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What is the Iowa Sound?

Luke Tweedy of Flat Black Studios, host Charity Nebbe, and Dave Zollo, lead man for Dave Zollo and the Body Electric

When you think of the state of Iowa, you might not initially find yourself thinking about its music scene or rich musical culture. But there is a growing diversity of sound in the state and a “special sauce” that makes the music that’s made here unique.

If there were an Iowa sound, I would say it's honest music. - Luke Tweedy

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dave Zollo, Iowa City based artist and founder of Trailer Records; Luke Tweedy, owner of Flat Black Studios and Tim Hankewich of Orchestra Iowa about music in Iowa.

From roots and Americana music, to hip-hop to classical music, Hankewich says there’s something that unites all musicians who are inspired by their sense of place.

“The beauty of the artistic process is the alchemy that happens when you work with other artists and you influence each other,” he says. “Sometimes in my world of orchestral/classical music, it doesn’t have that much relevance for today. But it’s about love, joy and passion. It’s in all types of music.”

After growing up in Iowa, Zollo moved to Nashville and worked and toured as a session musician with Todd Snyder in Nashville in the mid-90s. But then he made a conscious decision to come back home because he felt attached to the state.  

“It just made a lot more sense to come back and be a part of something that really spoke to me that was about community,” Zollo explains. “I wanted to be part of a musical community.”

A specific sort of community is what he and Tweedy say make the Iowa music scene special.

“I think everyone you ask will have a different answer,” Tweedy says when talking about what makes Iowa’s musical culture unique. “But if there were an Iowa sound, I would say it’s honest music.”

This program originally aired as part of IPR's 2016 Iowa Week during the month of September.

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Digital Producer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa