The sound

February 17th, 2011 |


By Michael Swanger



Iowa natives Reeves and Roberts riding waves of success


Jason Reeves left the comforts of his hometown of Iowa City six years ago to pursue a music career in Los Angeles, where today he thrives as one of the town’s rising stars. But he hasn’t forgotten his Iowa roots and looks forward to playing the legendary Maintenance Shop in Ames this weekend for the first time.

“I have been to shows there, and I love the venue. It’s exciting to play there,” said the 26-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist. “I have family coming from Iowa City to see the show. They’re amazing like that.”

In 2007, Reeves’ star power climbed dramatically when he collaborated with Colbie Caillat and co-wrote 10 tracks on her platinum debut album, “Coco,” including the hits “Bubbly” and “Realize.” One year later, he was signed to Warner Brothers Records. Then in 2009, he co-wrote another 10 songs for the deluxe edition of Caillat’s chart-topping album, “Breakthrough.” During that time, he also sang duets with other female singers like Linka and Chelsea Lee, carving a niche for himself as a sought-after duet partner for acoustic-based, pop songs.

“I love working and singing with women with gorgeous voices. It’s unbelievable I get to do that,” he said. “There’s something about a guy and a girl singing together that makes it more powerful. I love harmonies.”

Reeves’ star power as a solo artist is also formidable. Earlier this week, he released his latest single, “Sticks & Stones,” from his forthcoming album “Helium Hearts,” due in stores this summer.

“It’s exciting to release the album in stages,” Reeves said. “I tried new things on this album and pushed the boundaries sonically. I can’t wait for people to hear it.”

From Des Moines to the Grammys

Last weekend, the Grammy’s in Los Angeles. This weekend, the Scottish Rite Consistory in Des Moines. Such is life for Justin Roberts, who returns to his native Des Moines for a concert one week after his album “Jungle Gym” was nominated for the Grammys “Best Musical Album for Children.”

Last week, Roberts spoke to me from his home in Chicago where he was preparing for a weekend at the Grammys. The 1988 graduate of Roosevelt High School said he was thrilled to be nominated for the award.

“It’s one of those things you dream of but don’t expect,” he said.

In short, that is the story of Roberts’ career. He left Des Moines after graduating from Roosevelt to attend Kenyon College in Ohio where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion and started playing in bands. Following a stint in Minneapolis, where he taught preschool and began writing children’s songs, he moved to Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in religious studies at the University of Chicago. But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a post graduate, as a demo of children’s songs he sent to a friend evolved into his first album in 1997 and sold well.

“I had two paths in life, and I had to make a decision, so I decided to give music a shot,” he said.

Over the years, Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players have earned the industry moniker “the Paul McCartney of children’s music.” They have won five Parents Choice Gold Awards and deliver intelligent, whimsical rocking music for children and their parents to enjoy.

“Kids fascinate me. I enjoy their perspective on the world,” Roberts said. “Their authenticity is amazing, and the energy level at a kids’ show is contagious.” CV


caption: Jason Reeves performs Friday, Feb. 18 at 9 p.m. at the M-Shop in Ames. Tickets are $10. Justin Roberts plays his sixth annual “Pajama Rama” fund-raiser concert for the Des Moines Symphony Academy on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. at the Scottish Rite Consistory. Tickets are $20 for the concert and lunch.