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Kip and JJ Loui's ‘Show Me State’ Highlights Missouri And Its Characters

Kip and JJ Loui
JJ Loui
Kip Loui (at left) and his wife, JJ (right), are partners in parenting as well as music.

Ever since he was a kid growing up in St. Louis, Kip Loui has been fascinated by Defiance, Missouri. Something about the name of the town captured his imagination, and once he became a musician, he told himself that someday he would write a song called “Defiance.”

“Then the current guy was elected president,” Loui told St. Louis on the Air. And soon that song was in the works — along with the 11 others that would eventually become “Show Me State,” the album that he and his wife, JJ Loui, released earlier this year.

“I wanted to write political songs without being too overt [and] wanted to address some of the things going on,” Kip Loui explained. Eventually, he and JJ decided to do that through a series of character-driven songs that he describes as “almost like a novel.”

"Show Me State" is the second album that Kip and JJ Loui have collaborated on.
Kip and JJ Loui
"Show Me State" is Kip and JJ Loui's second album together.

“Defiance” revolves around a fictional third-generation resident of the St. Charles County municipality, where “there’s not much to view, no archway to greet you, just an old sign saying ‘Welcome to Defiance, Missouri.’” It’s “a land of oxycontin” in Kip Loui’s telling, where “good times are long forgotten,” but with “a blue sky that never ends.”

The album also includes “Eads Bridge After Dark,” the couple’s valentine to St. Louis, and seven other songs written by Kip — plus three by JJ.

While the couple’s musical styles are distinct, they come together in “Show Me State,” which is their second collaborative release (not counting their 7-year-old son).

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, the duo joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about the inspiration for “Show Me State” and share a few songs. Both musicians expressed love for the complex places that are Missouri and St. Louis.

“I’m actually a transplant from the Quad City area,” JJ Loui said, “and interestingly enough, Kip’s entire family was born where I’m from — he was the only Loui born here in St. Louis. So the fact that we met here, and I stayed here and started my family, has a big part of my heart.”

Some of the character-driven songs that make up “Show Me State,” she added, were inspired by interactions with fellow citizens of the region.

“We’ve spent a lot of time camping in Mark Twain National Forest and getting outdoors, and it’s the people that we meet … listening to them telling their stories and just how we’re all really connected in that sense. It really is just kind of a one-on-one and then the songwriter’s pen that allows you to kind of go with that and expand on that story.”

The couple’s young son, Max, also played a role here and there.

“He’s definitely involved in the process,” JJ Loui said. “He has a few songs written about him on this current album, and the last album it’s pretty obvious, it’s called ‘Little Max,’ which is one of my favorites. But he plays drums as well, so we’re kind of hoping that he’ll kind of fall into being able to play with us in a professional capacity sometime soon.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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