On The Rise: Satsang Is The Truth When It Comes To Roots Music

What do Steel Pulse, Nahko and Medicine for the People, and Trevor Hall have in common? A lot, plus the fact that they have shared the stage with up-and-coming roots artists Satsang. Satsang is a Sanskrit term that means true company, the company of the “highest truth,” the company of a guru, or company with an assembly of persons who listen to, talk about, and assimilate the truth.  The duo consist of Drew McManus (guitar/vocals) and David Cleaves (mandolin), and they will be adding members on their upcoming tour. They have organically become a part of a roots music family that includes artists from Hawaii and some that are a part of the Harmony Park tribe, such as Tubby Love, Mike Love, Wookiefoot, and Jus Wright, to name a few. Like all of the artists in this crew, they speak of love, purpose, and unity. However, the duo stands out when Drew brings a little rugged rebellion to his lyrics accompanied by David’s twangy bluegrass riffs.

The two are currently based out of southwest Montana, and David is a veteran on the tour and festival circuit from his days playing with Hot Day at the Zoo and Rootstand. They really caught my attention with their unique blend of bluegrass and reggae that makes for the perfect roots concoction. The two uniquely balance conscious lyrics with dirt-kicking bluegrass. I think they are meant to play together. Its like yin and yang. With two totally different body types, one speaks loudly with his voice and the other silently with his mandolin. The fact that they are authentic will take them a long way in the music world. I am looking forward to the day that I get to catch them live, and I’m looking forward to watching them increase attention from the music world. I think getting to know musicians personally makes listening to their music much better! So, I got the chance to ask the fellas some questions about everything under the sun. Continue reading, while laughing, and learning about being in the company of the highest truth.

bouldertheatre crowd

How long have two been playing together? How did you meet?

Playing together for two years this October. David and I actually met like 5.5-6 years ago. I was technically the first person he met in MT. He had just flown in from Boston, told his friend that had picked him up he wanted to grab some coffee. I was working at the shop he went to. He said, you know anyone who plays acoustic Reggae and/or Roots music? Hahahah. We played together a couple times but didn’t get serious until a few years after I moved into the mountains and traveled a bit.

What does the rest of Satsang’s 2015 year look like? Tours? Collabs? Recording?

This year has and will continue to be pretty nuts for us. Late August through late September we will be on the road. MT, CO, NE, IA, IL, MN, ND, WI… I think that is it for MidWest Tour. On that tour we will also have our good friend Karl Roth playing bass and singing harmonies with us in Des Moines, IA City, Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. Then, in October he will be moving out to join us full time. Also in October we will be MAKING A NEW RECORD!! So stoked! Drums, Bass, errrthang. And we will be making it in MT, which is great. I am looking forward to being able to take our time. Sleep at home, cook our own food, etc. We slept in my friend Kate’s basement in Boulder when we made the last record and had to hurry a bunch. We have a lot of homies in Montana who are world class musicians and are all super exited to play this or that on the album. It is going to be a game changer for sure. We are also going to do a run of shows in Southern Oregon and Northern Cali ;-). Then CO up through MT in November, can’t tell ya who we are playing with yet, but it is gonna be extra special. Then probably chill and hang with our families for the holidays. Lots of Collabs… Jon Wayne and I might have one in the Chamber…

What music festivals has Satsang played? What are some music festivals you hope to play one day?

We have played: ARISE in Colorado, FlowFest in Hawaii, LoveFest in NE, Project Earth, playing Shangri-La in Sept (BIG SHOUT OUT TO WOOKIEFOOT and BE THE CHANGE), Moods of the Madison (which was the most beautiful stage view ever), Groovin’ on the Gallatin, Sweet Pea, I am sure there are more… As far as what we would like to play, I want to play all of them lol. Festivals are great, for all of us they act as family reunions. We make friends with a lot of other musicians, and we all tour, so realistically the only time we get to hook up is at festivals. Would love to play Bali Spirit Fest, anything in Australia, Luminate in New Zealand… all the big ones in the midwest I grew up going to (10k, Electric Forest, Wakarusa, etc.) and Gathering of the Vibes. All the Wanderlust Festivals look amazing! So yeah… all of dem.


Funniest tour or show story?
Hmmmmm… HAHAHAH My head is flowing with what David is going to say hahahahaha. We had a random show in ID. This place was a sports bar, and it was Halloween… PACKED! Like 200-300 people. We start playing; I think we played two two-hour sets or something, nobody moved/spoke/smiled, etc. Like, stared at us like we were fucking aliens. Funniest thing to me about that night, DAVID WAS ON FIRE!! He was slaying it so hard. Like every lick was in an effort to get these people to give a shit… to no avail. I even said something along the lines of, “I hope you guys realize that you are watching one of the best Mandolin players in the country…” They put us up in a loft that one of their bartenders lived in. It was essentially a room, that smelled like a locker room, and had a PS4 and a Flat Screen… and nothing else. Our friends Sol Seed were there the night before, their story is even better… hahahahahhahaah

What is the long-term vision for Satsang?
Honestly, I just want to keep writing, traveling, playing, progressing, and growing. I really love playing music, from the deepest part of my being. I want to continue to meet and build with other artists, keep playing bigger and bigger shows. It is a special thing to get to share your point of view with people and have them relate in such a neat way (dancing, singing, etc.) Personally I hope to one day make enough currency to set up a piece of land with some four-season green houses and grow food and medicine year round. I have this idea of selling food and medicine on a sliding scale set up. The idea that it costs extra to buy REAL ORGANIC FOOD/MEDICINE is insane to me… I would like to remedy that, even if only in my county :-)
When did you start playing music? David? Drew?

Drew: I started playing guitar in like 6th grade. No lessons. I had a Chet Atkins book that had a chord chart in the back. So I would just play those and figure out what sounded good together. I started writing in high school, but as far as proficiently writing real songs I am super stoked on, only a few years. Post rebirth and post Nepal.
David: I was 10 and played trumpet for a bit. Didn’t start again ’til I was 24 when a friend gave me a mandolin.
boulder Theatre 1

Do you have any advice for young musicians/artists?
Hmmmm. TRAVEL, READ, LOVE, LOSE, EXPERIMENT. And above all… LISTEN TO EVERYTHING. As far as professionally: know the business, be humble, have boundaries. Know if this is really for you. It is a weird existence, and is hard… a lot of the time. It is hectic, boring, you get wanderlust, you get home sick, you get resented, you get loved on. But… you get to go raise the vibration for people who need/want it. And that is your job. Which is really really special.

If you could share stage with any artist that you haven’t performed with yet, who would it be?
Drew: We have been blessed to share the stage with a lot of Musicians that I love and respect. We are playing with Trevor Hall and Tubby Love this week and played at FlowFest in HI with them as well. Those guys are sooo fun to watch and play with. I would love to write with both of them. I would love to play with Medicine for The People again. A lot of MCs I would love to work with: Chuck D, Brother Ali, Chances R Good, Yasiin Bey, Wookiefoot, hmmmm, Franti would be pretty epic. His earlier stuff changed my life. Playing “Yell Fire” on stage with him would be a bucket-lister for sure

David: Jerry or Bob

What are some of your other passions besides music?
Drew: My family, soccer, skiing, vegan/vegetarian cooking, anything in the mountains that is human-powered.

David: Building community, my wife, meeting new people.

Any last words?

All Power to ALL PEOPLE

Many thanks to Satsang for their time and their message. I wish them many blessings and prosperity. I foresee them reaching larger and larger platforms! Peace be with ya’ll!

Photo Credits: Phillip Emma

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