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The idea was hatched long before the pandemic. And it wasn't even her idea.

Dessa wants people to know this about her new science podcast, "Deeply Human," so no one thinks she turned all nerdy on us just because her cool full-time gig as a touring musician was abruptly shut down last spring.

"I was always pretty nerdy about this stuff," the Minneapolis rapper/singer unabashedly admitted.

Premiering this week as a joint venture from the BBC and St. Paul-based American Public Media (APM) — you can hear the first episode now via various streaming sites — "Deeply Human" nonetheless became a great way for Dessa to remain the dynamo she's famous for being during the COVID-19 lockdown.

It's actually a pretty cool podcast, too.

Where most science-related TV and radio shows sorely lack colorful language, delivery and personality, Dessa has been fine-tuning all of those skills for 15-plus years of writing songs and performing them on stage, starting with the Doomtree crew.

"I would never say to anyone, 'Hey, I'm a scientist!' " she said in an interview two weeks ago from New York, where she splits her time these days.

"I'd say, 'I'm a communicator and writer who loves science.' A lot of my education in science is autodidact. I'm just a scientist by night — or I guess you might say by day, since my real day job is at night."

As the title suggests, "Deeply Human" is centered around human behavior and the real-life experiences of everyday people.

Episode One, for instance, is all about how people go about choosing the right romantic partner, especially in the era of swipe-approving dating apps. Subsequent topics include shows about déjà vu, living with chronic pain and menopause.

Just as she does in her songs and concerts, Dessa infuses the show with personal stories or those of people she knows. Episodes are a half-hour long and premiere every Monday via the BBC.

Case in point: In the first episode, Dessa candidly recounts her own experiences using the dating app Tinder and ponders whether it has helped or hurt her chances of settling on the right partner. Her mom, Sylvia, even gets in on the discussion, as do a couple of true scientists well versed on the topic.

"I am the type of person who thinks about checking every box when I meet someone, which is a bad mental habit," Dessa admitted.

"The hyper-abundance of choices out there [via dating apps] cannot only lead to decision paralysis, but also to more of an insidious phenomenon where you're taking a survey of all the decisions available to you and making an amalgamation of everyone's best features in your head.

"That isn't the real world. That amalgamation is not a real choice."

Dessa describes herself as 'a communicator and writer who loves science.' She's gotten a chance to explore that in a new podcast.
Dessa describes herself as 'a communicator and writer who loves science.' She's gotten a chance to explore that in a new podcast.

Sam Gehrke

'Learning useful stuff'

That first episode also casts a light on the origins of the podcast, and how Dessa got the job to host it.

She was picked largely on the strength of her 2019 memoir, "My Own Devices," and subsequent concerts and TED Talks, in which she recounted working on a study with neuroscientists at the University of Minnesota trying to pinpoint lovesickness in her brain.

That work caught the attention of the podcast's co-creators at the BBC and APM. They wanted to launch a podcast "exploring why we do the things we do" and quickly settled on their host, explained Chandra Kavati, APM's vice president of distribution and underwriting.

"Dessa's talent, combined with her natural curiosity to understand herself through science, seemed like an amazing fit," Kavati said.

Unfortunately, the podcast became an easier fit for Dessa once the pandemic suddenly cleared her calendar of all tour dates. She was actually in London working on the podcast last March and "had to scramble to get home before the travel bans," she recounted.

After spending much of last year back in the Midwest, she is now in New York again, finishing up "Deeply Human" episodes. She's also working on music there.

Throughout 2021, Dessa plans to release one new song on the 15th of every month in a series of singles she's calling "Ides." Two songs, "Rome" and "Bombs Away," are already out.

"It's 100 percent a response to the pandemic," she said. "We still don't how much longer we're going to be stuck at home, so I liked the idea of issuing one song a month, something to look forward to, like when you're watching a TV series and it feels good just knowing there's another episode."

True to form, Dessa believes she can balance her podcast — "actually an insane amount of work," she said — alongside her music career once things start to become more normal.

Also just like her: She used a personal anecdote based off "Deeply Human's" dating episode to predict how the podcast might affect her personal life coming out of the COVID lockdown.

"I learned all this good info to help me, and then the pandemic shut down dating altogether," she complained.

More seriously, she said the great payoff for her new podcast has simply been "learning useful stuff."

"I get to talk to brilliant people and have a real conversation with them, not just asking them for a sound bite," she raved.

"I get to have a personal Q&A with someone who knows a ton of stuff about some topic that fascinates me. And at the end, when I'm connecting all the pieces together for each episode, it does feel a bit like an art instead of a science. It feels creatively satisfying, too."

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • @ChrisRstrib

'Deeply Human'

When: New episodes post Monday mornings.
Where: Download or stream via,, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other platforms