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Dan Tedesco brings the audience to his music

A black and white image of musician Dan Tedesco playing an acoustic guitar.
Sam Battagliari
Courtesy the artist
Des Moines-based singer-songwriter Dan Tedesco has released all of his music exclusively on his own website, the Dan Tedesco Music Channel, since July of 2020.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to live music for the better part of a year, the work continued for musicians. Most continued to write new music, and many took to social media to livestream performances from their homes. For Dan Tedesco, the time he spent stuck at home changed the way he wrote and distributed his music altogether.

The Des Moines-based Tedesco is currently in the process of releasing his newest album, Days of Rock ‘n Roll. Instead of being released traditionally, the album is being released one song at a time on the Dan Tedesco Music Channel, a subscription-only section of Tedesco’s website. Tedesco sees the new album as a culmination of everything he’s done up to this point.

“Everybody says this, but I really do think I’m in the best spot I’ve ever been in creatively,” said Tedesco. “The things I’ve done in the past have led in a really organic way to where I am now.”

Dan Tedesco performs at IPR's Studio One (FULL SET)

The pandemic shift

Prior to the pandemic, Tedesco was busy touring, including multiple live appearances in IPR’s studios. Once shows started getting canceled, he didn’t slow down: he just put all of his efforts into writing and recording.

A picture of musician Dan Tedesco performing in IPR's studios.
Lucius Pham
Dan Tedesco recently performed in IPR's studios for the first time in several years. His performance will be available soon on IPR's YouTube channel.

“The break during COVID was the first I’ve ever allowed myself to take a break from performing and touring - because I was forced to,” said Tedesco with a laugh. “I was able to look at some of the other things I wanted to explore. I got really into production at home, which led to the last few records being done at home. I engineered, produced and mixed everything myself. Getting a handle on that whole experience was a big part of the last two years for me.”

The hiatus from performing also gave Tedesco the opportunity to experiment with his songs. The music he's released since the beginning of the pandemic features some different sounds, vocal deliveries and instruments. Tedesco says his recent experimentation is “a product of the situation more than anything.”

“None of that kind of stuff with me is ever super preconceived. It’s sort of just where I am at the moment,” said Tedesco. “I think what probably informed that more was just having the freedom to work from home, instead of having to get something together in a more prepared way where you wouldn’t want to be wasting studio time.”

“In the studio, you might have a little time to experiment, depending on what your budget’s like,” said Tedesco. “At home, I had the time to experiment in a very comfortable setting, and I was forced to work with very limited access to certain instrumentation. I didn’t have drums, and I was just finding sounds that worked. I couldn’t bring people over to play stuff for me, so I just had to figure it out.”

Musical influences

Unlike a lot of musicians who primarily play acoustic guitar, Tedesco’s music is mainly influenced by the rock music of his youth, including Van Halen and Motorhead. Tedesco also cites a lot of non-musical influences: his song “Lost Art of Conversation” includes references to authors John Steinbeck and Anthony Bourdain.

“These days, I probably pull more from film and other art media, like painters or photography, even food and cooking. Those things almost inspire me to write more than listening to other music,” said Tedesco. “I think when you’re in a certain format that you work within as an artist, you ultimately see how all roads end up in the same spot. You have to break out of that medium to find new perspectives. Again, it’s not something I sat down and said ‘I need to do this,’ it’s just where my interests go. Then those things spark a certain idea, and then I go back and I find that in the music.”

Creating an artist-owned digital space

Also during the pandemic, Tedesco changed how he distributes his music to his listeners. All of his music can be found on a section of his website called the Dan Tedesco Music Channel, which is available to subscribers for $10 a month, or $100 for a year. Tedesco originally had the idea for the Music Channel (or “DTMC”) around 2012, and the pandemic presented him with the time to finally make it happen. Tedescco said he wanted a simple way for people to connect with him, and he didn’t really have any financial reasons for the DTMC.

“There’s so many places out there that everybody is trying to keep up with everybody on,” said Tedesco, referring to social media sites and streaming services. “Instead of trying to go out to all of these places and trying to get everybody to find me there, why don’t they just all come to this one place, and then I can reach out to them with these email broadcasts?”

Tedesco compared trying to keep up with all of the other sites and services to “playing a game.”

“You’re playing these websites all day long, and everybody’s worrying about volume and follower counts and retention,” said Tedesco. “I’d rather cultivate a small audience of people who are connected and are interested in going in-depth with what I’m doing, than just throwing stuff out there and getting this weird sense of accomplishment from 1,000 people watching a video, but 900 only watched 20 seconds of it.”

He also confirms that he's seen success in the DTMC, and has an international audience of subscribers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, Africa and South America.

In addition to all of Tedesco’s music, the DTMC is also home to the “From a House in Iowa” video series, where Tedesco goes “behind the scenes” with some of his songs and discusses his creative process.

“When I put a new record out on the channel, I do a song a month, and I build it out over time,” said Tedesco. “So each month, along with that song, I sort of ‘flesh out’ those tracks the way you would on a record, like with liner notes. I’ll break down a story behind the song, and later in the month I’ll perform it a certain way. Maybe I’ll play it the way I did on the record, maybe I’ll play it on a different instrument. It’s whatever feels good to me and whatever I think would be interesting to share with people.”

Finishing an album release and deciding what comes next

With the release cycle of Days of Rock ‘n Roll set to conclude in March, Tedesco is already thinking about his next projects. He continues to write songs all the time, and he recently produced an album for his friend and fellow Des Moines-based singer-songwriter Luke Fox in his home studio. Tedesco got a lot out of the experience, and hopes to do more production for other artists in the future.

“He brought in some really cool songs, and he kind of gave me carte blanche to go nuts with it, which I did,” said Tedesco. “I thought he’d be like ‘Okay, that’s a little too far over this way, let’s bring it back over here,” but he really liked what I did with it. I'm really excited about how that turned out. It was a rewarding thing for me, and a different kind of creative outlet.”

Dan Tedesco is IPR’s Artist of the Month for February. All of his music can be found at the Dan Tedesco Music Channel, along with the “From a House in Iowa” series and the documentary Chasing The Lightning, produced while he was on tour in 2014. Select songs from Tedesco’s catalog are available on major streaming services. Tedesco will be the headlining artist at a show at xBk in Des Moines on March 11. It's the first show of his upcoming tour.

Learn more about the Artist of the Month series here.

Tony Dehner is an award-winning Senior Music Producer, host and writer for Iowa Public Radio Studio One. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Dehner has worked for over two decades bringing the best AAA music to IPR's audience, and is a passionate believer in the Iowa music scene — after all, every musician was a “local musician” at the beginning of their career!