“Song for Sasha Banks”: Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle reveals the story behind the hit song about The Boss
Earlier this week, The Mountain Goats dropped a new single on Bandcamp called “Song for Sasha Banks”. It has become an earworm throughout the WWE Universe and drawn rave reviews from music critics at Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and NPR Music, among others.
And it all came about through a personal request from The Boss herself.
John Darnielle, the lead singer of indie rock outfit The Mountain Goats, confirmed as much during a recent phone interview with WWE.com.
Darnielle, who took a break from a recent recording session in his native North Carolina to speak with WWE.com, explained that Banks’ timing was good. His band’s spirits were high as they had just released “Beat the Champ,” The Mountain Goats’ 2015 album tribute to sports-entertainment. He accepted the request and promised to complete the song by the end of that tour.
Where's my song @mountain_goats ?— $asha Banks (@SashaBanksWWE) May 3, 2015
The rigors of live touring prevented Darnielle from completing the song on time, but one thing did keep the request on his mind — the fans of The Boss.
“Her fans were stoked at the idea,” he said. “Over the past couple of years, they’d keep saying, ‘Hey, where's the Sasha Banks song?’ And then somebody brought it up in an interview, and I loved having this ‘You have an assignment you haven't finished.’”
So, Darnielle finally got around to it. In the three years since the request, he researched the story of Sasha Banks, her upbringing and travels from Massachusetts to the independents to WWE NXT. He checked out her best matches on YouTube. He jotted ideas down on a blank notebook page under the title “Song for Sasha Banks”.
Then he found a deadline: The recent Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
“Her name was coming up because she was going to Money in the Bank,” he said. “I learned her whole story and something just reached me. It was just the right time of day.
“Sometimes, songwriting is just where you happen to be when you happen to have the guitar out and the notebook out,” Darnielle added. “That was a week or two ago Sunday. I just woke up and there was the notebook open to it! It just came out real fast. I finished it between breakfast and lunch.”
With the song finally on paper, Darnielle called Chris Stamey, a record producer and legendary co-founder of the power pop group The dB’s, and arranged to record the song in Stamey’s North Carolina studio. The song mixing was delayed one week due to Stamey’s publicity tour for his new biography, but it was finally completed on the eve of WWE Money in the Bank 2018.
We here in the @mountain_goats acknowledge @SashaBanksWWE as the Boss and we know no road worth traveling doesn't have some bumps and we promised her this song several years back and I wrote it last week and here it is https://t.co/FZApRe6p1m— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) June 18, 2018
Days later, “Song for Sasha Banks” surfaced on Bandcamp and introduced music fans to the story of a unique Superstar that Darnielle and fans of The Boss know is deserving of praise.
“She has this very intense positivity,” he said. “She seems [to be] a person who's really coming into her own and who has worked very hard, and I relate very strongly to that.”
He found Banks to be reminiscent of legendary grapplers like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Chavo Guerrero and the others he paid tribute to with “Beat the Champ.” Whether writing songs about the heroes of the territorial era of sports-entertainment or modern Superstars, the Mountain Goats frontman admits that grapplers make for a perfect muse because of their dedication and the toll they are willing to pay in pursuit of greatness.
“People like to overemphasize the dramatic part of all of this,” he said. “They don't really start to think about what it legit takes out of your body to do this work, right? You sacrifice your body to be a wrestler; it's something you choose to do. That's one of the things that has always been compelling about it to me, you know? You're breaking off a piece of yourself to pursue your vision of who you want to be. That's exciting to me.”
After “Song for Sasha Banks,” Darnielle admitted he’s turning his attention to finishing up a new Mountain Goats album that won’t be as focused on sports-entertainment as the band’s new song or their “Beat the Champ” LP. However, he didn’t rule out telling another Superstar’s story if he finds inspiration — or a timely Twitter request — again.
“Never say never, you know?” he said. “There's a sense that in which no matter who I'm writing about, I'm still writing about wrestlers.”