Sail Away

Album: White Ladder (1998)
Charted: 26

Songfacts®:

  • In this song, David Gray offers a getaway, telling a lady he'd like to sail away with her, putting his heart in her hands. He worked on the song over a number of years, writing and discarding verses along the way. It's what he calls a "Frankenstein song" because it was cobbled together from so many parts assembled at different times.

    "Sail Away" was a bit like 'Babylon' in that I toyed with it and I had to sort of engineer the chord sequence to deliver the end result, and that took some time," Gray told Songfacts. "I guess I'd become preoccupied with these things, but it was to come up with a sonic solution. A lot of the lyric writing was done, it was now how best to present something that isn't just a cliché or just a lazy way of how would you do this song? Would you play the snare with brushes? Use a subtle bit of bass? It's like, 'Nah, I'm falling asleep already. How can we do this in a bolder way and really wake people up to what it is?' It was those things that would preoccupy me."
  • This wasn't released as a single in America, but in the UK it was the fifth single from White Ladder, Gray's pièce de résistance. Gray had been dropped by his label when he recorded it, so he issued it independently before it got picked up. It went Platinum in America, but was especially popular in the UK and in Ireland, where it is the best-selling album of all time.
  • The music video, directed by Monty Whitebloom, finds Gray in the sea of drunken humanity after the bars close in London. He appears to be sober, eager to "sail away" from it. The concept ties in with the lyrics:

    I've been talking drunken gibberish
    Falling in and out of bars
  • This features in the 2001 Robert De Niro movie 15 Minutes and in the film Angel Eyes, released the same year.

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