Word travels fast in Hollywood.
When screenwriters draw inspiration from your music, they ask to put it in their TV shows or movies. Like episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Gossip Girl” and “How I Met Your Mother,” and movies including “Morning Glory,” “Sex and the City” and the 2013 animated film “Epic.”
The next thing you know, The Weepies are weeping all the way to bankable music, recording seven albums over 10 years, selling more than a million records, garnering 30 million YouTube views and more than 90 million Spotify streams.
And when you decide it’s time to put down some roots, you turn to the place where you found inspiration on tour: Iowa City.
Married singer/songwriters Steve Tannen and Deb Talan left Los Angeles five years ago, seeking a less chaotic pace in which to raise their three sons, the youngest of whom was born at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. They loved Iowa City’s vibe. “When we came through here, it just felt good,” Talan said. “There’s a sense of vitality, but also a sense of ease. There’s not a lot of people congestion. ... We’re Iowans at the moment. We have sort of gypsy hearts, but we love it here.”
“We travel around,” Tannen added, and on April 5, the folk-pop duo will launch a cross-country spring tour, with a Mission Creek Festival headlining concert at the Englert Theatre.
“That’s by design,” he said. “The Mission Creek people are friends of ours, and we begged them. We’ve wanted to do it other years, but we were on tour elsewhere.”
After that gig, they’ll head out on the road with their sons, ages 10, 7 and 5 in tow. The boys attend public school, but were home-schooled early on, so Mom and Day won’t let them fall behind in their studies.
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“When a 7-year-old misses a week of math, it’s not something that can’t be made up,” Tannen said.
They’ll hit the Midwest, travel to the East Coast, where they’re from, take a little break, then head to Arizona and up the West Coast to Vancouver, ending May 22 — “unless we somehow get great offers from Russia or Europe or Hawaii,” Tannen quipped. “We’ll definitely play Hawaii if we get an offer.”
“We still write from the same places, same depth in ourselves but our life experiences have gotten richer and more complicated."
- Deb Talan, The Weepies
They’ll be playing a lot of 1,000-seat venues, comparable to the Englert’s 725 seating capacity. “The Englert is one of our favorites,” Tannen said.
Then in symbiotic fashion, he and his wife began finishing each other’s sentences.
He: “It’s got a great stage, a great history, it’s a good experience for the audience. We came up playing coffeehouses and clubs, which are great, but the experience can be sticky for the audience. They’re standing on beer,”
She: “standing on stickiness,”
He: “with an espresso machine going in the background.”
He: “We feel very lucky”
She: “to play in places people can be comfortable and listening.”
The couple will mark the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album, “Hideaway,” by revisiting the collection on tour, playing tracks they weren’t able to do in shows before, because of record label politics.
He: “At the time, we were very young, we were very naive. We didn’t know how to make a tour.”
She: “How to make a tour happen.”
He: “We had only toured literally in a car alone. Doing a tour takes a lot of work. We came up against a brick wall, and it just stopped for a second. I think everyone’s career has something like that. We’re in a strange field where some of your brick walls are pretty public.”
Revisiting the material “feels really good,” Talan said. “There’s been enough time, especially for the ones we haven’t played out. It’s like, ‘What do those songs mean to us now?’ They meant something different 10 years ago, and with a lot of life in between, it’s interesting to revisit them.”
It’s an album full of hope and wonder.
She: “When we made this record, we were in a twinkly, creative part of our life. We were living in Topanga (Calif.), and I was pregnant”
He: “for the first time”
She: “with our oldest boy, so that kind of intimacy, wonder,”
He: “and it’s called ‘Hideaway.’ We were hiding.”
She: “We wanted to create some of that sense of possibility and wonder and intimacy.”
He: “Coming out of this winter, it’s going to be particularly appropriate.”
Life experience has always been part of equation for the couple. It was love at first sound when they shared a stage in Cambridge, Mass., nearly 15 years ago, and heard in each other a kindred spirit. They had solo careers, but decided to veer in another path. They moved to southern California, living in a bungalow to save money and work their way out of debt. But the songwriting siren beckoned and records followed.
They married in 2007 and soon welcomed their first child. “It was a shotgun wedding,” Talan said with a laugh.
That laughter went on hiatus seven years later, when she endured six months of treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer. She’s now in full remission. Music helped them process the ordeal.
“We’re still processing it,” Tannen said. “We were lucky enough to be able to keep working, because we worked from home and were able to concentrate on something truly creative and healing while she was going through treatment. The flexibility of those and the focus of those made putting one foot in front of another more bearable. Anyone who goes through it knows it’s just one day at a time, one hour at a time.”
Their sound has evolved through those life experiences.
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“We still write from the same places, same depth in ourselves but our life experiences have gotten richer and more complicated,” Talan said. “We now are parents of three boys; we’ve toured in different places in the world; I went through — and our family went through — me having cancer; we moved from L.A. to here.
“The kind of people that we are has always affected the kind of music we make,” she said. “Maybe that depth and breadth of experience comes through in our songwriting more, but I don’t think either of us is doing anything drastically different than what we were doing when we wrote the songs for ‘Hideaway.’”
He: “I’m less frantic
She: “in general?”
He: “in the songwriting. I used to throw up idea after idea after idea in machine gun fashion. Now I think I’m a little more deliberate. It’s also easier now, because there’s some dead ends I am comfortable not going down.”
WHAT: The Weepies
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. April 5
WHERE: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
ALSO: Elizabeth Moen, 8 p.m.
TICKETS: $35; $150 Mission Creek full-week pass or $75 Mission Creek weekend pass; Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or Englert.org/event/the-weepies/
ARTISTS’ WEBSITES: Theweepies.com, Missioncreekfestival.com, Elizabethmoen.com