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For Abbie Sawyer, 'Life is therapy'

A horizontal photo of Abbie Sawyer holding an acoustic guitar, sitting relaxed on an orange corner couch.
Abbie Sawyer
Abbie Sawyer's had a rough year. But that hasn't stopped her from being creative. If anything, it's helped push her creativity. She's just released two albums from her different projects.

The past year has been rough for Iowa musician Abbie Sawyer. But through her challenges, new collaborations and projects have been born. Now, Sawyer is ready to reflect, release and celebrate — all through the lens of her mantra: "Life is therapy."

It’s been a decade since Abbie Sawyer’s first solo show at the art museum in Davenport. Sawyer performed the walking tour there, all acoustic, while still deciding if writing and performing music was her heart’s true direction. At the time of her performance, Davenport was severely flooded, and the museum overlooked the town’s destruction. Attendees cried as the music accompanied them through their feelings of loss and grief. Sawyer felt her soul stir, and she knew she wanted this feeling — this music — to be forever.

 I can feel the sense of urgency. A part of me just feels this ever-invigorated sense of urgency to just dive in and experience as much of life as I can while I have it, while I can, in this body, in this stream.
Abbie Sawyer, reflecting on the past year

Flashing forward through ten years of rich music and personal development, Sawyer experienced another watershed moment in her music career. While planning the recording session for her upcoming album, Meadowlark, and an album release for Love is a Flood, Sawyer learned that a tornado had claimed the lives of four of her extended family members. She turned her love and attention to her family’s needs and forged ahead.

The quadruple funeral was the day before her Love is a Flood album release show. Holding pain and joy together through deep grief, Sawyer turned to music once again to bring healing. At the album release, she joined forces with her bandmates, with her family and her friends, and felt a powerful surge of initiation.

 “I can feel the sense of urgency. A part of me just feels this ever-invigorated sense of urgency to just dive in and experience as much of life as I can while I have it, while I can, in this body, in this stream.”

Sawyer channels her music through passionate tributaries. Throughout the last year, through the many challenges, she has worked steadily to bring her creative visions into fruition. She has carefully curated her projects around the people closest to her, people who have been in her life, supporting her.

“I want to deeply experience life as it comes, and creating music with people I love is the best way I can figure out how to do that."

Expanding projects

Abbie and the Sawyers’ newest album, Meadowlark (the same Meadowlark she delayed recording a year ago), is a collection of heartwarming old-timey folk songs for you to just simply enjoy. This album raises the voices of all of its band members, including Sawyers’ husband, Chris LoRang. LoRang joined the band when she started writing songs in 2008, bringing his instrumentation and “Tom Waits” vocals to the music.

“The older we’ve gotten, the more we’ve collaborated on all of these different aspects of life — in business ownership, parenthood, personal development — honestly the more fun and interesting it’s become to be bandmates, too."

Sawyer discovered another valuable music asset to keep her creative life flowing. She's a member of The Night Lights, a female folk trio that brings out the strong, beautiful and talented voices of herself, Katherine Ruestow and Sarah Driscoll. They've been singing together for years in the group The Diplomats of Solid Sound, and have now brought this debut collection of songs together around personal evolution, friendship and motherhood. With sounds reminiscent of The Wailin’ Jennys, the group bonds their harmonies together to sing about shared life experiences.

Both of the newest releases from Abbie and the Sawyers and The Night Lights were recorded at Golden Bear Studio in Des Moines with producer and musician Brian Vanderpool. Vanderpool also performs with Abbie Sawyer and the Flood, a full-band alternative folk pop experience. Partnering with Golden Bear became a powerful incubator for Sawyer’s creative work.

“Even though it (my creativity) runs a huge spectrum… of experiences, of topics, of genres -– I want to feel life through my heart, and I want to help light up other people’s hearts."

Sawyer is also launching her own product line, Mama Bare Botanicals, named after the song “Mama Bear,” which she wrote for The Night Lights and is included in their new album. The hand-crafted, small batch oils produced by Sawyer are already available for purchase.

“To have songs and also have this product I can give to people and they feel love from it, that is everything."

Double-album release

Sawyer is bringing her new product line and the original music of her two projects, Abbie and the Sawyers and the Night Lights, to xBk in Des Moines on April 8 for a double-album release party. It’s a night featuring women-led folk music, and The Awful Purdies will also join the bill.

This double-album release will celebrate Sawyer’s hard work, strength and resilience, as well as her skills at creating channels to connect and receive the love she so certainly deserves.

“I’m starting to process a next solo album and I’m also looking in the rearview mirror while I’m doing it - and realizing that this last year has for me been filled with a lot of loss. There’s been tragedy, there’s been deaths, there’s been a lot of heaviness and sadness. And at the same time, a lot of powerful music and family/friend connections are finally about to happen again post-pandemic.”

Sawyer's dedication to healing through music speaks to her evolution, and proves that in her words: “Life is therapy.”

Find all of Sawyer’s projects and merchandise on

Kat Darling is a storyteller, singer/songwriter and musician. She creates music in The High Crest, and is the owner of 5 of Hearts Productions with her husband, Aaron Short. Darling produces art and shares stories in hopes of inspiring others, and to contribute to the development of creative culture and community.