I thought it would be difficult to get a straight answer from Tim Sievert if I asked him something personal. He’d be funny and charming as usual, but still private and illusive, even under investigation.
That’s because, you see, Sievert’s the kind of guy who plays things cool. He doesn’t carry a lot of heavy issues and he takes the stuff of life pretty lightly. So how is it that a person so easy going comes to tackle big issues, like a big whale, in his first graphic novel, That Salty Air?
Well, it seems Sievert can be a bit more forthcoming in an interview than I expected. Read on to learn some very interesting things about Top Shelf’s latest success story.
What is your full name?
Timothy James Sievert.
That’s a really good name. How many people call you Timothy?
Nobody calls me Timothy, but sometimes people call me “Timothy J.” if I’m spending a lot of money. That’s when “Timothy J.” comes around. “Timothy J.” is a very rich friend of mine.
I heard that you used to be a dancer, an Irish step dancer. How did such a thing come about for you?
When I was a kid, probably 8, I remember being woken up one Sunday morning by my mother. She drove myself and my brother and my two sisters to Duck Creek Mall in Bettendorf, Iowa. It’s pretty much an abandoned mall and it’s always been abandoned, so we’re like, ‘Where are we going?’ but she kept it a surprise. She brought us into this room that was full of kids and parents and said, ‘You’re going to try Irish step dancing today.’ ‘Uh, no we’re not.’ ‘Yes you are.’ I feel like there were 300 people there, but I’m sure it was more like 10, and it was the first introductory see-if-you-want-to-do-this class. We all participated and afterwards my mom asked me if we wanted to do it, and my brother wasn’t into it, but my sisters and I said sure. I don’t know why I did, but I continued for a couple years. My other sister dropped out, so it was just me and my older sister for a few years. But for some reason – and this is completely honest – I remember nothing that I learned. People ask me all the time, but I remember nothing. But I got a little older and I was supposed to start playing baseball and soccer, and I did, but they conflicted with Irish dancing so I dropped it.
You never did any other kind of dancing?
No, I did not.
No. They wouldn’t let boys on our high school cheerleading team.
Not that I wanted to, I just gave them shit about it.
You grew up outside of Chicago, right? Or in Illinois somewhere?
Davenport, Iowa. Three hours west of Chicago. Like 2 minutes from Illinois.
How was that? Did you feel like your sense of identity was scattered because you lived so close to the border?
I always felt personally that I was more of a kind of Chicagoan because my parents were both born there and then they moved to Davenport when they went to college. So I always felt like I was an Iowan, but I had deep connections to Chicago, and I felt really cool about that.
But rather than go to art school there, you decided to come to Minneapolis. Why’s that?
When I was getting ready to graduate high school I didn’t take college very seriously. I just thought I’d end up going somewhere and I’d be fine with it. I did a college visit in Chicago and I didn’t really like it, cause I didn’t really like anything at the time. Eventually it was like, ‘You have to go to college, you have to do something, what are you going to do?’ I was like, ‘I guess I will go do 3-D animation.’ I was going to go to the Art Institute in Minneapolis, but then I talked to my older sister at a funeral in Chicago. She asked me where I planned to go to school and she said, ‘Don’t go there, it sucks. I go to the Chicago one and it sucks. Do not go there, go to MCAD. They do comics there.’ So I did.
So you were already into comics at that point?
I’ve been into comics for a very long time. I very much entered school as a let’s-draw-Spiderman kind of comic dude. But that changed.
People change, you know?
It’s a shame when they don’t change.
Speaking of change, where’d you get that sweater?
I got it at Savers.
It’s like your uniform.
I know, I wear it a lot.
You probably don’t wear it in the summer though. Do you have a uniform summer tshirt? [Sievert nods no] Always the sweater. I won’t question it. It’s a good sweater.