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Joel Sires counts the ways he's lucky

If you're looking for a deep listen, November Artist of the Month Joel Sires recommends Mickey Newbury’s "Frisco Mabel Joy."

The legendary singer John Prine famously worked for the US Postal Service in the late 1960s, when he began his songwriting career. Iowa musician Joel Sires, who counts Prine among his biggest inspirations, has a colorful employment history of his own.

“This may sound made up for folk music cred, but until recently, I was digging graves and maintaining a cemetery,” said Sires. “Now, I drive a garbage truck. Plenty of time to think about songs. It works out well for a guy like me.”

Like all musicians, the Cedar Falls-based Sires is coming off of a rough year and half, much of which was spent driving a garbage truck, binge-watching “The Office” (again), and playing with his dog. Once things started improving, though. He embarked on a major project as one of the organizers of the Cedar Basin Music Festival, which was held in Cedar Falls in June.

“I just joined the board, and they were between kind of a rock and a hard place. They didn’t really have anybody to book,” said Sires. “They asked ‘do you think you can get some acts?,’ and then I just did it all in a day. I just texted a bunch of my friends and a bunch of great local musicians, and we had an amazing festival down there.”

Joel Sires at home, wearing his new favorite jacket.
Augusta Sires
Joel Sires at home, wearing his new favorite jacket.

Sires performed at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls in June as part of their Local Legends series. He’s also performed several times in recent months at one of his favorite venues, Octopus College Hill. His sets have been a blend of songs from Sires’ solo EP “Dog Years,” as well as the previous TWINS album “Dream On” and some newer songs.

“They’ll let me do whatever type of band or act I have going,” said Sires, who’s performed there solo, and with TWINS and his current backing band, The Basic Band. “They always welcome it, and they’re always welcoming to local artists.”

Sires has about an album’s worth of new material, and hopes to go into the studio to record this winter. Still, the live performance, especially at Octopus, is what makes it all worth it for him.

“It’s great seeing a bunch of friends, and just hanging out at the best venue anywhere, with a bunch of buddies,” said Sires. “I’m a lucky man.”

Joel Sires is IPR’s Artist of the Month for November. His solo EP, “Dog Years,” is available on Spotify and Bandcamp, along with all of TWINS’ music. Learn more about the Artist of the Month series here.

IPR Music Iowa Artist of the Month
Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host