Tiny Desk, Big Dreams: Local Artists Bring Talents To NPR Contest | WGLT

Tiny Desk, Big Dreams: Local Artists Bring Talents To NPR Contest

May 4, 2018

When Naia Izumi was announced the winner of the 2018 NPR Tiny Desk Contest, five central Illinois artists said they weren't surprised they were not chosen, as they were among nearly 5,000 entries from all 50 states. 

All five said they had fun planning and recording their entry, and even learned a little more about themselves.

Stone & Snow

Karen Bridges is one half of the Twin City duo Stone & Snow. She and partner Clint Thomson were pretty thrilled their video entry titled “Love Is A Weapon” actually made NPR’s list of outstanding entries.  

“I think it’s validation that we’re doing something right,” said Bridges. “And it’s also going to push us to do better. We want to keep pushing the envelope and keep improving what we’re doing.”

Nic Gundy

Normal-based singer/songwriter Nic Gundy gave the contest his first shot this year with the song “Retrace.” He says he wrote the song in three days and likes that it has a twist of the indie folk-rock band Iron and Wine. He said entering the contest was a step in helping him learn to better promote himself, and that next year’s entry will have a different flavor.

“I’m going to do a way different song that introduces my variety and expanding knowledge of music,” said Gundy.

Sarah and the Underground

Sarah Marie Dillard of the Peoria-based Sarah and the Underground submitted a video of the band’s original song “Bad Man.” It was inspired by the Netflix docuseries "Making A Murderer" that centers on the story of Brendan Dassey and Steven Avery. Questions have been raised about their murder convictions.

“We have special a special place in our hearts for Brendan Dassey,” said Dillard. “He was arrested at age 16, so he and I are the same age. I’m 27. Many believe he is wrongfully in prison because he was falsely coerced into a confession.”  

Unemployed Architects

Tyler Sweitzer is the man behind the Bloomington rock band Unemployed Architects. He used a more obscure UA song titled “Firebound” for his Tiny Desk entry.

“It’s a happier, fun song, “said Sweitzer, a native of Pontiac. “It’s lighter than most of my stuff so I thought it would be good for the contest.”

He said his brother envisioned the background of the video.

“My brother is a visual guy, I’m more of an audio guy. He watches the Tiny Desk Concerts all the time. So he has this room with all his records that he set up for us,” said Sweitzer.

River Salt

The original song "Heartland" was the choice for the husband-wife team of Angelia Mendoza and "Your Hot Cousin Will," otherwise known as River Salt. Mendoza said the song came to her on a country road on her way to her mother’s in Secor. “It was a particularly beautiful day,” said Mendoza. “I happened to have my guitar with me, so when I got to my Mom’s, I told everyone, ‘Don’t bother me for 20 minutes anybody. I have to put this together real quick. I don’t know what it is.'"

Somewhat surprisingly, they said winning wasn’t their goal for entering the contest.

“We don’t have the time and commitment to tour if we would have won,” said Mendoza of NPR’s requirement of the winner. “I entered it for the experience. I want to see who else has the courage to throw their stuff out there to see what they have.”

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