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Sound Circuit

The rich, meandering life of Abbie Sawyer


Abbie Sawyer plays Vaudeville Mews on Friday, Oct. 17 at 9:30 p.m.  Photo by Chris LoRang

Abbie Sawyer plays Vaudeville Mews on Friday, Oct. 17 at 9:30 p.m. Photo by Chris LoRang

Abbie Sawyer is a child of music. Raised in church choirs by parents who loved all kinds of sounds, music is as much a part of Sawyer’s DNA as the color of her eyes. Sawyer enrolled in college fully intent on studying music; it seemed the obvious choice.

“But then — and I don’t remember who told me this— someone said, ‘If you’re going to be a musician, you’re going to need something to sing about,’ ” she recalled.

And so, Sawyer, fresh from high school, decided she needed to live.

“I changed my major to something where I’d get to have a lot of different experiences and learn how tell stories,” she said.

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For Sawyer, that meant journalism. She enrolled in a study abroad program and spent time in the Dominican Republic, an experience that she credits for making her a tougher, more self-reliant person. After she returned to Iowa, she joined up with her first band, the Iowa City funk group, The Diplomats of Solid Sound. Sawyer loved her time with the Diplomats but left after just a year and a half and moved to New Zealand.

“When I went to New Zealand, I met all these other musical refugees,” she said. “There was this Italian guitar player and this French pianist and an Australian drummer, and we lived in a house with a guy who did electronic music who had a studio in his house.”

Sawyer expanded her musical profile in New Zealand as part of hip-hop and country acts before eventually returning home once again. Sawyer — fresh off her 30th birthday — has seen more of the world than most and came back to Iowa with one clear idea: It’s time to make her own music.

“It’s daunting,” Sawyer said. “(When you’re) part of a band, you kind of share the risk. But when you’re putting your name and your face on a project, if it sucks, it’s because you personally just did this sucky thing.”

Sawyer is not going to try and convince anyone that she’s lived a fuller life than the next person, but she’s done enough and seen enough to have come away confident about the path she’s chosen.

“(When I came back to Iowa), I thought, ‘I am not going to get rich off of this, but the rest of my life will be better if I spend it playing music, even if it’s just on people’s front porches.’ ” CV

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