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Episode #297
Drew McManus

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Lead Singer Of The Band Satsang Shares Life As A Rockstar, Dad, & Parent

Guest Bio:

“Montana isn’t just where I live,” says Satsang’s Drew McManus. “It’s my heart, my soul. Along with my family, it’s my everything.”

It’s little wonder, then, that the state played such a pivotal role in inspiring ‘All Right Now,’ Satsang’s extraordinary new album and debut release for venerated indie label Side One Dummy. Written and recorded during an extended hiatus from the road, the record finds McManus reconnecting with his western roots and exploring a whole new palette of sounds and textures, drawing on classic country and modern Americana to forge a joyful, rustic collection all about letting go and living in the moment. McManus produced the album himself, and while the songs here are certainly honest and deeply personal, they’re written in a spiritual language that taps into something far more universal, something inherent in the human condition that binds us as brothers and sisters on a shared journey to find ourselves and our place in this world. The performances and arrangements are broad and spacious to match, reflecting the wide-open fields and soaring mountains that surrounded the band during the whirlwind recording process, and the result is a lush, organic collection fueled by acoustic guitars, fiddle, and pedal steel, a warm, inviting record that hints at everything from Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks to Gregory Alan Isakov and The Head and the Heart as it meditates on the power—and the pull—of home.

“I’ve been on the road for the last five or six years straight,” says McManus, “so being back in Montana for a whole year was a big change. Having that kind of uninterrupted time at home helped me fall back in love with songwriting in a whole new way.”

Though McManus was born in Montana, he actually spent much of his formative years in Des Moines, IA. His childhood was troubled, to say the least, marked by physical abuse at home and a nose for trouble that surrounded him. Music offered an escape, though, and McManus found solace in the punk rock and hip-hop he discovered through his love of skateboarding. Brash and aggressive, the songs were a far cry from the country tunes his mother played on endless loop around the house.

“She loved the old stuff like Buck Rogers and Hank Williams,” McManus recalls, “but she was really into that mid-to-late-nineties sound, guys like Garth Brooks and Randy Travis and Travis Tritt. I didn’t get it at the time, but she always used to tell me, ‘Someday, when you’re older, you’ll come back to this music.’”

Desperate to escape his surroundings and convinced that he’d wind up in jail like his brother if he stayed, McManus left home as a teenager and moved in with his older sister in Chicago. His first few years there played out like one long party, but as time wore on, it became apparent that the party was spiraling out of control. 

“It was clear to everyone else around me that I was an alcoholic and a drug addict,” McManus explains. “Eventually, my friends just sat me down and said, ‘We think you’re going to die if you keep this up.’”

So McManus packed his bags and headed back to Montana, where his biological father worked at a rehab clinic. The road to recovery was a long and arduous one, but McManus eventually got clean and sober, fell in love, and married the woman of his dreams. For the first time in a long time, life was good, and yet it still felt like something was missing, like some fundamental building block of his personality was being neglected. It wasn’t until McManus found himself on a backpacking trek in the Himalayas that the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. 

“I realized on that trip that you only get one shot at life,” says McManus, “and if you’ve got a chance to utilize your talents and follow your dreams, then you’ve got to go for it. It gave me this renewed sense of purpose, and within a week of getting back home, I started playing shows and launched the band.”

McManus filled notebook after notebook on that Himalayan journey, and the material would eventually go on to form the basis of Satsang’s breakout 2016 debut, ‘The Story of You.’ Steeped in reggae, hip-hop, and world music, the album was an uplifting affirmation that connected with fans around the world, racking up roughly 15 millions streams on Spotify alone. McManus and his bandmates returned a year later with their similarly successful sophomore effort, ‘Pyramid(s),’ which hit #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart and #2 on iTunes, and pushed their sound even further with 2019’s ‘Kulture,’ which incorporated a wider swath of influences from Motown to Tom Petty. Relentless road warriors, the group built a devoted following one night at a time, sharing stages with the likes of Michael Franti & Spearhead and Nahko and Medicine for the People as they worked their way up from bars and clubs to massive festivals.

Show Notes

  • Introduction (2:34)

  • Power of live music (3:45)

  • Become the best version of self (8:45)

  • Music as an identity (9:50)

  • Plant Medicine (21:22)

  • Growing to your true potential (26:54)

  • Power of fighting and MMA (34:18)

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