Waterdog Nation rises to fame

Chuck Stephens

It’s been a long trip and it’s nowhere near the end for Topeka native Joe Schreiner of The Waterdog Nation. This self-taught, folk-ish musician doesn’t mind being compared to Bob Dylan, but thinks he and his newly gathered band sound more like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Cracking a PBR and sitting on the couch with Project Runway on the television, Joe tells about the journey he’s had to make a name for himself. He started learning the guitar in 2002 to accompany his harmonica. With time and practice it has paid off for him.

A few years back, Joe moved to Lawrence because of its music scene. It was a rough start, playing on the street to pay for child support. After a while, Joe started playing open mic nights at The Jazzhaus and Henry’s Upstairs. This proved he was taking a step in the right direction.  He received sponsorships from Indian Guitar Company and SHS International.

With this momentum, he and his girlfriend Tabitha were off to California to find a contract. So on Aug. 27, 2007 they left Lawrence for warmer climates. Performing at coffee shops and bars along the way, they realized it wasn’t exactly the right time. So, on the way back via Casper, Wyo. — while Joe was working on an oil rig — he got a call to be on an episode of  “Look Mom, I’m on TV,” a Californian public access show.

The taste was bittersweet. Joe was ready to stop music altogether when he returned to Lawrence. But with an encouraging speech from Tabitha, Joe decided it was just a hurdle he would have to overcome. In the months that followed, Joe went into studio with the help of a couple friends and released his first album, “Out of the Pan into the Light.” Roughly a year later he put out his second album, “Sophomore Jinx.”

 In between albums, Joe kept busy. American Idol, where Joe was included in a montage video of “Signed Sealed Delivered” on TV, the Felt Show, and other contest performances. Open mic nights were also a place that The Waterdog Nation could be heard around Lawrence.

Now, Joe has a full band backing him up. Ex-members from Emporia-based band Ded Waits, Ed Gulley “repeat violent offender” on drums and Nathan Clark on bass. They will be playing National Icon at the Granada in Lawrence Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009.

Doors at 8 p.m. There is a chance this will be on VH1. If you miss it, you can find out more concert dates at myspace.com/thewaterdognation.