Ships Have Sailed Explore Their Artistic Freedom

Interview by: Shaine Freeman, Music Editor and Host of The Miews Podcast

artistic freedom

Being indie doesn’t mean you sit around and daydream about making it some day; it means exploring your artistic freedom and making things happen. Nobody knows this better than SHIPS HAVE SAILED frontman, Will Carpenter.

Please tell us how Ships Have Sailed was formed and what the name means?
The music really started before the ‘band’, if that makes sense. I had a growing collection of songs that I felt a deep connection to, but that weren’t a fit for my current project, so I decided to start producing them in my home studio. Dan and I were good friends, and so he was one of the first people I invited over to hear what I had started working on. His exact response after hearing a few tracks was: “cool! what are we going to call it?”

From there, I really thought about what I was writing about, realized that all the songs kinda had a common theme to them – kind of an introspective aspect based on reflecting on how we get where we are in life and how the little turns along the way influence that more than we know, and we decided that ‘Ships Have Sailed’ was a good representation of that. Essentially, just taking the common phrase ‘That ship has sailed’ and kind of turning it around to take out the slight negative impression of a missed opportunity in that phrase.

Who or what inspired you to become a musician early on?
Far too many to count…everything from Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, to Kurt Cobain, to Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Both Dan and I have a huge variety of influences, and we try to let that shine through in our music.

You’ve played dates at some big festivals and songwriting competitions. What’s the biggest lesson you took from those experiences?
I think the biggest lesson you learn from getting out on the road as an up-and-coming artist is that you really have to be prepared for anything. All those experiences you listed were amazing in their own way, but they were all really different!

You have to learn to roll with whatever is happening and just put on the very best show you can, whether you find out that Deathcab for Cutie is playing a free show at exactly the same time as your set (Canadian Music Week), or it’s literally the first solo acoustic set you’ve ever played in front of a live audience (CMJ), or whether you’re playing to a crowd of 100-200 people (SXSW and NAMM), the way you present yourself on stage has to be the same. Even if there’s one single person there to see you play, treat that person to an incredible experience… that’s what you have to do as a live performer.

Let’s talk about your new EP, “Whispers”. What was the goal for you going into this release?
The ultimate goal? I guess that would be that we wanted to expose a very different side of ourselves…a more raw side that people hadn’t yet had the opportunity to see. In our past releases the buzz around those would focus a lot on the production, which is great and I’m really proud of that, but I also wanted to demonstrate that these songs have enough depth to stand on their own in their most raw, pure form as well. There was also a great opportunity to add a second verse to ‘Criminal’ as well, we were excited about that!

Your song, “Out of Time” is a perfect wedding song. Do you plan on doing a few weddings?
It’s really funny that you say that. This whole EP was born because my little sister asked me to play that song at her wedding last year, and so I had to strip down the more electronic version and make it work with just me and a guitar. It was really touching, but nerve-wracking too, and after it was done she gave me a big hug and was like, “you know hearing that song acoustic sounds amazing and you should really think about recording it that way!”. Getting back to your original question, I love weddings…and of course I would be honored to perform a timeless love song on someone’s special day if the situation allows it!

Many people think it’s easy to become a success in music if you just write a great song. Have you found that to be true for yourself; and if not, what is the truth?
This one makes me chuckle a little…I used to think this was the case too. Ultimately the answer depends on your version of ‘success’ – if that is defined as: ‘write a great song and be happy for yourself that you wrote it’, then absolutely writing a great song is all it takes. If you are measuring success as an artist the way a record label measures (in album, ticket and merchandise sales) then it is a lot more involved than that.

The internet and social media have made it easier to get your music out there, and I personally think this is great, but it also saturates the digital realm with so much material that it takes a lot to be noticed sometimes. That said, I think there are a lot of ranges in between the two extremes I just called out, and I think the most important thing is to remember why we make the music in the first place: it’s for love, not some contrived notion of success.

I do believe that artists deserve to not starve as they create, but I also think if financial success is your only motivation, then maybe you’ve lost sight of the passion that brought you to music in the first place. So ultimately, it comes back to a healthy balance of values…kinda like everything else in life.