I’ve known Shane Smith for nearly a decade and have borne witness to the hustle and trajectory of his career. The band has predominantly remained the same with only a couple of new members through the years, a testament to the magic that exists within their band family. They have electricity on stage and their harmonies are mesmerizing.
For being one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met, Shane has had some of the worst luck, in what has come to be known in the music community as ‘The Curse of The Saints.’
I had the chance to catch up with Shane recently after he returned from a Southwest road trip to recalibrate, the kind of reprieve he doesn’t usually have time for with his tour schedule.
Modern Huntsman: For as much as the band travels, you don't actually have time to get off the bus and see the world, do you? It must be nice to have that opportunity now.
Shane Smith: For sure. During my 20s I was worn out all the time. There was a long period of time that I was primarily driving, and so I was in this constant state of worn out and not in the best headspace. Always in a rush, running late trying to get to the next place, and not looking around where I was at the moment.
MH: Do you think if the tour schedule was built better you would have time to immerse yourself in a place instead of rushing to the next gig and that it would help your mental space?
SS: Balance is everything. That's like saying that if you had a more balanced tour schedule, would it be better for you? And it totally would. But at the same time, a lot of magic can be made with pressure and uncomfortable settings. In my mind as a musician, there's a rite of passage with "making it.” The dog days are really important. As much as I have PTSD from looking back at all of it, I also cherish the memories I can't get out of my mind, whether I want to or not, and I take pride in going through some pretty strenuous stuff.
MH: I know many musicians that say they write better songs under pressure, is that true for you?
SS: I think so. It’s almost like you go through phases of emotionalism and feeling way more intensely. Sometimes that can help you come up with certain songs, ideas, lines, and phrases.
MH: It seems this intentionality of putting yourself in uncomfortable and high-pressure situations may have opened Pandora's box to ‘the curse of the saints.’
SS: Yes, over the years we've had a lot of crazy stuff happen to us. We had the bus fire incident, and I don't know how many vehicle issues. When we did the Live From the Desert shoot there was a massive storm that came in and nearly wrecked shop and our bus got stuck for a few days; then my truck got stolen with my dog in it. Stover got bit by a rattlesnake on his finger and almost lost his hand; Chase had a motorcycle accident.
We were in an RV at the time, and we went through two years of having to carry Chase in and out of this motor home for every single gas stop, every single restaurant stop, every time we loaded into a venue, every time we played a show at a festival. If they didn't have a ramp, we were having to figure it out. I think Chase missed one show during that time, which is crazy. And that's back when we were doing 200-plus shows a year.
MH: Sticking together through all of it speaks volumes to how familial y'all are as a band.
SS: We have a really interesting relationship because of everything that happened, but we all equally have this weird PTSD from it. It was a long phase of time that we went through together that we kind of mutually blocked out. Now and then, memories will get brought up and we laugh it off. It was this really bittersweet phase of time that is exhausting or panic attack-inducing if we start to think about it a lot.
Many bands go through that stuff, it’s not like we're special in any way, but we have had an extraordinary amount of terrible things happen to us. You take pride in some of it and you just try to have tunnel vision and keep trucking along and be thankful for getting through it.
There are even songs that we haven't played in a long time and all of a sudden if I hear it, it takes me back to that place when we were playing it, like the stage on Sixth. Then I think, "Oh God, get me out of here."
If all of a sudden I woke up and this was a dream and I was back in those shoes and knowing how much I would have to go through to get to the present, that's where the panic is like, "Oh my God, I don't think I could do that again." I don't think I would choose to do it again. Even though there are amazing memories with it, it's a lot.
MH: If that were the case and you're now equipped with all this new knowledge, what would you do differently?
SS: I would have way more balance, and because of that, we probably wouldn't be successful. Because of all the grind, I attribute the grind to our success.
MH: You don't feel like there's a world in which you can have both balance and the grind?
SS: If there is that reality, I can't speak for it. I just know that a lot of our loved ones were neglected during that phase. There are a lot of negative repercussions that have rippled out to loved ones.
If we had done it differently with way more balance we wouldn't have taken this or that gig and wouldn't have driven through the night to find this and wouldn't have had the bus fire … I don't know that we would've made any kind of a break.
It’s almost like every one of those little grinds were stars aligning. And then Yellowstone happened and it's like, boom! All these people know our name. But there's a lot of fans that already knew our name, and they had a personal story of weird, screwed up stuff from back in the day, like when they saw a show and our engine had blown out, but then we got a U-Haul and we still made it happen.
One of the biggest things I'm most thankful for because of that grind is the organic fan base that we've developed and all of the meaningful relationships we have with them. They have respect for us, because they've seen it, were there for it, witnessed it, and so they see us differently. There's this whole brand that it [the grind] created for us, and I just don't know that we would be successful if it wasn't for that.
MH: The band is in a really interesting transition phase. After all that went wrong leading you to where you are, and now you're selling out everywhere. It's a whole different kind of stress.
SS: It's very interesting. We're so blessed and fortunate to get any kind of a break at all and to start seeing shows sell out and new fans pouring in, it's amazing. But it is definitely very different going from the South Pole to the North Pole. We're super thankful, and we're trying to ride it out, keep putting out new music, and keep hustling. I would like to think the crazy, unorganized grind phase is over, and we can proceed moving forward with more structure and an easier go at it. The running in place thing is the summary of our twenties.
MH: What's the summary of your thirties?
SS: It’s dots finally connecting and being able to have more balance, honestly. I've loved the last few years. During COVID, I feel like I lived more in the last two years than I have in the last 12.
Things slowed down, against my will, because if I had a chance to be scrambling and going, I would've been. It’s almost like the plug was pulled completely against my will and it forced this slower pace and balance into my life. I've been able to live more in the last two years and have more memories and experiences. It's not just everything flying by like a big blur.
I hope that it continues to go like that, and we continue to make music that people love and that stays true to our fans and keeps growing.
MH: What do you think it's going to take to end ‘The Curse of The Saints,’ or would you choose not to?
SS: Time will tell and we'll have to see how it plays out. Whatever our destiny has in store, I want to be fulfilled and hopefully, no one gets seriously injured in the process.
Interview and photos by
Natalie Rhea for Modern Huntsman
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