In the first episode of The Iowa Idea Podcast, host Matt Arnold sits down with Alex Dezen (MFA 2010, The University of Iowa). They discuss support, collaboration, influences, and what one can learn from being on tour with Cheap Trick. Alex talks about how the music business has changed, the importance of discipline in the artistic process, and how “seeing the struggle and seeing the honesty” has helped him as a songwriter. When asked about his decision to attend The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Alex said “if the door opens, you walk through.
About Alex Dezen
A singer and songwriter best known as leader of alt-rockers the Damnwells, Alex Dezen has also released solo material and co-written songs for the likes of Justin Bieber, Robin Thicke, and the Veronicas. The New York City native formed the Damnwells in 2001, acting as their main songwriter and most constant member. Eventually taking root in Brooklyn with the lineup of Dezen, guitarist Dave Chernis, bassist Ted Hudson, and drummer Steven Terry, they released a series of EPs before earning a support spot on a tour with Cheap Trick. The band completed its full-length debut, Bastards of the Beat, before signing with Epic Records, which released the album in 2003. When they returned to the studio two years later, however, they found they’d been dropped by the label, a story that was captured in the documentary Golden Days, released in 2007.
The band’s sophomore album, Air Stereo, was ultimately released by Zoë/Rounder Records in late 2006. A tour with the Fray followed, but disappointing record sales eventually led the Damnwells to temporarily disband in 2008. Dezen took the opportunity to formally study writing, earning a Master of Fine Arts in English from the University of Iowa’s renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2010, where he was awarded the Jeffrey G. and Victoria J. Edwards fellowship for his short story collection, The Strange and Romantic Histories. While at The Workshop, he released the Damnwells album One Last Century as a free digital download via Paste magazine, and in his graduation year he took a new Damnwells lineup centered around himself and original bassist Ted Hudson to the studio for a crowdfunded album (via PledgeMusic). The resulting No One Listens to the Band Anymore arrived in the spring of 2011.
In 2012, a song Dezen co-wrote called “Take You” appeared on Justin Bieber‘s 2012 chart-topper Believe. That same year, one of his songs appeared on Cody Simpson‘s Top 30 album, Paradise. He also co-wrote four songs for Matt Hires‘ 2013 LP This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend, and his “You and Me” was written with the Veronicas for their 2015 self-titled album. In the meantime, among other collaborations, the original Damnwells lineup reunited for an eponymous album also released in 2015. Dezen began releasing songs under his own name around this time, with a series of four EPs called The Bedhead EPs appearing in 2014; they were released together on a single 12-track CD in 2015. The songwriter’s self-reflective, eponymous full-length debut arrived in early 2016 and landed on the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart. He followed it with II in early 2017 and III in 2018. Also in 2017, Dezen began working with long-time partner and collaborator Amber Bollinger. The resulting musical union, Broken Baby, a post-punk / alternative rock band, released their first EP in 2017, their debut LP in 2018, and a slew of singles through out 2019. On April 10, 2020, Dezen released “Modern Life,” his first solo release since 2018’s III.
Thank you to Alex Dezen.
Episode produce by Spark Consulting Group in Iowa City, with support from Executive Podcast Solution. Intro and outro music performed by Paisley Bible.