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David Huckfelt brings message of environmental spirituality to Iowa

David Huckfelt, performing at the "Water Is Life" concert in Duluth, Minnesota in August.
Sara Fish
David Huckfelt, performing at the Water Is Life concert in Duluth, Minnesota in August.

Singer-songwriter David Huckfelt has fond memories of growing up in western Iowa. They’ve been coming back to him lately, as he prepares to perform in his home state.

“There’s a feeling of Iowa hospitality that I remember from my childhood,” said Huckfelt. “That feeling that the people of Iowa would give the shirt off their back, the kindness to strangers."

Huckfelt grew up in Spencer and is probably best-known to Studio One listeners as one half of the duo The Pines. While The Pines remain on indefinite hiatus, Huckfelt has released a pair of solo albums. His most recent, “Room Enough, Time Enough,” was released in February. Both of Huckfelt’s albums have been inspired by the teachings of Native American leaders and activists, such as the late author John Trudell.

David Huckfelt will perform at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa on September 17th.
Graham Tolbert
David Huckfelt will perform at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa on September 17th.

“The indigenous leaders and activists have been telling us for hundreds of years that, if we don’t take care of planet Earth, there won’t be anything left to take care of,” said Huckfelt. “That message feels especially poignant and urgent to me, especially after the last few years in the United States. I wanted those themes to be prominent in the new record.”

Huckfelt also became a first-time father in 2020, which changed his perspective as well.

“I’ve never experienced the kind of unconditional love that comes from having a child, especially during a time where there’s a lot of danger in the world,” said Huckfelt. “Our son was born at the beginning of the pandemic. We couldn’t have him meet anybody for months. It just highlighted the preciousness of what it is we’re living for, and why we’re trying to care for the planet.”

Huckfelt has not played any indoor shows during the pandemic: all have either been outdoors, or in barns or other well-ventilated spaces. These shows have included the Protect the Water and Water Is Life concerts, both intended to bring awareness to the Line 3 pipeline, which runs through Minnesota and is opposed by Native American and climate activist groups.

“I understand that it’s a very divisive issue in America, but Native Americans have been shoved around at the convenience of the federal government for 400 years,” said Huckfelt. “If there was ever a time to take a stance on turning our attention to clean energy, it’s now.”

“While music can be a release, it can also be an engagement in these things,” said Huckfelt. “After a year and a half of pandemic, I wanted my music to be plugged into ways to help people in their daily lives. Raising money but also raising awareness. More than being against a pipeline, we’re for the water.”

David Huckfelt with environmental activist Winona LaDuke at the Water Is Life festival.
Sara Fish
David Huckfelt with environmental activist Winona LaDuke at the Water Is Life festival.

Huckfelt will perform at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 20. Masks are required inside the building. Huckfelt supports these and similar safety measures and regrets that they've become such a divisive topic.

“It takes care of the audience and the artist at the same time,” said Huckfelt. “I feel so strongly that we, as a country, didn’t need to be pushed into the corners we’ve been pushed into. I don’t think it’s the people’s fault. I feel like disinformation has been pushed onto us.”

In addition to the CSPS show this month, David Huckfelt will be at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa on May 28th, along with Pieta Brown and the band Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts. This show was rescheduled from its original date in September. David Huckfelt’s solo albums are available on Bandcamp and Spotify.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host