"A crew member stole $25,000 from me - and then our tour bus caught fire": Three years ago Shane Smith & The Saints almost called it quits, but now they've sold out Red Rocks and become TV stars

Shane Smith & The Saints studio portrait
(Image credit: David Wells)

The Blue Norther is a fast-moving cold front that becomes a tempest when it hits Texas. The storm is marked by violent changes in temperature. 

“It’s a really powerful thing to witness and feel,” says singer, songwriter and Lone Star native Shane Smith. “You see this whole weather wall coming, and then it’s like, ‘boom!’ It’s scary, but there’s also something really romantic to it at the same time.” 

Norther is a fitting title for Shane Smith & The Saints’ fourth album. Not only does it signify the Austin, Texas quintet’s eruptive, inclement mix of red dirt country, folk, bluegrass and embattled rock, it also serves as a metaphor for their difficult journey over the past decade or so. 

“It’s that combination of massive energy building and building, then finally releasing and getting to this place we’re at now,” Smith explains. “We’ve been doing this for so long, but it feels like this is the first time we’ve ever been heard. So calling it Norther makes perfect sense.” 

Indeed, the band’s story is testament to both talent and sheer durability. In 2019, following an appalling run of ill fortune after third album Hail Mary, they almost quit altogether. 

“We’d been audited by the IRS,” says Smith, “then we discovered a crew member had been slowly stealing around $25,000 from me, with a credit card. And our tour bus caught fire as we were travelling to Lubbock. Long story short, we lost everything: all of our guitars, merch and equipment, which had taken us for ever to build up. I was like: ‘Man, I think I’m done. I don’t see us bouncing back from this.’”

Shane Smith & The Saints - Adeline (Official Music Video) - YouTube Shane Smith & The Saints - Adeline (Official Music Video) - YouTube
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Instead they resolved to dig in harder. The turning point came in 2021, after the band’s All I See Is You gave its name to an episode of popular TV Western drama Yellowstone, and they performed in a lengthy scene, since when they’ve made numerous appearances in the series. 

“That suddenly gave everyone a reason to talk about us,” Smith adds. “All those fans who’d followed us for ever were out there spreading the gospel: ‘I told you this band is really good!’ So it turned around and hasn’t slowed down since.” 

The band – Smith (acoustic guitar/lead vocals), Bennett Brown (fiddle), Dustin Schaefer (lead guitar), Chase Satterwhite (bass) and Zach Stover (drums) – have recently hit a number of landmarks, including selling out Red Rocks in a day, playing the Grand Ole Opry, and making their US TV network debut. It feels like a deserved pay-off after all the dog days. 

“Oh man, it’s been crazy,” says Smith. “But going for so long without any success hard-wires your brain to never get too excited about things. We still feel that same sense of restlessness. And there’s definitely something to that. The message is if you can work harder than anyone else, eventually you’ll get there.” 

Norther is out now via Thirty Tigers/Geronimo West Records.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.