Behind the Song: “Sail” by Awolnation

The song’s protagonist wants to sail away from the problems overwhelming him. He can’t shake the fear of not being able to meet up to people’s expectations. 

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Awolnation’s “Sail,” from their 2011 debut Megalithic Symphony, was a cry for help, for solace, for renewal. Pulsing through dense synth and bass, and a recurrent, one-word chorus refrain, “Sail” was written by Awolnation founder Aaron Bruno, and initially part of the band’s 2010 EP, Back From Earth, but it was never meant to release as a single, until the release of their debut Megalithic Symphony in 2011.

When the Megalithic Symphony track “Burn It Down” was getting played, an Austin, Texas, radio host, Toby Ryan, played “Sail,” giving the song more steam, before it gradually reached multi-platinum status two years later, getting another boost with a feature in a trailer for The History Channel’s Vikings.

“Luckily for me it really was gradual,” says Bruno. “When I first wrote that song it wasn’t a hit instantly. There were some stations and territories where it would take off and slowly there was his kind of domino effect, and 10 years later we’re sitting on accidentally reaching millions of people’s lives. I’m just very grateful. I’m so thankful that it was this song and not another one.”

Maybe I should cry for help
Maybe I should kill myself (myself)
Blame it on my ADD baby
Maybe I’m a different breed
Maybe I’m not listening
So blame it on my ADD baby

Admitting that he never listens to his albums, it’s hard to turn away from “Sail,” featured in TV, film, commercials, and an abundant amount of memes and YouTube parodies. “Sail” solidified its legacy beyond Megalithic Symphony.

Marking the album’s 10-year anniversary, Awolnation released a deluxe edition of the album featuring 27 bonus tracks, three previously unreleased b-sides (“Cannibals,” “Wichita Panama,” and “I’m No Good”) and six live performances with additional remixes (five centered around “Sail”), reimagined by Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul, Wale and Samantha Ronson, Innerpartysystem, Thomas Turner, and Robert DeLong, that were originally included in the 2013 deluxe release of the album.

Bruno is proud of “Sail.” He still loves the song, so it will rarely lose his sight.

“If it was a different song from that record, it might have been annoying, but ‘Sail’ just came out of such an honest expression of emotion, and it never gets old to play,” said Bruno. “I really love the song. It’s very honest, and it brings so many people happiness and joy when we start playing that song live.”

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