Band Satsang

Satsang: Gathering Musical Community

Satsang; it means community, it means to gather. And as Drew McManus, lead singer of the band of the same name shares, it means, “In the company of truth.” This is something McManus has been seeking in himself and the world around him for as long as he can remember.

Drew McManus

Drew McManus and his Journey from the Outer to the Inner

Drew grew up in the urban sprawl of Des Moines, Iowa, surrounded by section 8 housing. He slept to a soundtrack that included the cacophony of cries from brutal crime. “I had a really rough childhood,” Drew discloses. “My stepfather was super abusive. He hit me and my brother every single day. My understanding of the world was formed under the threat of violence…every waking second.”

The only solace was when McManus’s mom would throw on classic country music LPs like Hank Williams, Jr. or The Highwaymen. When he was three years old, someone put a plastic guitar in his hands. He carried it at all times, pretending he was country-rock “god” Garth Brooks.

As he got a little older, McManus immersed himself in the aggressive dissonance of skate culture. He watched videos on VHS and listened to the heavy punk rock that accompanied them: Black Flag, The Suicide Machines, and favorite, Bad Religion. He resonated with the survivalist stories he heard in hip hop music sung by Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and more. His intrinsic poetic rebellion was soaking in similar artists who had come before.

At 13, McManus noticed his mom’s new boyfriend had an old acoustic guitar. Drew asked if he could “mess around with it.” The boyfriend responded, “Man you can have it.” His mom bought him a 20-page, “How to play guitar” book complete with chord charts. He went to the local library and checked out The Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty”, and the Black Crowes “Shake Your Money Maker” on CDs. He taught himself how to strum, and within a year started to write songs. Drew had finally found that emotional and creative outlet he craved as a kid. But the genetic coding and karmic conditions he was born with had other plans.

McManus got busted with “a super small amount” of marijuana. The budding musician was put on six months of probation getting drug-tested twice a week. The child of many generations of addiction, he recalls, “I had zero interest in drinking alcohol, because I was raised by an alcoholic. I had no curiosity about putting it into my body. But not being able to smoke pot and still needing some sort of escape, I just started drinking and didn’t really stop.”

He moved out when he was 16 and made his way to the nearest big city. “I always liked cocaine, but I could never afford it,” McManus admits. “And then, when I moved to Chicago, I found myself in a little hustle where I was selling drugs. So, it became a lot more affordable. And that became quite the issue.”

Within a few years, all of his relationships disintegrated, McManus recalls to the point, “where no one wanted to be around me, and then I tried to kill myself and failed miserably.” Remaining friends and family staged an intervention. Before he knew it he was en route to rehab in Billings, Montana, where his dad lives. Drew remembers, “I didn’t put up much of a fight. I was pretty much homeless at the time too, so a part of agreeing to go to treatment was like, ‘Cool, I don’t have to worry about who I owe money to, or where I’m gonna sleep.’ It was just a huge relief. I remember thinking I’ll just fully surrender to this. This’ll be kind of nice.”

After the agony and offloading of in-patient treatment, Drew found himself in 12-step programs seeking his “higher power.” He couldn’t really find it in the church basements where others were baring their souls. So he set out on a journey in the mountains of Montana. “I just spent a lot of time climbing and hiking, and fishing, and just removed myself from society for a little bit.”

Drew McManus of the band Satsang

Life-Changing Convos in Coffee Shops

In the calm quiet of nature, Drew McManus made efforts to make peace with his past, honor the emptiness of the present moment, and see what spirit had lined up for him next. There was still a lot of deep healing to do, but he made that next-right-decision to responsibly land work at a local coffee shop. One of the regulars at that coffee shop would forever change his life. Drew adoringly adds, “So she would come in and drink coffee while she would do her anatomy books for her 500-hour RYT. I would never charge for a drink, and I would always flirt with her. And then eventually, she asked me to go on a hike. It was just crazy. She had three kids, a master’s degree, and I was fresh out of rehab and sleeping on a couch at the time. It just made absolutely no sense, but we made it.” McManus jokes, “I knew right away. She tried to fight it for a while, and I had to keep reminding her over and over. Like ‘You can’t be fighting this. This is the universe in action. You don’t wanna be the one that slaps God in the face’.”

Drew and Summer joined together as friends, as a couple, as man and wife, and co-parents. She offered him the safe and stable homelife that his younger-self had never experienced. He worked to provide for his new family, at the coffee shop, and outdoor store, waiting tables, working at a ski mountain, and trekking through the desert. A coworker who led expeditions invited him to go rock climbing in Nepal. He tucked away the funds and went on pilgrimage.

He reminisces, “I was lucky. My wife is a sage. She is a very special person, a yoga therapist, an Ayurveda practitioner, a psychotherapist. She’s the real deal. And for the first four years we were together, she just ever so gently pushed me into things, so I could realize it for myself.”

Trekking To the Himalayas

Landing in Kathmandu Valley, in the shadow of Mount Everest, the climbers planned to ascend some boulders, but the conditions weren’t ideal. The duo decided to trek through Khumbu. It would take five weeks by foot. Drew reminisces, “It’s the first time in my life that I had the space where I wasn’t in survival mode. I wasn’t in problem-solving mode. It was just like – all I have to do today is walk that way. It was on those walks that I would start digging in, and it was like accidental therapy.”

Drew McManus in Nepal

Drew McManus on A Pilgrimage to Find Satsang

Like many who go on pilgrimage, he asked himself the extensional questions. “What does it all mean?” “Why are we here?” And of course, “What am I here for” The answer, he somehow always knew, came louder and louder. “No, no more tapping out” he thought. “This is what you were made to do, so let’s go do it.”

He then had the fated meeting with a group of yogis who invited him to a “Satsang.” Drew discovered the word’s deeper meaning. When he returned home to his wife, he exclaimed, “Dude, it’s music!” And she was like, “Yeah babe, I know.”

Drew gathered the “Satsang” and a band was formed. Satsang has been traveling coast to coast playing concerts and festivals while growing a devout fanbase who beats the band to the words of their own songs. Satsang’s 2016 debut album, Story Of You, had millions of plays on Spotify, and contains the fan favorites, “I Am” and “Remember Jah.” Their follow-up Pyramid(s), boasted the beloved anthem, “Between” featuring Nahko Bear. The 2019 release, Kulture, explores the activist side of the singer/songwriters.


All.Right.Now: An Album of Truth through Music

So what do rolling stones like the members of Satsang do in a year when they are forced off the road? They surrender to the moment, let those shoulders down, heal some of the old wounds, and do it all in the studio for all to hear. The 2021 release All.Right.Now is a stripped-down and deeply authentic version of everything we’ve seen the band do before. Their music offers a sense of solace when we’ve been needing more community and the shared experience of deeper truths. Satsang’s bust-out single from All.Right.Now, “This Place” features Trevor Hall, in a collab that fans have been eagerly anticipating, according to the comments shared on the song’s hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and social media sites.

This Place with Trevor Hall

As All.Right.Now releases out into the world, the band is getting back on stage.

Drew McManus longs to create the sacred space so many seek to rejoin. He says, “It’s rare in this life to find that tightrope between the ethereal and the physical. And when we play live shows, that’s where I feel that, and that’s where I can stay in that for longer than a brief second. So, I’m looking forward to getting back there, in that magical energy exchange that happens between the crowd and us. That is why I’m here.”

Satsang’s album All. Right. Now. releases on Side One Dummy Records and is available on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube and wherever music can be heard.

They open for Michael Franti at Red Rocks Amphitheater on Saturday June 5th.

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Satsang shares All.Right.Now


* PHOTOS BY Greyson Christian Plate

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