20 Years of Chicago Farmer: An Interview

Article Contributed by Janine Catchpole | Published on Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Chicago Farmer has, for twenty years, sung songs of the Midwest, songs celebrating his small-town heritage of hard-working people, making it through life’s good and hard times and proudly wearing their dirty uniforms, whether they live in the country or in a city. Cody Diekhoff (Chicago Farmer) observes the joys, the trials, and the everyday bits and turns things into lyrics telling a story, some fictional, some with truth, set to catchy melodies and phrases that inspire people to dance and sing along.

Whether he is performing a solo show in a small town, or with his band, the Fieldnotes, at a large festival, Chicago Farmer gets around the country bringing relatable music to anyone that’s put a long day in and is ready to let off a bit of steam. Plaid shirts and baseball caps seem to be the typical uniform of the crowds at sold-out venues.

I was privileged to meet Cody at Third City Sound in Joliet, Illinois to record this interview about the upcoming spring tour. (Thanks to David Francis for being the recording engineer.) 

GW: I'm Janine Catchpole sitting down with Cody Diekhoff, Chicago Farmer himself.

Farmer: Yes. Good afternoon.

GW: Thanks for coming and giving me the chance to talk to you. I think the first time I saw you was downstairs at the Chicago Street Pub here in Joliet, IL. I’ve been keeping track of you ever since. So, this is a real treat! Where are you headed tonight? 

River City Times 2006

Farmer: I'm coming from Bloomington to Chicago. I'm at a studio tonight in Humboldt Park where I'm going to be tracking some vocals for a couple of songs that I just recently recorded with my band, Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes. It's kind of like this room, actually. It's just very homey and it's got a vibe. I've recorded in some real fancy places before, and you don't need fancy, you just need a vibe and some good folks to be in a room with to make the magic happen. 

GW:  So, are you going to be working on a new album eventually with the Fieldnotes?

Farmer: We have a new full-length album that I've almost written that I'm really excited about. But in the meantime, we have a couple of original songs and a cover that we've been playing live, and I don't really know where they fit, so we're just going to record them and have them as singles for a little extra spice on the 20-year anniversary of Chicago Farmer

GW: This is pretty exciting!

Farmer: We recorded an EP we released last year called Fore! I think we're gonna record four other songs and we're going to call it 4x4, and then we're going to put it on vinyl. So, one four-song EP will be on one side and the other four-song EP will be on the other side, the B side.

GW: It sounds efficient.

Farmer: Yeah, we're taking things as they come after the pandemic. I don't want to go in and record a full album right away. We need to just let's take a little time but now a little time has passed. We're ready to get back at the recording process.

GW: Probably early this morning, more like 3:30, I woke up and started to think about doing this interview with you today. For some reason, the Nat King Cole song Nature Boy popped into my head. In the song, the boy teaches: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. Does this very wise wandering describe the past 20 years of your journey and your songs?

Farmer: I suppose. I wish it was all that simple. That's why I got into music. It was a simpler thing to do than what everybody else was doing. But I didn't want a simple life. I wanted a life that was traveling and getting into the muck of it all and seeing as much music and art and as much of this country as I could, which got me on my travels. I learned that over the last 20 years. It's not that simple. There's a lot to it. There's a lot more to it than just playing an acoustic guitar in the woods, you know?

Chicago Farmer celebrating another milestone, 20 years of making music

GW: 20 years of back and forth in Illinois and beyond, 20 years of being those guys that everybody loves. 20 years of songs with vibrato and bravado going through or occasionally, not going through winter storms. I remember you being stuck on the interstate missing a show downstairs at the Pub

Farmer: Yeah, there's only been a couple of times in 20 years of my career where I haven't made it to a gig. And one of them was here at Chicago Street Pub. This 18-wheeler wrecked right on I-55 and there was nowhere to go. And I mean, I had the ditch on the side was an option, but I had my Mercury Grand Marque and I just didn't feel comfortable about going for it, so I just stayed there. It was. Brutal. 

GW: Well, we were glad you're okay. That was an intense night. So, anyway, with all of this, are you happy with the results of this work and all the people and the places?

Farmer: I am. I look back on it and people say there's just no way you can do things differently. There's no way you can know what is going to happen. I just went all in and I've been doing it ever since. And I feel like if you're going all in, you can't really have regrets or look back and say, I should have done this differently. 

GW: It was the path that was your path.

Farmer: Yeah, it was definitely my path. Maybe there are little things I could have gone in this direction with my music at this time, or I could have gone in this direction, figuratively and actually going in different directions. There were times when I thought about, let's go to Nashville. Let's do these things. There are tons of opportunities down there. And I know a lot of people who had small amounts of success here and went to Nashville from Chicago and had great success. So, it could happen. But I just feel at home here in central Illinois and Illinois.

GW: That matters. And I watched the video you created back in 2011 and it documents where you were about halfway into the journey to now. By the way, the years have been kind, a little grayer, but they've been kind to you!

Farmer: That was all pandemic. I had no gray hairs before the pandemic. It got me good!

Chicago Farmer in the city

GW: In that video, there is a lot in your songs about touring, the road, and the rhythm of travel, you said that as a teenager and a young man, there were hours of driving country roads, hours listening either to the road or to a Simon and Garfunkel tape. Is that when you started composing on the fly, so to speak?

Farmer: Definitely, I heard a story that John Prine used to write songs from Maywood to his gigs in Chicago in his head while he was driving to those gigs. I could never pull that off. Like, that's a short, short drive. But there's been times when I've driven from Denver to my hometown of Delavan, Illinois, where I wrote a song or two in my head. It took me about 15 hours longer than it takes Prine, but I came up with something. 

GW: Well done!

Farmer: That's always been like an escape for me. When I was in high school in a town of 1700 people, that's what we did. We drove around, we got in our car and we would drive.

GW: Did you guys take baseball bats to mailboxes?

Farmer: Yes, we possibly did.

GW: I had a friend who tried to hit mailboxes with the car door, but it left a lot more evidence.

Farmer: Yeah, this is karma right here. I did smash mailboxes when I was in high school. It's just…

GW: It's a ritual of small-town life.

Farmer: I still have, I think, the record in Tazewell County for community service hours from smashing mailboxes. And then about two years ago, my wife and I moved into a new house, which was kind of our dream house. And we lived there for two weeks and a drunk guy ran over our mailbox and I looked at my wife and I said, I'm so sorry. This is karma. This is karma for me. 25 years ago, smashing someone's mailbox.

GW: So, you got that one out and checked off now.

Farmer: Yeah, but no, there wasn't much to do in my small town so driving was a big thing and I always really enjoyed it. And during the pandemic, I would just get in my car and I would just drive the country roads just to get away. And whenever I get back on those little roads outside of my hometown, always it's very easy to reminisce and get a lot of ideas.

GW: Yes, I was going to ask if the Zen of the road helped you compose.

Farmer: Absolutely. In the majority of my jobs before music or even during the early years of music, I delivered pizzas, I delivered flowers, I delivered phone books. I was always in a van or a vehicle driving somewhere to deliver something. And I came up with a lot of ideas behind the wheel.

Chicago Farmer with Drew Emmitt at Summer Camp Music Festival 2012

GW: You don't have somebody else chatting in your ear. There's beauty in the solitude and getting into your head, getting in touch with that inner creative

Farmer: Yeah, definitely.

GW: Do other road and concert events get into your songs? Other particular incidents that come to mind?

Farmer: Oh, these songs come from anywhere. One of the newest songs I have right now is called Mattress, since 2019, every time I would travel somewhere, I started seeing mattresses everywhere. My neighbors were in a rental house next door and every five or six months people would get kicked out of the house and they would leave a lot of stuff in their front yard. And so, I would have my coffee and my guitar every morning and I would stare at their mattresses. Then I would drive around town and there would be mattresses in other people's yards or on top of their minivan, you know, they got their arm hanging out. I pay attention to things like that because you never know when the inspiration is coming. At the same time I was like, do I really want to have a song about a mattress in my repertoire? And then our guitar player, Jake, was late to practice one day and I asked, what happened? Why are you so late? And he said, I-57, was backed up for miles because there are these mattresses all over the middle of the interstate. Okay, I got to write a song about that.

GW: I think now that's karma.

Farmer: Yeah. So now I have a song, a song about mattresses by the side of the road.

GW: I'll look forward to hearing that. So, Delavan, Illinois, your hometown, obviously gave you some good roots in central Illinois. Out of the 1700 people you mentioned, there are 41 businesses listed, including that restaurant that was still on there. I have to say, growing up in a Montana town of 300, I envy your hometown and I do appreciate the nostalgia and sense of place you bring to us through your songs and stories about it. Does Delavan and your experiences there inform your songs now as much as compared to, say, 15 years ago?

Farmer: Definitely. I feel like when I started writing songs in high school study hall, everything was pure creativity. I didn't have really any experience. I hadn't been anywhere yet. So, it was all imagination. I would just make everything up. Now, all these years later, I go back to my hometown and I reminisce a lot and I think about things, and I really start putting it together in a more truthful way with my experiences that have happened. And I still go to that small town well for inspiration constantly.

GW: Do you ever go down and sit on the corner still?

 Farmer: Yeah, I do. I was just there not too long ago. My Grandpa's going to be 101 in March and my Grandma's 94 and they still live in the same house that my Grandpa grew up in. It's pretty wild. We go to the little town and visit the bar where my dad started taking me when I was six years old to play pool and hang out and stuff. My friends from high school have owned it for the last 15 years and they just sold it to a new family. I had to go down there to celebrate their last night at the Farmhouse Bar and Grill. Just seeing old faces and bumming around the town a little bit. It brings everything back. The songs and the ideas come quickly.

GW:  I saw there was a John Deere factory and of course we know there’s the central Illinois corn, beans, and other miscellaneous agricultural endeavors, places where your family worked. Tell me a little bit about Kevin Deikhoff, your father, and his roots in Illinois. Your songs have a deep sense of place and time. There are 100 years there just in your grandparents. Were they early to the state in the area?

Farmer: Yeah. I mean, the barn was built on that farm in 1888.  It's been standing for a hundred years.

GW: A centennial farm?!

Farmer: A long, long time. That's my Mom's Dad. And on my Dad's side, I remember my Grandpa was, I think, either the first or one of the first people to ever have a car in the town.  I think he was one of the first people to ever even have a car in my hometown, which was pretty amazing.

Chicago Farmer sharing stories with the Shoe Fest crowd 2021

GW: Well, your roots are really deep.

Farmer: Our town, we go way back. So, both sets of my grandparents were farmers, so that really instilled a lot in me. My dad, who I think I'm more like, was just a free spirit and he wanted to be his own man, which I suppose farmers are as well. But my dad had kind of a wilder side. He was into music and he wanted to not be told what to wear and where to be. His first business was a head shop in Pekin, Illinois called The Freak Boutique. And they specialized in paraphernalia and water beds.

GW: That was kind of the standard issue at that time, I imagine.

Farmer: Big things in the late ’70s, mid to late ‘70s, and that went under. So, he started his own shoe store called Grizzlies, which was cowboy boots and Western wear. And during this whole time, he helped put on concerts like Alice Cooper in the central Illinois area.

GW: So yeah, your musical roots.

Farmer: He did a lot of cool things like that. Ten Years After was his favorite band.

GW: I love me some Ten Years After.

Farmer: Then he had a couple of kids on the way. He said I need to do something different. He started traveling around selling advertising for Yellow Pages. Like me, he was on the road a lot. And even when he did that, he did it in his own way. He was a people person, too. He wasn't a b.s. salesman. He was really a people person, the way he talked to people. He was really good at what he did.

GW: I love it. In every show of yours that I've attended, you often discuss your accent. Having lived in the Springfield, Illinois area, I do hear, more than a touch of the South in central Illinois, especially in the more rural areas where roads are named Possum Trot, Chicken Brisket, Big Dog, and Pet Cemetery. Illinois began settlement from the South. And in the video, you mentioned three years in Tennessee. Do you think your accent reflects a laid-back, countrified-mother-tongue heritage as well as it works well with the rhythm of your storytelling that resonates with your voice? It seems like this blends together really well and becomes something a little bigger when playing your shows.

Chicago Farmer at City Winery Chicago 2019 | Photo by June Jameson

Farmer: I've had a lot of people ask me where I'm from because they gotta know, where is that accent from? I lived in Tennessee in seventh, eighth, and ninth grade, but I don't think it rubbed off on me that much. I mean, maybe just y'all did, but I think I already had the accent kicking before I went down there. You don't notice it really until you travel. When I go up north, I notice people talk much differently than I do.

GW: I go home to Montana and I hear a lot of Norwegian lilts and occasionally some Scottish burr from people out there.

Farmer: Wisconsin and Minnesota, I definitely hear it a lot, but I guess there is a central Illinois twang. And if it if there is such a thing, I have it. 

GW: To my Montana ears. Yes, you do. Anyway, we kind of touched on this a little bit, but you've spent so much of your time in small towns taking the music to the people.  I know you've observed ups and downs in the communities that you know well. I'm seeing some positive changes in some towns. I know there are still downs, too, but I'd like you to lay some observations from the road on me, towns you like to play, and the good venues you know. And we'll ignore the not-so-good.

Farmer: Oh, man, I live in Bloomington, not too far down. I feel like Bloomington has been strong for a long time and I don't worry about Bloomington too much. I think it's in a good place. I really do love Peoria, which is probably been hit the hardest, I think, in the last decade or so. A lot of jobs moving out of Caterpillar in Peoria but I love the downtown area. I love the riverfront, and the surrounding areas in Peoria are just beautiful. Like many of the other amazing towns that I traveled to, I think Peoria has just as much potential as a lot of these other towns or cities that I travel to. I hope it turns around.

Cheers to 20 Years Chicago Farmer!

GW: I do, too, when you're downtown Peoria, you can still feel the power in the buildings that are in that community.

Farmer: There’s definitely energy down there on Water Street. And they're starting to do some things in the warehouse district. There are a couple of old theaters that are getting revamped. So hopefully that'll turn things around. I don't know. I love Indianapolis. I love Davenport. I love Cincinnati. It seems like the further east you get, the more history obviously you have and some cool things.

GW: But beautiful, beautiful, small theaters.

Farmer: I love St Louis. I don't know if I have a favorite. If I did, I probably shouldn't say so.

GW: No, you probably shouldn’t.

Farmer:  I love Milwaukee. The Midwest has some great, great cities and great music venues.

GW: We are more than just flyover!

Farmer: Absolutely. Minneapolis, those folks, eight feet of snow. It just doesn't bother them. They come to the show, they're there. They’ll all ride a snowmobile if they have to, but they'll get there.

GW: Get their skis on.

Farmer: Whatever it takes. It doesn't even affect them!

Chicago Farmer | Photo by June Jameson

GW: Well, in the documentary video that I watched, you use the phrase, hard times, quite often and you use it to describe the plight of the small towns and the farmers in your lyrics. The reality of the difficulties of small-town life and the joys resonates with many that have had similar backgrounds. We can feel what you're saying. Do audiences outside of the Midwest identify with the stories in your songs?

Farmer: I think so. I mean, sometimes I have to describe it and tell them what detasseling is and things like that.

GW: They miss out on that rite of passage...

Farmer: They might not quite get it. I have to remember. I'm going to Florida in a couple of weeks, and just like Colorado, most people who are in Florida are from the Midwest. Usually those places it's understandable. My music comes across because there's a good population of Midwesterners down there. But there are certain places where you have to explain it a little bit more. I think hardships are everywhere. And they're not new.

GW: They're not new.

Farmer: They're probably not going to go anywhere. Last year, I had the best year Chicago Farmers ever had.

GW: Congrats.

Farmer: But it all balanced out to previous years because I spent so much more money on travel and things. You know, things just keep getting more expensive.

GW: Yes. 

Farmer: What I've seen to answer your question, what I've noticed the most about my area, is the next generation of farmers. Unless you're getting land inherited to you, it's just so hard.

GW: It really is.

Farmer: For a young farmer, these combines are worth, well, more than a home in Chicago. That's crazy!

Chicago Farmer

GW: Back then, I remember I was interning with the Soil Conservation Service when the CRP, the Conservation Reserve Program came out, and it was one of the biggest ag programs trying to get land out of production that should have never been in production because of erodibility issues. That was also the same time when huge mechanized agriculture blew up because it was the only way you could buy one of these monster tractors or combines. You had to have a farm big enough to justify it. It was shortly after that you had Willie Nelson doing Farm Aid. It really changed everything. Towns got disrupted because people were moving away. It was a rough time and I don't know where we're going to go with this, but we've gotten a little deep here.

Farmer: Well, that's all right. You know, it's real. It's like the people with a certain last name in these towns are the ones that are going to have the farms that are probably going to always have the farms. And I think my grandpa is down to like 80 acres or something like that. He has this friend down the road that farms it for him now. It's interesting, I've gone to the Farm Progress show in Decatur, Illinois.

GW: Yeah, I've been to those

Farmer: Which is where you see both sides of it. You see the side that we're talking about. But there are also other cool things happening, like making plastic cups out of corn and things like that. That is big in my industry of music. Go to concerts or festivals. You see these plastic cups! Made out of corn. 

GW: If they are truly recyclable, we'll take it.

Farmer: But they're littered everywhere. Now they're working on biodegradable. Plastic cups made out of corn, I would love to see more things like that happen. There's good progress and bad progress for sure.

GW: Circling back, you have that upcoming tour you touched upon. Your shows have always been a good party and a great vibe. Always tons of smiles, whether we're all packed into Chicago Street Pub or spread across the grounds at Shoe Fest or the Bill Monroe Music Park. Those have been good places. And you're just starting your winter tour. It's going to take you to Florida! I really want to fly to Florida to see you there, but I just can't do it. I would love to see you outside of your Midwest area.

Farmer: I've spent the last 19 years touring and I usually wind up in Minneapolis in February. Which, as I said, the people still come to the shows. But it took me 20 years to realize, hey, let's go south in February. I'm really looking forward to that. And they're really lovely. They've got some really nice listening rooms in Florida.

GW. Are you going solo?

Farmer: Yeah, I'm going down solo this time. I've played down there a couple of times now with Todd Snider, who's been a huge influence in helping my career. It's really been a force of getting my name and my music out there. We're going to go down there solo and play a lot of these songwriter listening rooms for maybe 80 to 100 people. Hopefully, if it goes well, we'll bring the band back down and get them a little sunshine, too. it's nice. My wife's family lives down there, so it's kind of like a work vacation to some sunshine.

GW: Good. As your regional presence seems to be poised to expand, are you going to be doing both solo and Fieldnotes shows as you go around the Midwest portion? Will it be a set of each at some of these shows or are you going to do solo shows someplace?

Farmer: The Florida tour is solo, and then when we get back, kicking off in Chicago at Martyrs in March, it's going to be the full band.

Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes

GW: All the band.

Farmer: It's really the best of both worlds for me. I get to do my solo folk singer act for some smaller rooms where people come and sit down and listen. And then when I want to rock out and get people up and dancing and grooving and having more of a good time party atmosphere, we bring the band so when I get sick of one, I do the other.

GW: Your songs have lovely danceable melodies. Sometimes I'm listening to the words and damn, I'm dancing to something that's too serious. This is not right. This is like dancing to Mack the Knife at a wedding.

Farmer: I try to just pull you in and have a conversation with you when I play solo. And with the band, it's more of a cut-loose thing.

GW: Speaking of the Fieldnotes, you had to have the pick of all kinds of burly musicians passing their contact info to you. How did you select one of the flashiest best-dressed guitar players around, Jaik Willis? and a talented bassist, most likely to be a candidate for the greatest difference between the height of the upright bass and its player, Charlie Harris; along with a blonde braided drummer capable of multiple instruments at once, Cody Jensen.  Can you talk about the guys?

Farmer: Yes, I got very lucky. Being 44 years old and living in central Illinois, it's not easy to find three really talented people that are willing to just travel and play music all the time. They are hungry to play music, and they're hungry to travel and get in front of audiences. I got really lucky. I've known Jaik forever. The first time I met him was at an open mic. He was singing and playing guitar and playing harmonica and playing piano with his toes. I knew I had to get to know that guy. Just the last couple of years he's starting to get snazzy. He went to Africa, and I think he found somebody who makes suits.

GW: I wondered who his tailor was.

Farmer: He's got a closet full of suits and cool stuff. And Charlie and Cody are the rhythm section. They were in a band called Bones Jugs for years.

GW: I love that band. It was fun.

Farmer: They were fantastic and full of fun and just super talented guys that have played together for so long. That's crucial when you have a rhythm section, that they know what each other is going to do before they do it. Together we're quite the foursome. As you said, they all play multiple instruments. We get a lot of sound out of four dudes.

GW: Yes, you do. In the video, you said that you'd always thought Chicago Farmer would be a band, but the practicalities and your own evolution into your songwriting and performance put that on the back burner. While you love the intimacy of those 75 to 100 people shows and the sing-alongs where they all know the lyrics, will the Fieldnotes allow you to get into those 10,000 people shows that you envisioned back in the video?

Farmer: I don't know about that many, but yeah, there is kind of a ceiling when you're playing solo. There are very few people who can do that. I've played with Todd Snider and he can fill a theater on a Monday and sell it out. In folk music, that's pretty hard to do these days. There aren't too many folks that do that. Maybe Jeff Tweedy, but he's kind of known for his band, you know? I think there are more opportunities for people to come out. I think more people want to see a full band than want to see a solo folk singer singing about his thoughts. 

GW: Yeah, it's a new adventure.

Chicago Farmer and the Fieldnotes

Farmer: It is a new adventure, but I love it. There's just a whole ‘nother energy to it that I can't describe. But it's a beautiful thing when four people come together and play music off of each other and off of the audience.

GW: Yeah, it bounces! I know that you've done a lot of arrangements with your songs, and it's been fun to hear the changes with the Fieldnotes. Will you compose differently for solo shows than for music with the Fieldnotes?

Farmer: I mostly write songs the same way, but there is something that each has its own thing. Like that mattress song, the band hasn't quite figured out how to play that one yet. But when I play it solo, the crowd automatically sings along to the chorus and laughs and claps. It works that way. The song I'm going to go record tonight, it's called Battle Cry and the song absolutely crushes with a band. But when I've tried to play it in my solo sets, it just doesn't quite work. Certain songs work better with the band. Certain songs work better solo, for sure.

GW: I suppose it's still a learning curve, too.

Farmer: Yeah, it really is, because the solos are just the beat and the rhythm. They really have something. If I'm playing solo on a song that really needs that and it's not there, it can be a little odd, but most of the songs transfer well to both. I've never been a band leader before, and that comes with its own challenges, directing three other people and their schedules and their personalities. But all the guys are really easy to work with. I feel like, even though it's my songs, that we are performing, when the four of us are on stage, it's our thing. I’m not a dictator. I'm just kind of the leader of the gang. We all throw in ideas and a lot of times I use their ideas. Sometimes I shoot them down, but sometimes I use them, too.

GW: Because I know you like sing-alongs, in shades of Bad Moon Rising and CCR, and “There's a bathroom on the right,” are there song lyrics that the crowd never seems to get right?

Farmer: Yes, I have a song called Dirtiest Uniforms, which I thought was perfectly clear. I know the kids have called it the dirtiest unicorns and even a couple of adults. I'm like, you obviously didn't listen to any of the rest of the song or any of it if you thought it was dirtiest unicorns. But oh, well, whatever.

GW: It happens, you know, you like I say, you're in the same company as CCR, so that's okay.

Farmer: Well, you have to realize, you sing these songs with these lyrics so many times and they’re in my head, they're obvious! But you have to remember, the people who have never heard these songs before might hear them in a different way. 

GW: I understand that. So while they're equally lovely, is Luna or Kymber, the better traveling partner? Beware your words!

Chicago Farmer and his wife, Kymber 2012

Farmer: My wife is my number one traveling companion. She's got hundreds of thousands of miles under her belt with me, and I'm grateful. Now the three of us were all heading down south together. Yeah, we got a little puppy,12 pounds, so we can just scoop her up and take her on the road. We put her little bed underneath the merch table, and it works out great. It's a family affair.

GW: If you made another video, another examination of Chicago Farmer and what he holds dear, what would change?

Farmer: We made the documentary with a guy named Cary Poplin. He went to Columbia for film school, and he became a UPS delivery guy. So, yeah, he went from film school at Columbia to driving a UPS truck.

GW: There's a dirtiest uniforms thing right there!

Farmer: He always wanted to do some kind of project. He and a bunch of his friends followed me around with cameras for like five or six days. There wasn't a plan. It was all on the fly. If I was going to do something again, I'd want to have a little bit of a plan of things to focus on. My dad passed away in January of 2009, 14 years ago. I like a little more focus on that and what he meant to me and his support and things of that nature. My wife can be shy, but I'd like to have her in it a little more as well. She's a huge part of what I do and my life, obviously.

GW Obviously, it wouldn't be the same without Kymber.

Farmer: At home and on the road, there's only so much you can capture. And when you look back at something you did 12 years ago… there are many questions of why didn't we do this or that? 

GW: Any last thoughts about the upcoming tour and the highlights for the future?

Althea Grace & Chicago Farmer 2019

Farmer: I've been grateful to play all kinds of venues, I don't really call places dives. I love all kinds of music venues, but man, we're playing some really cool clubs and some really cool theaters. 20 years is a long time to get to these places that we’re at. But we got here.

GW: They finally opened the door for the likes of you

Farmer: We got here, and it feels really good to play. I'd say they're prestigious clubs. There is a lot of great music that has passed through these walls of these theaters and these clubs that we're playing. These are legendary rock and roll folk clubs!

GW: Hallowed ground like the stage at the Bill Monroe Music Park.

Farmer: There is so much history and vibe. I like to use the word romantic a lot. Across the street from us right now, there is the beautiful Rialto Square Theater. I saw John Prine there! I got to play there myself. I find it very romantic, thinking about all the crazy things that have happened in those walls and the people who have taken those stages and all the things that have been said and sung and shouted and whispered. It's just beautiful.

GW: But, the dives count, too.

Farmer: Absolutely! I'm so happy to be doing it still and playing. I don't have a clue what else I would be doing. Because I still love what I'm doing, I consider myself successful, 20 years later.

GW: If you could open for somebody or have somebody open for you, who would it be?

Farmer: I love Jason Isbell and Brandi Carlile. They're probably my favorites right now.

GW: Jason Isbell will be playing at the Rialto Square Theatre for 2 shows in March! Brandi Carlile is just a force of nature! Nice choices.

Farmer: I'm a pretty big fan of both of those folks and the kind of music that they make.

GW: It’d be a good blend.

Farmer: Those two are the heavy hitters that I would love to love to play with. Oh, and of course Neil Young. If he's looking for an opener, I'd be open to that. That'd be so cool. I'd be all about that.

GW: I would love to see that! I would love to see him. I've never had that opportunity. He got priced out of my range a long time ago, which is what we're afraid of with you.

Farmer: Well, no, not at all. Never. Oh, that Bob Dylan guy, too. I’d play with him.

GW: I know they talk about holding a large theater in your hands. It was like seeing Doc Watson back in the day.

Farmer: Amazing!

GW: The place is just totally focused. It was amazing. I like it when people focus and listen to you because you have such good things to tell. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Farmer: Thank you so much! This was fun. And thank you to the town of Joliet and Third City Sound. I’ve played everywhere from Chicago Street Pub to the Rialto Square Theater, to the baseball stadium, to the prison.

GW: You've got all the highlights.

Farmer: I played it. I've played all the major venues in Joliet.

GW: What are we going to have you do next?

Farmer: We'll figure it out.

Check out Chicago Farmer on tour now!

3/3 Chicago, IL Martyrs’  WSG Head for the Hills
3/4 Holland, MI Park Theatre 
3/9 Indianapolis, IN Duke’s INDY 
3/10 Indianapolis, IN Duke’s INDY
3/11 Columbus, OH Natalie’s 
3/16 Davenport, IA Redstone Room
3/17 Bloomington, IL Castle Theatre 
3/18 St Louis, MO Old Rock House  WSG Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
3/23 Madison, WI The Bur Oak 
3/24 Minneapolis, MN Turf Club 
3/25 La Crosse, WI The Main

20 Years of Chicago Farmer Spring Tour