5 Iowa artists to watch in 2018 : Des Moines Register
STORY BY: MATTHEW LEIMKUEHLER
DIGITAL PRESENTATION BY: AMBER EATON
TOP ILLUSTRATION BY: MARK MARTURELLO
We'd like you to meet the Register's five Iowa artists to watch in 2018, a compilation of musicians from the Hawkeye state who just might put out the next record to capture your attention, tear at your emotions and open your eyes to a new perspective.
Below you'll find stories of rock 'n' roll crafted in Iowa City, hip-hop from the heart of Des Moines and metal born in Mississippi River towns ... just to name a few.
Dig into each's story to see why the passion, talent and work ethic of these artists combined make the inaugural class of the Register's "Artists to Watch."
Courtney Krause didn't dive head-first into being a full-time songwriter and performer.
The 28-year-old, who's called Iowa home since her teenage years, said she's always considered herself an artist and a writer — a person motivated to create and share art.
... But a career recording artist? It wasn't until she stepped in the studio that she knew it was the right fit.
"We recorded one song and I fell in love with recording," Krause recalled. "It's such a different movement of art then picking up a paintbrush or writing thoughts down. It's sound waves that you're manipulating into physical manifestations."
Taking on full-time musicianship in 2015, the 80/35 Music Festival alum played 114 shows last year, including a tour that took her to Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina. Still, she focuses her art locally, finding spaces to perform that may not have previously opened doors to live music.
"I had to know," she said of performing full-time. "I just had to know if I could do it and pull it off with just music alone. … I really made it my own game."
Now, Krause heads into 2018 with plans to self-release her sophomore full-length album, "Tie Your Tongue, Bite Your Lip."
Engineered by Des Moines' own Phil Young, the album features 10 tracks crafted by Krause and her band that, in her words, hones "those things that you couldn't say but you know you want to … and how you go about getting those words out and creating an atmosphere for that conversation to happen."
It's meant to take people to a place of vulnerability, she continued.
"I like making people a little uncomfortable with their emotions," she said. "If the song affects you, then there's something there."
"Tie Your Tongue … " hopes to be released in early summer, Krause said, but, with months of work on display, it's not a project she plans to hastily finish.
"You can't really rush art or anticipate when it's going to be done," she said. "It has to sit well with you first. If you're going to give it away, I think people deserve that you really tried your best and you were proud of it before you hand it off."
Molly Longman and Avery Gregurich The Iowan September/October 2016
Courtney Krause: An itinerant Iowan roots herself in music
She was the new face in school pictures every year. Moving around Iowa--Carroll, Denison, Ankeny, Ottumwa, Council Bluff--made long-term relationships difficult, so Courtney Krause found a friend in her own voice.
"Music was the way I could express," says Krause, 26, now based in Des Moines. "As hard as it was as a child, it might have been the best thing for what I'm doing now."
Her debut album, Thoughts and Sound, is a collection of ruminations anchored by her soaring voice. The result, she says, is a sort of updated classic folk with a hint of soul and rhythm.
Her self-drawn album cover depicts a hazel-haired gal in front of a highway that splits the landscape: on the left, the Iowa countryside where the highway took her as a girl; on the right, the Des Moines skyline where she's put down roots as a woman. It is from somewhere in between these two scenes that Krause cull her songs. Many have a wistful bent, ruminating on connections almost made, on meetings and leavings, on love and distance.
The music behind the cover image has started its own conversation, landing her the 2016 Gross Domestic Product Festival's Community-Selected Artist and an opening slot at this year's 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines. She's an active performer, both solo and with her full band. When we interviewed her, she was preparing to play her ninth show in five days.
"These days your favorite band or your potential new favorite band is just a click away," she says. "We are trying to sell the air, the mutual air provided by a live show. You can't put a price on that. I think it has a value higher than anything else we have in this world."
Matthew Leimkuehler Juice 7.8.16
Courtney Krause used more than just songs to send a message during her 80/35 set Friday afternoon.
The Des Moines-based songwriter handed out flowers during her 5 p.m. performance on the Kum & Go stage. Wrapped around the stem of each flower was a card with a message Krause said she hoped represented “such bigger things” happening in the world.
One side of a card read:
The world can be a dark place but rather than succumb to fear, we must come through and share our light with each other. Thank you for sharing your light and support of 80/35.
The back contained a handwritten message:
Get a sense of yourself. See a glimpse of sympathy.
Stephanie Malone received one of the flowers during the set, which opened the Kum & Go stage.
“It’s a very nice sentiment in a very difficult week,” Malone said.
After her set, Krause said she wanted to bring a real message to the stage.
“People can look at them and smile,” Krause said. “It’s about coming here and talking about (what’s) much more important in the big scale of things.”
(photo: Matthew Leimkuehler/ The Register)
(photo: Alyssa Leicht)
Dave Murphy Iowaves Music Blog 7.2.16
I want to give this album a true review. I really really do.
I want to tell you about the beauty in Krause’s voice. Her talent with a classical guitar. The way she weaves stories with confidence, but also with a little bit of vagueness so you can fill in the blanks yourself. The way Dylan Boyle’s slide guitar only hints to his immense talent (For real. Dude might be the best guitarist in this town) but would make this album completely incomplete without.
But I just can’t get past “Hardwood Floors.”
I can’t tell if it’s the haunting backing vocals by Patresa Hartmann or just the simple music on top of that huge voice, but “Hardwood Floors” wrecked me
I’ve listened to Thoughts and Sounds a couple of times and I don’t know if I was distracted by life or what, but sitting in a booth in a bar at 2 pm and openly crying was, let’s say, unexpected.
The album is full of little emotional moments, but “Hardwood Floors” has the sort of hook that can grab you directly by you aorta and just start yanking. The way the instruments almost mimic movement on a hardwood floor (who knew a tambourine could tug at my emotions?) The way Krause’s voice decends off the high notes and hammers the repeated “My arms.” The ethereal Hartman, hovering behind the proceedings. Every moment is special and rewards the listener for paying attention.
I’ve been known to fixate on a track, from time to time, but to have one completely overtake me on an album this good is rare. It’s almost perfect on an album that could stand on its own without it.
Here’s my suggestion: listen to it once. Pay attention to the vocals, the productions, the guitars. Pay attention to the lyrics and the changes and the pacing.
Then listen to it again and don’t do any of that. Just let the album take you where it wants you to go. Don’t be distracted by life or by criticism. Just let the album be and see what it does to you.
Dave Murphy Des Moines Music Coalition 7.1.16
I will admit, I am a sucker for a folk/country singer with a big voice and Courtney Krause fits that mold perfectly. Krause is a singer-songwriter, but she’s also a talented performer and one heck of a storyteller. Her voice is so strong, she shines whether with a full band or alone with a guitar. So I say I’m a sucker for Courtney Krause’s style, but it’s easy to fall for a voice that beautiful, music this strong and stories this special.
Krause has been active in the scene for years, but 2015 and 2016 have been her biggest years to date. She released her first album Thoughts and Sound to rave reviews. Chad Taylor with Cityview said of the album: “the songs show genuine depth and emotion, but the true star of the album is Krause's voice, which is gorgeous and reason enough for a couple listens." Her voice and her performances have been winning over more and more fans which have voted her to appearances on the CarpeDM showcase album, on this year’s Gross Domestic Product and on stages all across the Midwest. I’d say there’s a good chance that Krause will leave 80/35 with even more fans.
Trey Reis Des Moines Music Coalition 5.25.16
Courtney Krause needs no introduction. The Des Moines based singer/songwriter has been building toward her 2016 explosion since she began writing music years and years ago. This March finally saw the long-awaited debut release from Krause,Thoughts and Sound.
The album is a well-balanced foray into the folk-rooted tendencies of Krause’s powerful blend of country, blues, and rock, and it flows with the confidence of an industry professional. Those who have seen Krause live over the past years have had the opportunity to see that change in her music occur, and that fan base has grown with every show.
So, it’s no surprise that Courtney Krause was the Gross Domestic Product Community Selected Artist this year. It’s fitting, considering the way folk music and songwriting has long served as a grassroots way of connecting and growing communities.
In an era when the opportunities to hear, see, and experience music can be a cacophony unto itself, it’s a breath of fresh Iowa air to see Courtney Krause do things the good ol’ fashioned way.
Left to right: Diana Weishaar, Chris English, Courtney Krause, Gavin Moore, Chris Gallant, Dylan Boyle
(photo: Bailey Enslow)
Brian Campos ep. 72
Courtney Krause is a singer/songwriter whose indie-folk inspired sound is quickly earning a name for herself around Iowa. Her personal themes and personable demeanor is striking a cord with audiences. In the last five years, she has amassed a small following that are quick to spread her accolades as well as give their unending support. Courtney's incessant gig schedule and dedication to improving her writing/performing has not gone unnoticed. Her hard work and efforts have opened up new opportunities to play in front of bigger crowds this coming year. We also talk on her influences, fractured relationships growing up, market "over-saturation", and her latest album, "Thoughts and Sound."
Chad Taylor Cityview 3.16.16
Last November, Courtney Krause was finally able to do something that had been nearly seven years in the making: release her first CD. The 26-year-old had been writing music all her life, but that CD, titled “Thoughts and Sound,” served as a sublime timeline for Krause’s growth and maturation as a songwriter and a person.
“I wasn’t certain how it was going to do,” she admitted. “It was my first album, and it’s really hard to gauge how they’ll be received. But I’ve gotten a lot of messages saying that it’s touched people. That, to me, is successful.”
Now, as winter gives way to spring, Krause is already looking toward the next project. There is a tour that she is looking at booking, a three-song EP to be released in the near future and a follow-up full-length she wants to put out within the year. That is a lot of irons in the fire, but the timing could not be better.
If there is one thing that made “Thoughts and Sound” a success, it was the sheer number of people the album touched and turned into Courtney Krause fans. Blessed as she is with one of the cleanest, strongest voices around, Krause has seen an uptick in fans locally, which has not only translated into album sales, but helped propel her to one of the Community Choice slots in next month’s Gross Domestic Product music festival.
“I had no idea we had such community support,” she said. “I’m still a little surprised at the whole thing. You work so hard trying to connect with the community. You’re reaching into people’s homes. To have that support under our belts now, it gives us so much more confidence.”
When people like what you do as an artist, it is a special kind of validation. Not because art is a popularity contest, but because, if you’re doing it right, what they are really connecting with is a piece of your soul.
“I’m always trying to be in the song,” Krause said. “I had a lot of people tell me, ‘You sound like you.’ That was the biggest compliment. No matter if I’m singing or having a conversation, I always want my voice to come from some place genuine. So, for so many people to say, ‘This really feels like you,’ that’s the greatest thing.”
Chad Taylor Cityview 11.11.15
Virtually everything about Courtney Krause is delightful, and you can now add her debut album to the list. “Thoughts and Sound” is a lovely bit of work, in a genre that is woefully under-represented in Des Moines’ musical landscape. “Thoughts and Sound” avoids the common debut album pitfall of everything sounding the same, and, in fact, shows a remarkable amount of variety, something it owes in no small part to the seven years worth of material that the album encompasses. The songs show genuine depth and emotion, but the true star of the album is Krause’s voice, which is gorgeous and reason enough for a couple of listens. Some tracks are more parochial than others, but none are so out of place as to make the album uneven. Opening track “Subtle Motions” is a winner, but “Move” is the track that packs the biggest emotional punch.
Chad Taylor Cityview 11.5.15
Courtney Krause is one of the most delightfully sweet, unassuming people you will ever meet. The Iowa native moved to Des Moines in 2011 but has been writing music almost her entire life.
“I’ve been writing since I was 6,” she said. “My mom has my first song on tape. I was sad about the kids making fun of me for not knowing what eight times eight was in kindergarten. So I went home and wrote a song called “Mean Bus.” It’s comparable to (“Friends” character) Phoebe Buffay’s “Smelly Cat” in terms of artistic quality, but it was pretty catchy for a 6-year-old.”
Her writing continued to improve and grow as she did, but it would be 15 years before she would play her first live show, at El Bait Shop shortly after moving to the city. Now, nearly five years later, she finds herself on the cusp of releasing her first CD this week at Gas Lamp.
“The album has been a three-year battle,” she said. “I had a lot of songs to pick from. We also recorded two songs that were just freshly written. So I looked at it and thought, ‘Wow, I really have seven years worth of songs in one place.’ ”
“The songs all take place within a thought,” she continued. “It’s that moment between conversations. The narrative is really about a relationship. The first songs are where everything is happy and new, and it moves forward to the end where you’re no longer together. It almost seemed like the album really put itself together.”
From that first song about mean kids on the bus, Krause has always used her music as an outlet for frustrations and self-reflection. Her songs are an outlet for her mind, and one can chart her growth as a person — like counting rings on a tree — simply by tracing the timeline of her music.
“(The album) has changed me in that I can be more in tune with the moment,” she explained. “It’s created a bravery in me that wasn’t there before. I think that comes from all the time we’ve put into the album and all the patience we’ve had with it. It really does all lead up to the CD release. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more confident about anything.”