Ana Egge Revives The Sea Shanty Folk Tradition On “The Ship”

Ana Egge reaches back into the folk tradition and cleverly revives the sea shanty as the musical basis for her new single “The Ship,” premiering today. “The Ship” speaks quietly but defiantly of a simmering revolution brewing in the world today, reconciled only by an understanding that working together achieves a harmonious goal.

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An ancient pirate ship serves as a metaphor for a world heading towards certain disaster. Egge’s parable creates an unspoken parallel between overworked sailors rebelling against their greedy, unscrupulous captain and the modern-day tensions between people on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Unless everyone works together for the common good, Egge postulates, the ship will rock back and forth in an endless loop, serving no one for the better.

“Saying no is not always negative. To stop and pause can be life affirming,” the Brooklyn-based singer tells American Songwriter. “To question authority—not blind rebellion and full-on anarchy—but with a purpose and a cause and a unified decision, is absolutely necessary and a part of growing up.”

Egge mirrors the repetitive nature of a swaying ship by using the same lyrical phrase at the beginning of each line.

Too long we run fast, too long we say yes
Too long now captain we say no
Too long we run fast, too long we say yes
Too long now captain we say no
We burn the sides of our own ship

The listener would be lulled into a near hypnotic state were it not for the musical tension created by a clashing of a major chord against an expected minor. “We just held that A major chord and didn’t go to the minor. We cut a lot of the rest of our original chords and wound up repeating a lot of lines and then the song became clear. It always holds the A major. That’s the magic rub that is so intoxicating.”

The song had its initial lyrical inspiration from Martin Luther King’s optimistic “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech. Egge was taken by the vision King laid out in the speech- ‘the idea that we are moving forward, acknowledging the work that’s been done but knowing there is so much more to do.”

Musically, the song took shape from a melody from a faraway land. “I had this idea to play with this melody from this song “Tip My Canoe” by this band Dengue Fever, who play Cambodian music. I had been addicted to it for years. It’s a really beautiful but super intricate melody.”

The song was written over Facetime with Irish troubadour Mick Flannery. The pair met several years ago and immediately clicked.  They furthered their musical partnership at Folk Alliance and after Flannery attended a show in New York, they took a stab at collaborating.

“It’s a unique relationship with Mick. We really click. We have similar instincts, but we bring different stuff and balance each other out.”

Ana Egge

The covid pandemic provided a unique opportunity for the partners to write remotely via Facetime. Their easy-going friendship made what can often be a trying experience a smooth process.

“It’s fun to catch up for a few minutes and then just jump write into working. There’s no agonizing. It’s very playful and easy to try stuff. If it doesn’t work out, we can move on. Co-writing with Mick has been so much fun and such a mind meld. Sometimes it feels like we’re finishing each other’s melodic sentences.”

“I loved writing this song with Ana, as I have with all our collaborations.” Flannery said. “Once we got to the metaphor of ‘the ship’ as the Earth, the rest of the song came quickly. I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

Egge is a deft guitarist, with a style rooted in the blues, folk and bluegrass tradition. “My earliest favorites were country blues artists like Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy. My mom was into Bonnie Raitt. The magic (of those players) was keeping the rhythm and picking out the melody at the same time. I remember the first time I saw a player named Steve James play that way and I said that’s what I want to do. I love the intricacies of the melody and the anticipated beats and hammers-on. I want to sound like more than one guitar at once.”

Egge grew up in the Midwest, spent time in Austin before moving to New York City in 2001, settling in and finding musical home in the city’s underground folk scene. Pre-pandemic, she spent a lot of time on the road, touring and performing with Shawn Colvin and Iris DeMent. One of her first shows for 2021 is a livestream event with Steve James scheduled for March 28. Tickets are available here.

“2020 stopped us in our tracks,” Egge adds. “We had more time than ever to consider our priorities and confront the results of our actions, personally and collectively. It is in our hands to put this ship on a new course. We can and we will.”


Ana Egge – vocals, guitar
Mick Flannery – backing vocals
Buck Meek – guitar
Rob Moose – violin, viola, octave viola
Dick Connette – Roland synth
Scott Colberg – bass
Robin MacMillan – drums, percussion

Written by Ana Egge and Mick Flannery
String arrangement by Rob Moose
Produced by Stewart Lerman, Ana Egge, and Dick Connette
Recorded at Hobo Sound, Weehawken, NJ
Mixed and engineered by Stewart Lerman
Mastered by Oscar Zambrano at Zampol Productions, NYC

Video by Ingrid Weise

Purchase, stream or listen to “The Ship” here.

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