I’d be happy to have that conversation with anyone who wanted to have it. But, I don’t think it’s what we’re selling in the band or with our music, so it’s more having those talks as you get to know people better rather than wearing it like a bumper sticker.
What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What artists have really been inspiring this group and your music since day 1?
My two favorite band have always been Counting Crows and Hootie and the Blowfish. I’ve tried to emulate the immediacy of Adam Duritz’s music and lyrics and the emotional gravitas of them both. Both bands connect with their audiences in ways that are lasting and both inspire me to try and write and perform better. I think their songs are incredibly authentic to who they are and that’s what I attach to.
James was really influenced by Matt Cameron and Elvin Jones and grew up listening to grunge, alternative, jazz, r&b. Jon is big into bands like Thin Lizzy, Big Star, Son Volt, and Kurt Vile. Sam has eclectic taste ranging from Blind Melon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to the Grateful Dead and Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad. Ryan’s personal influences range from Radiohead to John Scofield to The Beatles, to Yes, and even science fiction novels.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I think there is an underlying message of love and hope and the fact that — for
better or worse — we’re all in this together. I’m lucky. I met my wife at 16. We’ve got three amazing kids. It’s all perfectly imperfect. I think it’s important to write about that kind of life. About paying bills and chasing dreams. It’s not going to land me on any indie blogs for it’s edginess, but it’s authentically me. I’m 38 and I quit my job as a vice principal because a bunch of folks believed in what we were doing and gave us this opportunity. We’re pretty lucky. I work very hard to keep a level of gratitude present in my life.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about this group?
There’s a special group of folks in Boston. They started out as seven or eight guys in a Southie bar and they’ve grown to over 5,000. They are the reason that this tour is happening and they are the reason that we are doing this interview right now. It’s a special ride that we’re on and we’re open to anyone who wants to join us. And anytime we’re feeling like we’re not sure where this is going to end up, it’s incredibly comforting to know that they’ve got our back. So, just a huge thanks to them all.