Last year Bonne Finken released her album "Fairytales/Love Affairs" to critical acclaim and nationwide radio play, but there was a good chance the pop singer's best work to date could have been her last.
Finken, 35, had been working on a music career for more than a decade, starting singing minor parts with a hip hop group at an Oskaloosa bowling alley, then a backup singer before finally starting her own group, Bonne Finken & The Collective. But even though it was her name above the marquee, she wasn't really making the music she wanted to make.
It was Finken's resolve to take control of her career that earned her a Mixie Award this year. Thanks to her drive, Finken has crafted a sound that is unlike anything else in the city, and it's getting attention outside her home state.
Part of what made "Fairytales/Love Affairs" work is Finken started to put more trust in herself.
"I didn't go to school for music, but I always did listen to people I thought knew better than me," Finken said. "But as they were telling me to change my music, I felt so unhappy in that moment. I didn't like the way my songs sounded live, which is why I was doing a lot of covers. I thought going in that this would be my last album, so I decided to do it my way. If it was garbage, I was going to quit anyway."
When she was feeling her lowest, Finken was contacted by a development company in Nashville that was interested in working with her. She scrapped many of the songs she had already written and started anew. She was working with people she admired and her confidence grew. She took her time, and the resulting album set her apart from anything else in Des Moines with its powerful vocals over a pop rock sound.
Finken's performance schedule has reflected her new commitment, with bigger, stand-out performances.
Last summer she performed at her first 80/35 Music Festival and has scheduled fewer shows, focusing on making the experiences bigger and more theatrical with lights and projections. At her March 28 show at the Temple for Performing Arts, she brought out a group of third, fourth and fifth graders from Walnut Hill who she had worked on songwriting with to perform with her.
Last month she was one of the acts featured at the Des Moines Embassy at South by Southwest and thanks to connections she made there, she's returning to Texas in July for a show in San Antonio. In August she'll perform at the Iowa State Fair. Finken doesn't seem to show any sign of slowing down. And as for "Fairytales/Love Affairs" being her last album? Go ahead and forget about that.
"After my shows this month I'm taking some time off and writing until June. My plan is to have a new single with a video before my performances start back up."
See Bonne Finken & The Collective
April 23 with Peace, Love & Stuff at Lefty's Live Music, 2307 University Ave.
April 25 with Holly and The Night Owls at DG's Taphouse, 125 Main St., Ames