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J. Jeffrey Messerole finds inspiration in true crime and Midwestern life

There’s a song on J. Jeffrey Messerole’s latest EP, “The Strangebird Tapes,” called “Stock-In-Trade,” in which Messerole constructs the chorus around the line “We need the truck for work the next day.”

Now, to be sure, not having a truck when you definitely need one can be a problem, and it can wreck your whole day. Still, it’s not the sort of situation that inspires a whole song. But the Des Moines-based singer Messerole makes it work and makes it work well.

“I think, broadly speaking, I try to write about midwestern life, just standard, day-to-day normal things that people encounter,” said Messerole. “That’s what’s going to be most relatable to people.”

J. Jeffrey Messerole’s top 5 true crime podcasts:
1. David Ridgen - CBC/Radio Canada - "Someone Knows Something"
2. David Ridgen - CBC/Radio Canada - "The Next Call"
3. James Pietragallo & Jimmie Whisman - Wondery - "Small Town Murder"
4. Phoebe Judge - Vox Media - "Criminal"
5. Payne Lindsey - Tenderfoot TV - "Atlanta Monster"

On the other hand, Messerole also frequently draws inspiration from stand-up comedy, as well as true crime documentaries and podcasts. “Henrietta: Queen of the Highway,” which Messerole frequently closes his sets with, is loosely based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, America's first female serial killer.

“I spend way too much time listening to true crime stuff,” said Messerole. “I’ll turn on ‘Forensic Files’ and have that play in the background while I take a nap, which is a weird way to get stuff into your mind.”

“The Strangebird Tapes” EP features two prominent themes in Messerole’s music: weather and driving. Both are integral parts of his life, as a traveling musician who grew up in western Iowa and lived there until 2020.

“The month of April, I put about 4000 miles on my car. I spend a lot of time on the road, hours a day, almost every single day,” said Messerole. “Weather directly impacts driving and conditions, but it’s also something that I think everybody processes and thinks about, so it’s an easy conversation topic.”

J. Jeffrey Messerole is IPR’s Artist of the Month for May. “The Strangebird Tapes” is on major streaming services, and Messerole’s music can also be found on Bandcamp. Learn more about IPR’s Artist of the Month series here.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host