Iowa music

Mollie Ryan

EleanorGrace never imagined she’d be releasing a new song in the midst of a global pandemic. But that’s what happened, and she’s actually pretty excited about it.

Courtesy of MarKaus / Facebook

Des Moines hip-hop artist Markaus has shared the music video for “Essence,” the first single  from his new EP, “Burn The Boats.” The EP shares its name with a limited edition whiskey produced under Markaus’ Ziyad Rye brand.

Sarah Duncan Ferguson

Get ready to hear something a little different from one of Iowa's longest-running bands. TWINS will be releasing their first record in four years this spring. The new album, called "Dream On," is due out on June 5. Lead vocalist and guitarist Joel Sires, who is also the primary songwriter in the band, took the band in a different musical direction this time around.


Past TWINS albums have been raucous, hard-rocking affairs. This one is quieter and more contemplative, with much more obvious Americana and singer-songwriter influences.

Darren Schultz

What do you do when your newly-released album is experiencing chart success beyond your wildest dreams, and you can’t celebrate by playing shows? If you’re the Avey Grouws band, you harness the power of the Internet to get your music out into the world and to produce a crowd-sourced music video.

Bethünni Schreiner

Those who find themselves missing festival season and the Iowa music scene are in luck this weekend. Quarantined in Cyberspace, a local music festival held on Facebook Live, will be streaming this weekend.

David Borer

For musicians, releasing an album should be a joyous occasion, with years of hard work finally paying off. But the novel coronavirus outbreak is forcing changes in plans. 

Singer-songwriter Chad Elliott, who lives in Lamoni, was all set to record his newest record at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Bo Ramsey as a co-producer. That plan is now currently in limbo.

Meg Vogel / NPR

The deadline to enter the NPR Tiny Desk Contest is April 27.  As of April 9, more than 30 Iowa artists have submitted entries!  A variety of styles and approaches are apparent from this year's crop of homegrown musicians.

Madeleine King / IPR File

The coronavirus outbreak has been devastating for live music. Nationally-touring bands and local musicians alike have canceled shows, which are a primary source of income for artists and others who make their living from live performances. In these trying times, there are still ways to support your favorite musicians. 

Meg Vogel / NPR

The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest is underway, and it represents a potentially life-changing opportunity for unsigned musicians across the country.

For NPR Music's Bob Boilen, the host and producer of the Tiny Desk Concerts, it's also an opportunity to discover talented artists who otherwise might remain undiscovered. 

Charlie Neibergall / AP

Centerville native Simon Estes, known for his acclaimed opera performances and philanthropic work, has toured opera houses across the globe, has sung for kings and queens and has raised more than $220,000 to date in scholarships for Iowans in 54 counties.

Estes, who is the F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Artist-in-Residence in Iowa State University’s music and theatre departments, will see his career immortalized further with the renaming of Music Hall at Iowa State University to the Simon Estes Music Hall.

Courtesy of Jonathan Govias / Iowa State University

The Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra is performing a Symphony of Diversity on March 6 at Stephens Auditorium in Ames. This program brings artists and composers to the concert hall to highlight some of the many cultures and peoples that make up America.

Madeleine King / IPR File

Hinterland is back this summer for its sixth year July 31 – August 2.  

Madeleine King / IPR File

Winter in Iowa can be harsh.  Rather than keeping you at home, perhaps the snow and cold can spur you on to see a great band in a warm venue! Here are a few upcoming shows that caught my attention. With a couple of exceptions, these are all nationally touring acts passing through our state.  In addition, there is a wealth of Iowa talent to be heard performing near you in the next couple of months!

IPR/Matthew Alvarez

Nearly a dozen people sat in a small room painted black and lit only by two theatre lamps, drawing attention to a DJ booth with its chrome and silver equipment glimmering.

DJ Patrick Blin stepped up to the booth, and the silence was broken by the sounds of record scratches as those watching pulled out their phones to begin filming. Smiles broke out across their faces.

Mission Creek is turning 15 this year. Festival organizer Andre Perry says he’s looking forward to bringing back some of the aspects of the festival that make it unique and has programmed this year's event with the intention of making it a more intense experience. 

Dates for this year’s fest are April 1-4. In the past, the event has spanned six days. This year, they’ve shortened it to four. 

Janet Eckles

The Des Moines Music Coalition, the not-for-profit that curates 80/35, is trying to breathe new life into another event called Gross Domestic Product

GDP is happening this weekend, Nov. 23, featuring exclusively Iowa bands and musicians at Vaudeville Mews and the 4th Street Theatre. 

Photo courtesy of Sara Routh

Kat Darling will never forget her first year as a coach at Girls Rock! DSM. She was walking down a hallway and heard screaming coming from inside a room where a practice session was taking place. She soon discovered it was coming from her then ten-year-old daughter, Abileen Darling.

Cameron Wittig

Pieta Brown’s eighth full-length record “Freeway” is prime Pieta Brown music.

“If you’re listening to your own voice that’s about the best you can do right?" she says about her sound. "There’s a great quote from Miles Davis that I think of often:  ‘It takes a long time to sound like yourself.’  Maybe I don’t sound like myself yet, maybe I do.”      

Devin Ferguson

Life has a way of reminding us of our past at the unlikeliest of times. For members of the Iowa band The Teddy Boys, it happened at a friend’s wedding. After performing a reunion show at the reception, they were handed a download card for an album they recorded, but didn’t finish, 12 years ago.

Nirmal Majumdar / Special to IPR

School has begun, and fall is in the air. But we’re not done with music festival season. Maximum Ames is happening September 5-8.  It lists dozens of sets, some of whom will make even the most Serious of Music People stop and say “wait, what?”

For starters, Des Moines based blues artist Matt Woods is playing a show at the United Church of Christ.  

Courtesy of Max Wilkening

Music festival fans in Iowa found a lot to love this summer, with a mix of established festivals and new ones popping up around the state. Why are these festivals so appealing? Enter a well-planned music festival, and it can feel like you’re stepping into another world. One full of adventure, inspiration and escape. 

Charity Nebbe / IPR

Remember those afternoons at the lake, road trips with the sun blazing through the windshield, hot summer nights? The moments that make up our summer memories are often accompanied by music. 

Iowa Public Radio’s stage is celebrating its sixth birthday this year at 80/35 with the same great mix of local and nationally known talent. This year, we’re moving to a new location at the corner of 13 St. and Locust, near the west gate to the ticketed area. 

The Diplomats of Solid Sound

"A Higher Place," the new album from the Iowa City based band The Diplomats of Solid Sound is full of great hooks, danceable grooves, big funk sound and clever lyrics. 

The band released it’s first album 18 years ago and has gone through a lot of changes since then. This is album number six and although band members now live all over the country they try to come back together in Iowa once a year to write and make music together. 

Photo by Alyssa Leicht

As a Serious Music Person, you know that vinyl is a superior way to listen to music unless you’re tuned into Iowa Public Radio’s Studio One.

Heady conversation about warmth of sound aside, if you are into collecting limited edition vinyl presses, Octopus College Hill is brewing up a plan that you should know about.

Madeleine King / Iowa Public Radio

With great live music happening every weekend, it can be hard to plan your summers accordingly. Luckily, we're here to guide you through it.

Raelyn Ramey / Special to Iowa Public Radio

EleanorGrace self-debuted her first recordings after taping a few tracks in her bedroom and posting them online when she was 13.

Jason Garber / Flickr

The 8-track tape was a revolutionary technology that allowed people to play music on-demand in their vehicles. It was a very popular medium in the United States from the mid 1960s to early 1980s, but it's popularity was short-lived.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Bob Anders, who is working to reinvigorate the appeal of the 8-track with his show, "Bob’s 8-Track Garage Sale" on KHOI-FM in Ames.

Like so many kids growing up in the Midwest, singer-songwriter Lissie was eager to leave. But after 15 years in California, the Rock Island, Illinois native has traded in her life on the West Coast for 47 acres and solitude on a rural farm in Northeast Iowa.