“When I was eighteen, I had the realization that I really loved making music. Everything needs music. Everyone needs music at some point. If it’s for commercials or listening or even video games, everything in life needs a soundtrack. So why not be the person to do that?”
Coping with an illness that brought him in and out of the hospital throughout his teenage years, Danny McCook channeled that pain and turned it into a passion that has thrown him into the music scene fairly quickly. Under the name Saint Mesa, he has already released an EP, and performed at two music festivals—Sasquatch and Bottlerock—fairly recently.
His work as Saint Mesa is the result of being completely self-taught. “YouTube taught me everything. Doing it every day, all day, constant trial and error. Repeating, repeating, repeating,” he describes. Although he has the Jungle EP, out now, and a full-length in the works, McCook admits that releasing his own bodies of work wasn’t the original goal. “The main thing I was aiming for was soundtracks, scoring movies and stuff. I still really want to do that someday,” he explains. Although he didn’t see himself pursuing a musical project as a solo artist at first, McCook discovered that spending hours upon hours teaching himself to produce made the option attainable, and so he started learning how to sing.
Using different soundscapes and layering vocals, Saint Mesa showcases the endless hours of work and late nights that go into producing. At the same time, he gives listeners music that intentionally takes them on a journey. After creating a song that caught the ears of different record labels, Saint Mesa began exploring his options: did he want to continue self-releasing, or was he ready to sign with a label? Ultimately, he joined Interscope Records, and, while the work that goes into being on a label is nothing new, McCook describes the production of the music video for “Jungle” as something that both surprised and humbled him.
“I’ve never worked with a production team. We literally had two vans of gear in the desert, and a whole crew of people to hold lights, tape down tarps… A whole lot more people than I expected. A whole cast of actors,” he adds.
Although the new album’s release date has gone unannounced thus far, Saint Mesa’s description of what we can expect has heightened the anticipation. “I really want the record to feel like it’s an entire world, all within the ten tracks we use. So all of the songs I’ve been writing fit into a narrative and give you a whole story. I want it to be a mixture of a narrative you can follow—a cool world you can dive into—but I also want it to be a genuine expression of where I’m at in life and how I’m feeling,” he details. “So it should kind of be a mixture of storytelling, and emotional honesty, you know?”
WORDS: EMILY GORDON