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Des Moines musician Lily Detaeye enjoys a double life as a UI junior

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Elle Casazza w/ Lily Detaye, B-Sides

Iowa City Yacht Club — Friday, June 8 at 9 p.m.

Lily Detaeye will open for Elle Casazza on June 8 at the Yacht Club. — photo by Elly Hoffmier

Lily Detaeye, a 20-year-old singer/songwriter from Des Moines, is currently a Junior at the University of Iowa and doubles as a musician at Station One Records in Des Moines. She’s been touring the midwest all summer, and will hit her second home, Iowa City, on June 8th. She’ll perform at the Yacht Club at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7.

“Touring is the perfect marriage between two of my favorite things: traveling and music,” Detaeye said, ”It’s an amazing thing to wake up in a new city every morning.”

Seven years ago, 13-year-old Lily Detaeye unbuckled her guitar case, strung the strap around her chest and began a simple progression of three chords: A, E minor, D. Large trucks vroomed by her, muffling her sound.

She kept strumming.

Local farmers screamed, “Get your fresh corn here!”

She kept strumming.

Kids laughed as they skipped from booth to booth.

Lily is still strumming.

Detaeye started playing guitar at a young age, but had a burst in interest at 13. She began writing more music, learning other instruments and performing where she could: the farmers’ market.

Detaeye’s dad, Chris, recognized her growing love and set up more shows for her. He scheduled her to perform at coffee shops and more farmers’ markets. As she grew older, he set up concerts at restaurants and bars.

“I owe a lot to my dad; he really did a lot of that. I would not have had the drive or initiative at 13 to find out all the things he helped me with,” Detaeye said.

Chris went to many of Detaeye’s earlier shows to look out for her. She shared a memory from when she was 15, where a man approached her father and said, “That girl is my daughter.” Her dad didn’t say anything to the man, but took it as a sign to continue to watch out for her. Detaeye said she was too young to recognize how weird it was then, but her dad did.

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That was only one of many strange people to approach Detaeye and her father throughout the years. At another farmers’ market, a man approached with a harmonica. While she was performing, he got in her face with the instrument and played along, she said.

Now Station One Records books her shows and looks out for the future freaky fans Detaeye may face. With more performances at concerts and festivals, there’s sure to be plenty.

This past summer Detaeye performed at music festivals like 80/35 and IowaStock Music Festival. In the summer, performing in Des Moines is simple for Detaeye because she lives there. It’s not so easy during the school year. When she’s in Iowa City for school, Detaeye makes frequent trips to Des Moines record and perform.

There are perks to the double life, though. Detaeye is a creative writing major, so often her schoolwork will go into her songs. As a part of a promotion with Drake University, Station One Records labeled Detaeye “a real life Hannah Montana,” Detaeye said.

Often her classes will focus on literature and poetry, so Detaeye shares with her classmates that she’s a musician so they can give feedback on her songs.

“It’s a lot of doing homework in green rooms and writing songs in lecture halls,” Detaeye said.

She performs in Iowa City at times, but most of her concerts take place in Des Moines.

“It’s weird because people who exist in each world don’t know about each other,” Detaeye said.

As a veteran in music, Detaeye tries to keep her career exciting and fresh. She plays guitar, piano, ukulele and harmonica, and she wants to learn the banjo next. She also created an event called “New Song November.” With this, she writes and performs a new song every day in November. Each of these are available on her Facebook and Instagram.

Some of Detaeye’s musician friends from Iowa City and Des Moines participate in this event, too. Two of her songs from November 2017 are in her current set.

“I wrote like 30 songs and two of them are good enough,” Detaeye said. “But I think that’s very much a test to what it is to be an artist. You’re going to have to create a lot of shit before something sticks.”

Most summers, Detaeye helps teach music to girls at the Des Moines location of a worldwide summer camp called Girls Rock. The camp is open to girls from ages 10-16, including self identified, gender non-conforming and trans girls. At this camp, the girls create a band, make a song, record it and perform it at a showcase. They come from all levels of musical education, some having never touched an instrument.

“It empowers these girls through music and teaches them about an industry that is very male dominated and how to hold you own in it,” Detaeye said.

Detaeye started working with Girls Rock by being a performer during the girls’ lunchtime. Last year was her first year as a camp counselor.

“I love it with my whole heart,” Detaeye said, “It’s amazing to see what these girls can do, especially ones who haven’t picked up an instrument before. I wish that I had had something like that, but I think because I didn’t, it makes me all the more connected.”

Fans can see Detaeye in any of her remaining tour stops: Iowa City, Des Moines and Kansas City. And if they can’t check out any of those shows, they can always stop by the best venue of all: the farmers’ market.


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