Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Grammy-winning The Okee Dokee Brothers stops in Carrboro for family concert

Posted April 8, 2013

Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander, songwriters, musicians, outdoors adventurers and life-long friends, are gearing up to spin sweet and silly family songs as they embark on a trip up the Appalachian Trail next month.

But before they depart, the two, who make up the Grammy-winning duo The Okee Dokee Brothers, will stop at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro this Saturday for a family concert that features songs from their very popular album "Can You Canoe?"

The CD and DVD is the first in what they are calling their Adventure Album Series. It was written during a month-long trip on the Mississippi River, where they camped, canoed, filmed and wrote songs for the album. The next journey along the Appalachian Trail starts May 1 in Hot Springs, N.C., and continues up through North Carolina and beyond.

And while plenty of preparation is required for the trip they're about to embark on, nothing could prepare them for the Grammy win in February. "Can You Canoe?" was honored in the Best Children's Album category.

"Winning the Grammy was surreal," Mailander tells me. "It still really hasn't sunk in, but it's a moment we'll never forget. Sharing that moment with someone I grew up with was as good as it gets. Our approach won't change because of the win, we are just honored that our music is reaching more folks."

I'll add that I highly recommend "Can You Canoe?" It's a mix of fun and thoughtful songs that I enjoy listening to as much as my kids. It's been on repeat in our car for probably the last month.

I checked in with Mailander about their music, trip and more. Here's our chat: 

Go Ask Mom: What was your musical life before The Okee Dokee Brothers and why did you make the transition to kids music?

Joe Mailander: Justin and I played in a six-piece Bluegrass/Folk Band called The Medicinal Strings through high school and college. We were a 501c3 non-profit band that played all over the midwest in homeless shelters. The participatory nature of those shows was what inspired us to continue to incorporate interactive elements into our music and performances. We found that this participatory nature of music making worked really with kids too, so we started The Okee Dokee Brothers.

GAM: You spent a month on the Mississippi, writing songs for this album. Did you start out on the trip with ideas or did they all come to you while you were on the river? Did what you came up with surprise you?

JM: We had some ideas before we left for the trip and then we developed them as we paddled. There were a handful of brand new ideas that came to us while we were out there. One was the song "Brother" which was directly inspired by the ups and downs of camping and canoeing with a close friend for a whole month!

GAM: Some of your songs are just fun and silly - "Mr. and Mrs. Sippy" is my eight-year-old's absolute favorite - and others are more introspective - "Along For the Ride," which I love. Was that the goal? Or did it just turn out that way?

JM: I think that was the goal. We live our lives with a lot of humor as well as a lot of serious reflection. It's this balance that makes good living and great art!

GAM: What's it like performing for kids and families? Is it different from your previous gigs?

JM: We love it because every show is different. You never know how kids are going to respond. It also really great to see families bonding during a show. We're happy to be facilitating those moments.

GAM: You'll be playing a show at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro this weekend. What are your live shows like?

JM: They're pretty upbeat and interactive. Lot's of audience participation and bluegrass stompin! We'll have our fiddle player, Becky, with us too.

GAM: Tell us about your trip on the Appalachian Trail. Are you ready?

JM: Ready?! We're never ready for an adventure and that's what makes it fun! We are at least planning some stops and visits along the Appalachian Trail (and surrounding areas) and we've been coming up with fun song ideas already too!

The group's hour-long show at The ArtsCenter is 11 a.m., Saturday. Tickets are $9; $7 for kids; and $28 for a family four pack. Kids 2 and under are free. For details, click here.

I can't wait to hear the songs they write while they walking through North Carolina!

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