The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

Review: The Tortured Poets Department
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by Kyle Werner, Managing Editor & Social Media Manager • April 19, 2024

Well, hello there, fellow tortured poets. I’m glad you’re here. At least “here” on The Simpsonian website. This is my final review of...

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by Aaron Wilkins and Sam Hying April 18, 2024

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by Kenzie Van Haaften, Staff Writer • April 17, 2024

“I remember the first time I stepped foot on campus, and I thought, ‘wow, what a beautiful place. This looks like what a college is supposed...

Musician spotlight: iamchelseaiam

Courtesy of
iamchelseaiam performed at Simpson on Friday, March 1

Chelsea Johnson, professionally known as iamchelseaiam, performed at Simpson College on Friday evening to a small crowd but played as if there were thousands.

Before the show and soundcheck, Johnson sat down with two student media reporters, Caleb Geer and myself, in the student media radio room for an interview.

“You’re listening to 88.9 KSTM The Storm,” Geer said. “I am joined here by a special guest today, performing for our campus activities board in the Black Box at Kent Campus Center, it’s iamchelseaiam.”

Johnson arrived in  Des Moines not long before she met with us:  she picked up her rental car and drove straight to Indianola. Her rental car was a white Dodge sports car that paired nicely with her white guitar and gave quite the impression when she pulled up in it.

Though she hardly had a moment to relax, it didn’t show, and she jumped right into the interview with a smile.

“I know you’re from New York, yeah?” Geer asked.

“Yes, yes, but I was actually coming from LA,” Johnson said. “I did a bit of a girls’ trip, a few of my high school friends got together and we saw a Clippers and a Lakers game, the one on Wednesday.”

While New York is where she resides, Johnson is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and has dreams of one day playing at Fountain Square in her hometown.

“The sorta hometown love feels really good, just to play back home feels great,” she said.

On and off for a few years, with the pandemic disrupting some of it, Johnson has been playing at colleges across the country for a good portion of her career.

“When I first started, it was mostly East Coast, New York-based colleges,” she said. “The past year or two I’ve been doing more colleges; the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, around Pennsylvania as well, so I’ve been getting around a bit.”

College campuses are not the only venues she frequents but are more relaxed than others might be.

“It’s definitely different,” she said. “I’ve played places like the Blue Note in New York but it [playing at colleges] feels a little more down home. You get to talk to people more one-on-one and I really enjoy that.”

Aside from live performances, Johnson also spends a portion of her time writing demos and posting them to her Instagram for people to enjoy.

“My goal this year was to say I’m going to do a demo a week,” she said. “Therefore, if I did my math right, for the next four years I could in theory release a single a month. This is sort of a building year for me. I think once I hit July, I’m going to try to hone in and see what I have and what I actually want to produce.”

The last single she released, “The Table,” was in 2023, featuring rapper BD3 and Grammy-nominated saxophonist FKAJazz.

“It has like a funk, soul thing going on,” Johnson said. “And I’m going to be doing the rap parts tonight since BD3 isn’t here, so bear with me.”

As a one-woman show, Johnson, alongside a soundman named “Jim,” plays both acoustic with her guitar and some backing tracks so people can hear the production side of her music as well.

“Usually my process is that, like those demos, it’ll be two-track, vocal, guitar, and then I’ll find a producer, or I have a friend that’s a producer, and I send them those stems,” she said. “They tend to either produce around it or come up with a whole new concept.”

Johnson explored other instruments over the years, but the guitar was the one that stuck.

“It’s portable,” she joked.

“You just kind of put it on your back, and you’re good,” Geer replied. “Or case it up.”

Being a part of the New York scene, portability was a big thing for Johnson in those early days.

“I started playing piano when I was nine. I played a bunch of instruments when I was in high school, I played steel drum, bass-baritone, trumpet. Then, in college, I moved to New York, I was like, ‘I wanna play an instrument again,’” she said. “Pianos aren’t always very portable, so let me pick up the guitar.”

Aside from her demos, Johnson is preparing to finalize her next release.

“I’m working on a project right now called ‘Pardon My Blackness,’ and the first single that’s actually mixed right now is called Melanin Hashtag,” Johnson said. “During the pandemic, I played in Times Square for the Black Lives Matter movement, and I always felt like I had this feeling, but I couldn’t articulate it.”

It took her a long time to accept and express how it felt to be there.

“It was nuts,” she said. “The advice that we were getting to even be there was like ‘write numbers down on your arm just in case they take your phone,’ like there were these clear masks that we had in case they gassed anything. It was just a wild time as you all can imagine.”

“Pardon My Blackness” will be dedicated to that time in her life to be released in the summer. “Melanin Hashtag” is set to be released on her birthday, April 20.

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Jenna Prather
Jenna Prather, Editor-in-Chief

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