Chasing a dream isn’t always rational or logical.
But in Dalles Jacobus’ eyes, it’s worth a shot anyway.
Playing football at Iowa was his first dream, and with a handful of offers from other schools that would pay his way, he elected to walk on to the Hawkeyes instead.
“What paralyzes a lot of people in chasing their dreams is: what’s everybody gonna think? When, at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter,” Jacobus said. “It’s ‘what do you think? Are you happy? Do you really want this? Are you going to go get it?’”
Jacobus finished his degree in health and human physiology in December, as well as his fifth season with the Hawkeyes. But just as quickly as that dream ended, Jacobus walked down Broadway Street in downtown Nashville, visualizing his next.
It was supposed to be the week of his last bowl game, but on Dec. 27, the Missouri Tigers pulled out of the Music City Bowl because of a rise in positive COVID-19 tests.
Hearing country music everywhere he went, walking the streets or shopping at the mall, inspired him. He followed friends to their shows and, one night, they asked him to sing on stage at Lucky Bastard Saloon, where he covered Luke Combs’ “When It Rains It Pours.”
His next dream was taking shape.
A former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep standout, Jacobus’ earliest memory of singing in front of a crowd was when he played Baby John in his middle school’s production of “West Side Story.” But he often didn’t get the bigger roles in high school show choir, since sports kept him from committing full time.
He could always sing, but it wasn’t until after the 2019 Holiday Bowl that Jacobus picked up a guitar for the first time.
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He skyrocketed to viral sensation in summer 2019 when family friend Kim Beyer Olson recorded him singing his original song, “We Wave,” on Facebook. The song, which tells the story of the Iowa Wave to the kids at Stead Family Children’s Hospital, was his first hit.
That lead to him co-writing “Single Mom” in May 2020 for Adam Whitehead, an Iowa country musician from Marshalltown, which played across the state and is available on streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.
The next steps are in the works. Todd Gusta, Jacobus’ adopted brother who taught him how to play guitar, has worked on co-writing songs with Jacobus while also helping amplify his image across social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
Gusta and Jacobus grew up with the same blend of unique interests: music and sports. The two were in show choir together in high school and have been writing songs for years, but not with as much intention as they do now. Gusta often is in the background on guitar in Jacobus’ social media videos.
“I think right now, my spot is a comfortable back seat to him because he has so much momentum,” Gusta said. “I’m kind of the navigator for helping him figure out what’s gonna work best for a certain show or coming up with another idea for a song.”
Jacobus’ original work stylistically mirrors that of Combs coupled with the raspy range of Chris Stapleton. His favorite songs to cover at shows are Stapleton’s “Fire Away,” Combs’ “Beautiful Crazy” and Riley Green’s “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.”
But he hasn’t been short on inspiration to write more of his own songs. In August 2020, the derecho wiped out his family’s home in Palo. Walking through the remnants of his home inspired him to write “My Hometown.”
“I went back home and helped my dad clear all the trees,” Jacobus said. “And I got a song started.”
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This wasn’t the first time Palo was affected by a natural disaster. Shelley, Jacobus’s mother, said the family also was affected by the 2008 flood.
“With the flood, there were areas of town that weren’t devastated, so it was a very specific area where we were fortunate enough to go live with friends on the northeast side for six weeks. That was how long it took us to get our house turned around,” Shelley said. “With the derecho, it was so widespread and devastating.”
The song, which captures the detailed essence of what it’s like to live in Palo, pays homage to the community that helped raise Jacobus. It’s even the home of his first country show, where he played last January and will return for a show at 9 to 11 p.m. Friday at Whiskey River Grill.
“We take pride for what we got out there,” Gusta said. “That song is a total resonance of everything that Shelley and Eric brought out of the family and just Palo in general, the community aspect that we have. For a small town, we get a lot of support out there, and it’s really impactful how many people are showing up and sandbagging in a flood or helping clean up after a derecho.”
Jacobus also wrote “Before Lockdown,” a song about missing the human connection everyone had before the pandemic. Both are in contention for Jacobus’ planned EP, which, he said will include his first original song, “We Wave.”
“Dalles has a knack and a talent for describing someone’s feelings,” Gusta said. “He put it down on paper and then, when he brought the idea to me, it was just something that was very easy flowing and I knew it was gonna resonate with a lot of people. That’s one of the biggest contributions that him and I focus on when we collaborate is what’s going to speak to the people? It was a feeling that most people were having and, in a time where a lot of people were in isolation, listening to music is one of the few things you can still do in your home.”
Jacobus still is writing songs and scheduling shows, but he’s working 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. shifts with 242 Home Improvement in Davenport, saving up for a recording session in a studio to release a new EP by the end of March, or summer at the latest.
From there, he hopes he can hit the road to Nashville.
“If it’s meant to be, it’ll work out, but if not, at least there’s no ‘what-ifs,’” Jacobus said.