Friday, March 15, 2013

Satellite Interview with Steven McMorran

Could you briefly describe how you guys came together? I have heard that it is almost a magical story....

McMorran: Well, I had never sung by myself for the most part, so Mitch and Josh were both individually surprised to realize that I was writing these songs for me.  They both reached out about making a band around them, which means there was a bit of a love triangle going.  BUT it really got started when we all three got together to start building the songs in the studio.  Erik came along about a year later when we wanted to change up our liveshow, but then he ended up helping us be nice to each other again. He's a magician.

You guys have a full-length album coming out very soon, how did you arrive on the track list for the album? Some of the songs date back a number of years (i.e. "Say The Words" and "Ring The Bells").

M: We look at Calling Birds as our first record.  We spent time making the first half and then decided to release it as an EP (Ring The Bells EP) just to see what would happen.  We used the money we made from it to keep building the rest of it.  Once we were done, we looked around for the best way to show it to as many people as possible. 

How does the writing process normally pan out for you guys? Do you have a specific writing process?

M: For this record it was largely me bringing in songs I'd written at my coffee table instead of sleeping.    A lot of times Josh showed me an idea and let me sit with it for a long time until I brought it back to him a little more developed. The bottom line is we're just trying to find that thing we connect with. For me it's the lyrics and the melody, so I get specific about that. But there's a heartbeat to this stuff, and it doesn't have to be found until it wants to be found.  We're at the mercy of it to some degree.

I am specifically interested in "Turning On My Own" and "'Till I Return," and what originally motivated these two songs?

M: Thank you! "Turning On My Own" is a double meaning. I was trying to admit how wreckless I felt at the time. I was spinning off into whatever I wanted the band to be, and at the same time trying to keep the life I'd made in tact; trying not to burn it down. That's the war of the heart.

"Till I Return" is about men going to war, but like way way back before electricity. Men used to leave behind their families to go walk around the earth, fight wars they had nothing to do with, see things they'd never forget, lose people they'd never get back, and pray they'd see their sons and daughters before they grew up.  I started thinking about that for some reason and tried to write a song I'd sing if I were there. 

Was there a specific song on the record that blew you away, with how much it developed from the time it was written to the final recorded product?

M: "Brooklyn" came along and kept turning into something more. I showed Josh and Mitch the first draft of it, and they told me it needed a third line in the chorus. By the time I wrote that "stubborn fool" line I was listening to Josh come up with the slide part. That was a turning point for us too.  We had had to start over on the second half of the record, because we listened to what we'd made first and didn't like it.  So we scratched the songs and started with new ones. "Brooklyn" was the first one we worked on next and I think it helped us see where we were headed.

What would you like for listeners to take away from Calling Birds after listening to it?

M: I hope people connect with what the songs are about, and how they were intended to say something honest during all this time it took to make them. 

Where does the title of the album Calling Birds come from?

M: Birds are the first thing you hear reminding you the sun's coming up.  I hope this album is something that helps get people through the night.

Steven, I have seen you perform  by yourself a couple of times now, and you have always delivered a passionate and entertaining performance. I am curious who you look up to in terms of stage presence and live performance?

M: I look up to Dylan, Tom Waits, Thom Yorke, Cash, Willie Nelson, Fiona Apple, Ryan Adams, Springsteen, and anyone else who gives me the impression they don't care whether I like it or not. They don't "perform." It looks more like a glimpse at who they are, and if so, my opinion doesn't matter. I'd never led a band until Satellite. The biggest difference with this is that I'm not trying to execute something flawlessly on stage, I'm trying to get enough out so I don't burn down the rest of me.  

Steven, do you happen to recall the moment or period when you realized that you had a unique and powerful voice?

M: I knew how much I loved singing from age 5. I knew it mattered to someone the moment it felt like the air got sucked out of the room at Molly Malone's after singing like that for the first time. I don't really know how to answer the question though because it's kind of loaded with the idea that I think it's powerful.  I'm along for the ride way more than I'm convinced it's powerful.

How did you guys get hooked up with Sony Music's Descendant Records? What attracted you guys to them?

M: JAY.  He's been a friend for years and I knew he'd been keeping up with the record's progress.  Eventually he reached out and told me about Descendant and then made an offer. It was as natural a step as breathing air and looked exactly like what we'd set out to do: finish the record and put in the hands of someone we trusted to put it out into the world. 

How did you guys get hooked up with TWLOHA, and how was the Heavy and Light Tour?

M: Heavy and Light was great! TWLOHA and Jamie have been friends of ours for a long time too. He and I knew each other before the EP released, but he was pretty surprised by how much he felt towards it. One day he emailed me a blog he'd written about Ring The Bells, and I couldn't believe how genuinely kind it was. We've been doing shows together ever since. Being a part of the conversation they shed light on is a pretty humbling thing.

Any advice for new artists/bands starting out?

M: Be you. There's only one of you. Even if you don't like you right now. You might be surprised at how many people get it.

What do you guys have coming up? Touring?

M: Well I'm playing three shows through NC, SC, and AL coming up first.  Then meeting the band at SXSW. Then we all head up to the Northeast (Boston, Philly, NYC, and more) for the Lisa Loeb dates.  That's just March.

Perfect day, you are driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?

right now? 

M: The song "Talk Show Host."

Following an acoustic performance in Atlanta, Steven McMorran, frontman of the pop\rock band Satellite, performed a number of powerful songs for a handful of fans in the parking garage of the Vinyl. In this video, McMorran plays a song called "Brooklyn," off Satellite's record Calling Birds.

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