Interview | FFS 5 with Ship & Sail

Photo courtesy of artist

Ship & Sail made a splash in its respective Michigan scene following the release of their EP, From Seeds. Dedicated to Colin Haggerty’s late mother, his plaintive first studio cuts lived up to Ship & Sail’s tagline: “A little fun, and also a little sad.”

Haggerty is a folk singer-songwriter unfettered. The subtle grit in his vocals often come to a trademark quiver, straight-shooting and imperfect but brimming with character. In that sense, he fills a room with listeners like Cohen, but with more of the intent of the layman. As the vehicle to interpret the emotional core of songs that so commonly reflect a state of mind and the heart that we can relate to—intended or not—Haggerty excels as Ship & Sail.

Ahead of the release of Ship & Sail’s second EP, Hymnal (28 June via Two Parade Records), For Folk’s Sake asked Haggerty to take part in our ongoing ‘FFS 5′ interview series. Having obliged, For Folk’s Sake humbly presents the series’ next installment with Ship & Sail.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I grew up going in Redford, Michigan and began playing guitar when I was about 16. It was a fit of boredom that led to me asking my dad if he still had an old acoustic lying around. He did, and then I just ran with it from there. Easily the most defining moment was my dad showing me Murder in the City by the Avett Brothers. This was a turning point for musical taste and understanding for me. Listening to something relatable and emotional was new for me and has since become my main goal in songwriting. 15 Avett shows later, I’m jazzed for them to come back in the fall for number 16.

As an artist, how do you define success?

This is one of the hardest questions for me. It’s often hard for me to think about a point where I will feel comfortable with the level of success because artists are always more concerned about getting to the next level than the finish line. I’m not sure I can make a piece of music that I truly feel is the best I’ll ever do. But, the parts of success that I can see being the most valuable would be having fans who feel dedicated to my music because of the subject matter and how it made them feel. Being able to play in places far away from home and hear people singing back, hearing that a song I made helped someone through a hard time, things like that. Also, enough support to be able to continue providing physical media for people. Long live records.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

Money and politics, easily. It’s super hard for a musician like me, or like many of my friends, who are still operating on a low income and not consistently making money via music. It’s a constant loop of trying to make better music with less money, but needing more money to make better music to make more money. On top of that, there are plenty of cliques and things that lead to genres and spaces being separated for no good reason, though this is not unique to the music business, it is something that I struggle with.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to release my last record and this EP while being part of the Ypsilanti scene – even if I am one of few folk-style artists – because of the massive amount of support around me. This year, I have seen a lot of my friends take big steps in helping the community as a whole become more and more inclusive and supportive of all of the musicians around with starting Outta This World Booking and that is super inspiring and when you have support like that around your area it’s a lot easier to forget about the struggles in the community.

For this release, I’ve been super fortunate to have been able to have musicians from other great bands play on the EP:

I’ve also been lucky enough to be able to work with Two Foot Parade Records (Grand Rapids) to release the EP and distribute it on cassette and Good Luck Charm Records (Detroit) to distribute it on CD!

So, as things always seem to get hard in music- I’m able to look at this EP and remember that even when money is tough and cliques form, there are people supporting me and my friends in such important ways that help me continue making records I can be proud of.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

At the moment, one of my realistic goals would be getting to a point where I am having full physical distribution taken care of for me. This is attainable and close. I may have something new to share for next year soon. Another would be to open for one of my favorite bands who are playing realistic shows I could open for, like The Crane Wives, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Field Medic, etc.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

I recently have begun writing differently than I used to, and it has slowly become a more secluded process. I share demos with people constantly, but the writing process is always manifested by my overthinking of everyday conversations and interactions. Hymnal is a real look inside of me dissecting my interactions in the world and taking my alone time to delve into those things and what they mean. I’m not sure if this is a growth in self-awareness or narcissism in the flesh but it has lead to me challenging my thoughts and beliefs in ways that have been very important in my life over the last year. It’s the mundane parts of life that tend to grab my attention and peak my anxiety and I think it’s important to focus on those, too.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jonathanfrahm)