Anyone who’s ever been on ShipRocked knows that Sevendust always bring the energy live and are one of the most approachable bands on the ship. Ahead of this year's cruise, we had the chance to chat with guitarist John Connolly, who dished on his love of ShipRocked and the three sets the band plans to play on this year’s cruise.

Connolly also expressed his excitement to perform Sevendust’s first album live in its entirety for the first time ever as a special treat to ShipRockers. If that’s not enough, Sevendust are also gearing up to hit the studio and release a brand new album this year! Check out our exclusive interview with Sevendust guitarist John Connolly below:

You guys are ShipRocked veterans. What keeps you coming back?

[Laughs] Alan Koenig [ShipRocked producer]. He keeps saying, “I’m not going to ask again,” and after last year he looks at us and he goes, “You know, I get so much grief for not asking.” We had such a good time on the first one so it made sense to do another one. Once we did the third one, people started saying, “It’s not ShipRocked without Sevendust.” Once we got past three it was kind of like, the invitation will probably be out there, unless they change the format up so radically that it doesn’t make sense for us to be a part of it. We warned them, we said, “Look if we’re not playing, know that we’re going to be guests on the boat and you’re going to see us anyway. [Laughs]

Maybe they should just call it the ShipRocked Sevendust Cruise.

[Laughs] We joke about that all the time – just put it in parentheses!

I remember last year fans had to be turned away because the theater got so packed for your acoustic performance on the boat. What does this response mean to you?

Like I said, we had such a good time on that first cruise, we met so many people that we didn’t know but that we’ve seen over the past three or four years. I think the one thing that meant more to Alan and meant more to ShipRocked, about us in particular, was the experience. The experience with ShipRocked is supposed to be that you’re up close and personal and that you get to hang out with the band – not just to go and see a show and get to walk through the autograph line and grab a quick photo but to actually sit down and have dinner with some of your favorite bands or go to the bar and hang out on the beach with them.

We always look forward to the cruise, it’s the thing that we plan all year long. When we were hanging out at the bar, on the beach, constantly up in the fans faces out and about -- I remember Alan came up to me and he goes, “You guys get it. This is what we wish some of our headliners would do.”

I’m not going to go on a cruise ship and sit in my room the whole time, it’s just not going to happen. We’re going to get out on the beach, we’re going to do the beer pong tournaments or just park it in the middle of the Deck with people and not only because of the fans but because we’re on vacation. For us it’s fun, it’s nice that people want to buy you a drink or shake your hand or ask for an autograph or picture. I don’t look at that as a pain in the a--. We warn people on day one like “You’re probably going to get tired of seeing us.” [Laughs]

For Sevendust, I think we’re a good match for ShipRocked. ShipRocked, they love what we do but they also understand that we get it – it’s such a mutual appreciation. It’s a no brainer. If we don’t do ShipRocked, it’s going to be weird.

For us the fan part is a huge deal but I got to be honest with you I’m excited about seeing Living Colour and Tremonti, I’m excited about seeing Buckcherry and Limp Bizkit. We’re fans, if we were at home and any of those bands came through town, we’d be going out to see the show. If we weren’t playing, we would still have such a good time. At this point we know so many of the veteran ShipRockers and so many bands so for us it’s just a win all the way around.

The only negative is that there’s so much to do, you’re going to miss a few things. For us it’s actually kind of nice because we get the extra show this year. That was the added bonus, we get to go on the boat a day earlier and when they asked us to play the pre-party, we were like, “Okay this is even cooler.” We’re one of the few bands that will get to do that third show.

You guys are playing three shows, both an electric and acoustic set this time around as well, how is the third show going to be different?

Well we’re actually doing more than just that. [Laughs] We’re doing the two electric shows but one of them is going to be very different, a show that we’ve never done before. We’re actually going to be doing the first album in its entirety, which we’ve had fans beg us for years and years. So the pre-party show is going to be a normal, traditional electric show, the second electric show is going to be the full first album. That’s going to be a lot fun for us, we’ve never done it. I’m listening back to some of these songs and we literally haven’t played some of them in 15 or 16 years.

The acoustic thing is such a special thing, one thing I will say is that it will be much different this year than last year is that now that we have an acoustic record and three acoustic tours under our belt, it’s going to be much more like “The Evening With Sevendust.” In all honestly last year was nerve wracking because we hadn’t done the full acoustic set yet and we didn’t have the mojo going, we were just kind of playing off each other, it was a magical night and it was great but this one is going to be a lot more dialed in.

With that being said, I don’t know, this first album show – I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be the first one ever. So many people have asked us for so many years. When you look at that record in it’s entirety we get why Sevendust fans love that record as much as they love the new music and the other records. There’s something dear about that whole first version of everything, that takes us all back to the beginning. That’s going to be the first time ShipRocked gets to see that but it’s the first time that we get to play it. We’ll go through it in rehearsal but other than that this is the first time we take it out in front of people. Rehearsals are going to be nuts though because we have to rehearse three completely different sets.

What do you and the rest Sevendust have planned after ShipRocked?

It’s going to be ridiculously busy but it’s not going to look like that from the outside. The week after we get off the boat, we might have one show while we’re there in Florida but other than that, we’re headed into the studio. Mid February we’ll start recording, it’ll probably be around a month between mixing and mastering and all that good stuff. Mid to late March the new record will be finished so we might not actually hit the road until somewhere in the neighborhood of July. We’re going to be busy making the next full on electric record.

2015 is going to stack up to be a very busy end of the year. It’s kind of a bummer because people have been hitting us up asking if we’re going to be at Carolina Rebellion or Rock on the Range and we’re just going to miss them all. Those festivals will be great for the following year. Every time I see a lineup for all of these shows I’m like, “Oh man! Why can’t we just be part of it?” because we’re excited and we’re fans too. The new record will be dropping late Spring, early Summer and you know how we tour. Once the tour starts we’ll be going for a while.

How has the progression of the new material been for you and the rest of the guys so far?

It’s funny, you come out of acoustic world and immediately you’re like “Alright let’s get metal again, let’s get heavy.” There’s a lot of heavy on this one, but there’s also a lot of melody. There’s a lot of spill over from where our headspace was at on an acoustic perspective which is great. I love being as heavy as we can be but Lajon [Witherspoon] he’s a melodic singer and I think he’s going to be excited about a lot of stuff. As heavy as we’re trying to be there’s still a ton of melody on it.

Once we get together as a band, I know Clint [Lowery] is busy writing a ton of demos and everyone is trying to get back into that headspace - the demos are exciting so far. We’ve had such a good time, during the last two records, collaborating together as a five piece which is something we haven’t done since the first album. All we had was a rehearsal room, each other, paying the rent and a few shows. Someone would come up with a riff or a demo and bring it in and we’d really hammer it out as a band.

We had so much fun on ‘Black Out the Sun’ and ‘Time Travelers & Bonfires’ really just being in each other’s face instead of wondering is this going to work or is that going to work? Morgan [Rose] is going to play whatever beat he’s going to play right there on the spot. I’m really looking forward to that interaction again. It was surprisingly civil too, for some reason or another as we get older we seem more agreeable with people’s suggestions. Having five cooks in the kitchen at all times, most times, with most bands can be counterproductive but for us it just works so much better for us – we’re so much more efficient.

We’re much happier without the guesswork, you play a riff then Vinny [Hornsby] starts playing then Clint comes in and questions get answered and then you move onto the next thing. It’s the stuff that we create together that’s usually the stuff that gets us the most excited.

The ShipRocked cruise sets sail from Port Miami to the Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas on Feb. 2 with a return date of Feb. 6. A limited number of staterooms are still available. Check the ShipRocked Cruise website for details.

Watch Our Interview With Sevendust From Last Year's ShipRocked