Dessa is no stranger to interviews. Now, though, she’s asking the questions instead of answering them—as the host of The Lowertown Line. Each half-hour episode of The Lowertown Line—a Twin Cities Public Television show that launched late in 2012—features one artist, mixing live performance footage with these intimate interviews.
“The show really centers around diverse local musical talent in the Twin Cities and throughout the state of Minnesota,” said series producer David Roth, noting that the show aims to interest young Minnesota music fans. “Embracing millennials and music lovers under 40 is a new thing for Twin Cities Public Television.”
The Lowertown Line is an outgrowth of MN Original, a TPT production that focuses on art in all of its forms. MN Original, funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, has been running for four years; its success led TPT to develop a special strictly for music.
The first Lowertown Line episode featured Duluth’s popular roots band Trampled by Turtles. The show has received almost 34,000 views on YouTube. It was a pilot episode meant to test the waters, allowing producers to target areas for improvement.
For the next episode, featuring hip-hop artist Brother Ali, TPT brought in a lighting designer and moved the interview portions out of the studio. “One of our visions has always been to try to make the performance as visually interesting as TV can be,” said Roth. “Through lighting, camera angles, and cutting, we emulate a music video approach.”
Folk-blues singer Chastity Brown performed for the third show, followed by Cuban-fusion band Malamanya. According to Roth, the diversity of genres represented by these first four performers was a deliberate decision. “We don’t want to just pick the hottest artists at the moment,” said Roth. “We want to try to find artists that represent the full breadth of Minnesota music at this point in time.”
The next episode of The Lowertown Line marks the last of the first season and will be released June 13. It will showcase singer-songwriter Haley Bonar in light of the release of her new album Last War. (Learn more about the new album, and hear Bonar perform songs from Last War in the Current’s studios, here.)
“Haley’s been around for quite a while, and we heard some stuff off her new album and thought it was great,” said Roth. “We want to capture the next wave of what she’s doing and give people the chance to see her interviewed by Dessa and get more information.”
While comparisons to other music television shows like Austin City Limits are natural, Roth said the unique blend of performance and interview gives The Lowertown Line its edge. This combination allows viewers to get a more rounded sense of the artist in addition to their music.
Looking towards the second season, TPT hopes to strengthen The Lowertown Line as a brand. The show will launch a full website in July and hopes to have chosen a lineup for the second season by that point. Unlike the first season, these performances will occur at various venues around the Twin Cities. Fans can be part of the live audiences for these shows by reserving tickets through The Lowertown Line Facebook page or its website when it goes live. While prices have not yet been set, Roth said that the fees would be nominal, just enough to cover the cost of the venue and pay the artist.
“We want to continue to look at the show and try to adapt it and keep it fluid so that we can improve it and make it entertaining and exciting,” Roth said. “We’re really trying to embrace and showcase local talent.”
Ellie Fuqua is a freshman at Macalester College. She plans to double major in international studies and media and cultural studies, and hopes to pursue journalism as a career.