By Troy Aldrich
Gaelynn Lea will return to the Mill today with some new music to show Iowa City.
Lea, originally from Duluth, Minnesota, is no stranger to the Mill; this will be her third appearance during her career as a solo musician.
She is nearing the end of her nationwide tour. She left on Jan. 12, spent a good amount of time on the West Coast, and came through the Southwest. Now, it’s back north to the cold, wet Midwest.
“It’s good to be on the tail end of this tour,” Lea said. Her roots are in the Midwest, along with her bandmates, with whom she is anxious to start playing.
Lea said she hopes to gather with the band around their new album and book some larger venues in the Midwest with their new sound.
“It would be cool to graduate to that level,” she said about playing with her group regionally.
Lea’s mates include Dave Mehling on keys, Alex Church on guitar, Andrew Foreman on bass, and Marty Dosh on the drums.
Lea largely tours as a solo act but has also played live with her group Murder of Crows, a duo of Lea and Alan Sparhawk.
During her European tours, she managed to gain a large following in the UK and Ireland and appeared on BBC’s “World News” in August.
“It’s a smaller concentration of people over there, and word travels differently,” she said.
Lea’s growing popularity can also be attributed to her winning the NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. This popular YouTube-based contest showcases large acts such as Adele, T-Pain, and The Cranberries.
Lea submitted one of her originals, “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun,” which was later selected as the winner by the Tiny Desk selection committee.
That selection group is a rotating panel, but for the year of 2016 consisted of popular music musicians including Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, both front women for the band Lucius, and R&B musician Son Little.
Lea later appeared on the show, held at NPR’s Bob Boilen’s desk, where she played a few of her originals, “Someday We’ll Linger In the Sun,” “Southwind,” “Bird Song,” and “Moment of Bliss.”
On NPR, she also discussed the level of difficulty it takes to make the live music she does, with a tool known as a looping pedal. It allows her to play as a solo act, because she can record melodies and undertones live, then layer and repeat them while she sings.
The style is popular in folk music, specifically in Lea’s hometown of Duluth. Andrew Bird, also from Duluth and a headliner of the 2017 Mission Creek Festival, uses the technique on the violin.
After Lea’s show at the Mill, she has a private performance planned for a center for disabilities in the area, then it’s back north to Minnesota to continue working with her new band.