The collective individual accomplishments of the relatively new band Satellite are impressive. Between the four members they have been nominated for a Grammy, signed to Columbia Records and Epic, been a part of a platinum selling band and written songs for a diverse group of artists ranging from Pink to Faith Hill to Celine Dion to Joe Cocker.
With their debut LP Calling Birds coming out March 5, we caught up with lead singer Steven McMorran to learn why these four successful songwriters and musicians decided to leave their individual paths to form a band.
Tell us about your background and how you got into music.
I grew up in Little Rock, and the cello was my first instrument to really dig into. By the time I wanted to play guitar in bands, my dad put a bass in my hands (“It has four strings just like the cello”). After college I made a few decisions that landed me in California trying to write songs for other people, and eventually I had to find out what would happen if I started singing the songs I wrote.
Talk about your recent relocation from LA to Nashville.
I love living here. I’ve never felt more like myself to be honest, and that’s a neat thing to realize. The decision was driven by what would be best for my family, but beyond that, there was a paradigm shift in me once Satellite started. I literally remembered who I’d forgotten myself to be because of all this. Nashville is a smaller city built on disproportionately on music, where LA is built on entertainment. That means the average crowd here has probably collectively sold 10 million records and listens in a completely different way.
How did Satellite come together as a band?
We came together around the songs. We believed in them and wanted to make something that felt separate from the lives we’d devoted to other people’s songs. Mitch and Josh didn’t know they were both approaching me about starting a band. So for a while there was a little love triangle going on until we all met at Mitch’s studio to put guitars on Say The Words. From there we slugged it out for about a year piecing together as much time as we could afford. Tension is a part of the process for us, but Erik came along and kept us from killing each other.
What was the process like creating this album?
The motto was “we’ll know it when we hear it.” We tracked vocals two or three times on some songs just to get the feeling we wanted. We scratched the entire second half of the record and started over at one point. We allowed ourselves the chance to develop a sound to some initial extent. Eventually we had to stop because we all admitted we were going a little crazy. But this album introduces us to the world with something that feels genuinely ours, and we aren’t going to have to reinvent ourselves to make the next one.
Is there a common theme in the album?
The album is called Calling Birds because the birds are the first thing you hear to remind you the sun is coming up. I hope these songs are something like friends for people. That’s the common thread among them; they’ve all been cathartic for me in some way, helping me make it through some long metaphorical (and sometimes literal) night.
How do you view the South now that you’ve returned?
I grew up in the South, and I’ve always liked that. I left for a decade, and being back makes me much more aware of the feeling I get from living in it. There’s some unspoken code of ethics written into the South that keeps you sharp if you feel it getting violated. That’s definitely not to say it’s flawless, but it is to say the South has its own culture with its own sensibilities.