- I first wanted to take the time and thank you for doing this interview with me today. For our readers who haven’t heard of you yet, can you tell us about yourself and anything about the band you’d want us to know?
Sure! Thanks for introducing me and the band to your readers! Well, our band Rusty Shipp is from Nashville, TN and it’s named after me, Russ T. Shipp, which is actually my birth name! True to our band name, we make music that sounds like a rusty ship, kind of grungy and with underwater, surf rock vibes. People have given us the title Nautical Rock ‘n’ Roll. Some of the musical influences for our sound are surf rock artists like Dick Dale, but also Thrice, who makes a lot of oceanic songs also, but also grunge-inspired bands like Foo Fighters and Muse. A lot of people say we remind them of Nirvana, too.
- Let’s talk about what you currently have going on. Any new music or new tours in the works? If you were to say one song of your own perfectly sums up what you are all about which song would that be? ( Please attach any link for public use )
We’ve got a really cool, illustrated, animated music video for our next single SS Naronic coming out Feb. 19 which we’re really excited about. And we’re releasing it on that day because the first verse sings “3:10 AM, 19th of Februrary…” The video with its animation creates the definitive nautical rock ‘n’ roll experience. And actually, to answer your question, I’d say that same song, SS Naronic, is the quintessential Rusty Shipp song. I mean, it’s literally about a rusty ship! And the lyrics were taken from messages in bottles that were written during the sinking of the SS Naronic in 1893.
When you write any new music, can you tell us what the process is like? Describe to us what happens in a typical writing session.
A lot of the songs come from me closing myself off in a room, turning off the lights, and listening to ocean sounds like waves or whales and then playing guitar riffs that fit that atmosphere. That’s exactly how SS Naronic was written. I recorded like 20 really creative riffs in that sitting and went back through over the following weeks and picked out the best ones and built the song around that. It’s a very riff-heavy song, much like our other songs. We try to create really interesting guitar riffs, and that’s one of the first things people notice about our music.
Besides that, when coming up with more of the melody side of things, usually I’ll just accidentally find a peculiar, but catchy, chord progression, then record myself coming up with whatever vocal melodies I can for it for like thirty minutes of recording, and then go back through and pick out any melodies that seem catchy and innovative, then keep listening to that recording session over and over until I’ve whittled the list down to like the best three vocal melodies.
- With the music industry always changing and evolving, what are the things you like and don’t like about it? What aspects of the industry do you feel have hurt or helped your career? If you could change anything about it, what would it be?
I love that modern technology has increased so much to the point that recording programs are cheap and easy and now the only thing stopping creativity is one’s own mind. The possibilities are limitless and there has never been a time in all of history where there is greater potential in musical exploration. By the same token, the rise in convenience of recording has allowed a lot more musical mediocrity out there. Now it’s not just the people who really want it and are willing to make sacrifices that can record and push their music, but anyone with a laptop. Which just makes it tougher for the talented, innovative artists, because there are more people in the crowd you have to talk over to prove that you’re the one worth listening to. I guess if I could change anything, I’d change how formulaic the music industry gatekeepers are. It seems like they’re more likely to let musical mediocrity that meets their standards through the gate before they’d let in music that has truly creative, catchy melodies but doesn’t fit exactly in the commercial radio box.
- Do you or any of your band members have any side projects? If so, what are they?
Yeah, our lead guitarist Eli actually has a rock ‘n’ roll dub step project called Galactar. You can hear his stuff on SoundCloud. And then I actually have a ton of acoustic songs I made, as well as some electro pop ones. I’m hoping to do some professional recordings of those this year.
- When you’re preforming how do you handle any mistakes on stage if they ever happen? Do you have any stories that stand out to you that you had to make a memorable recovery?
Just pretend they didn’t happen. Haha! Except there was this one time we were playing our song “Crack Baby” live and we got all the way up to the first verse and just had to stop. It was that bad and everyone there knew it. Haha. There was no recovering from that one. We just had to suck it up and tell the audience, “Oops!” But it was the first night we’d ever played the songs from our album live, so I think people could give us some grace.
- How do you decide which songs go into a set when you perform live? Do you change up the sets or stick to a regular set list? Do you have any covers?
We keep to a main set when playing a venue the first time, but if we’re playing somewhere a second time (like especially in our hometown of Nashville) we’ll change it up, just so people have something new to listen to.
We do a grunge version of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter, which is always stands out to people at our shows, and we actually recorded that on our album as well, just because we do it so differently than the original version.
- If you had a choice to go on any bands tour, which tour would you pick and why?
I’d love to tour with Thrice, mainly because I think their audience is the same audience we’re targeting, and the kind of people that would most appreciate our music style and introspective lyrics. They’ve said in an interview their most influential band is The Beatles, and that’s the same with us, although we both take it in a raw, aggressive direction with an emphasis on heavy, innovative guitar riffs. But people that like Thrice also appreciate the Beatlesque chords and melodies in their songs, and I’m confident they would like our songs for that same reason.
- Do you have any advice for any upcoming artists? What’s the best piece of advice someone gave you when you realized you wanted to be a musician?
If I could go back in time, I would throw my ideals out the window and just play as much music with as many people as possible. I find with young musicians, and the way I was when I was their age, that you think your music is the greatest thing on the planet and you’re not wiling to bend on your vision for the music and the sound. Ultimately the result of that idealistic mindset was hitting my head against a wall for like 10 years, gradually shedding a bit of my idealism with every let down and rejection. I wish I had just joined whatever band was in my high school and started the education of learning about performance and the music industry. Bands like The Beatles and U2 didn’t start out playing music that sounded like The Beatles and U2, they all just liked rock music and formed a band with other people that like rock music and eventually made their own sound later. They didn’t start with the sound. Whereas because I was so adamant about my band having a certain sound, and being so controlling about it, I couldn’t keep people in my band for like 10 years.
The other thing I’d suggest is to begin learning how to make sacrifices when you’re young. Understand what you really want out of life as soon as you can, and focus on only that one thing to channel all of your energy into, and cut everything else out. Cut out all TV, movies, and videogames, and learn about writing songs and the music industry with that time instead. As you make sacrifices, the easier it is to make more sacrifices, until you don’t see them as sacrifices anymore. I was obsessed with TV and videogames when I was growing up, but now my brain has been rewired to associate great pain to TV and videogames, because that’s time that I’m not creating, which is what I REALLY love, more than any form of entertainment.
- Any last words?
I just want to thank you for being interested in my opinions on things and giving me an opportunity to share some things I’m passionate about. And I really hope that people will listen to our album Mortal Ghost. Pick any song off the album to listen to and I promise that you will be captivated by it; that was our goal with every single song. Also we really, really want to connect with people individually, so please message our band page on Facebook or Twitter to get a conversation started, or contact us through our website rustyshipp.com. One of the biggest reasons we have this band is to get to know people on a one-on-one basis.