Chicago Farmer blends urban and rural influence

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers

Chicago may be the last place you would expect to find folk music, but when inspiration flourishes in small-town America, it often migrates to the big city.

Cody Diekhoff, sole performer in the folk project Chicago Farmer, made this move while maintaining the small town values he obtained growing up in Delavan and is applying it to his new urban lifestyle.

Delavan lies 30 miles south of Peoria with a population of less than 2,000.

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While attending high school, a knack for poetry and spoken word led Diekhoff to the world of singing and songwriting.

“One summer in high school I bought a guitar and started writing songs,” Diekhoff said. “I just needed something to take my poetry and put it into motion.”

His grandparents were farmers and his parents had a strong work ethic, something he appreciated and was influenced by growing up, he said.

Diekhoff was also influenced by the grunge wave of rock in the 1990s and the emotional lyrics of bands like Nirvana, Brian Nolan and Pearl Jam, he said

“The one good thing about grunge is that it may not be the best music ever made, but it was finally people being real,” he said.

During high school, he started leaning toward folk music after listening to Hank Williams Sr. 

Some of Diekhoff’s friends moved to Chicago after high school to start a band, and a month later, he decided to move with them.

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“Central Illinois has a lot of great places to play music,” he said. “I just needed to be exposed to a lot of different styles of music and on a nightly basis.”

It is hard to ignore a small town upbringing, even while living in a big city, so he incorporates a little bit of both cultures into his music, he said.

“A lot of people have pride in working hard here in the Midwest,” he said.  “It does not matter if you are in the big city or a small town, it is just the work ethic… that inspires me.”

Diekhoff utilizes his knowledge of poetry and spoken word in his live shows.

“I try to incorporate everything that someone can do with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and a voice,” he said. “It comes full circle, because back in the beginning the words came first and we did not have any music to go with it.”

Chicago Farmer’s previous album, “Backenforth, IL,” released in 2013, recounts his Illinois traveling experiences.

“A lot of my friends felt like I was stuck in this one place in the same routine,” he said. “The songs on that album are about me expanding, not only as a musician… but as a person.”

Diekhoff has recently moved from Chicago to Bloomington but has still witnessed an expansion in the Chicago music scene.

“Now, it seems like there is much more variety, which is amazing,” he said. “You could see jazz in one place, bluegrass in the next and hard rock in another.”

Chicago Farmer is working on an album in the same Chicago studio where he recorded “Backenforth, IL.”

He will blend city and serenity at 10 p.m. Friday at Hangar 9.

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