Okee Dokee Brothers’ musical river ride

Grammy winners at ArtsCenter on Saturday
Apr. 11, 2013 @ 03:41 PM

WHO: The Okee Dokee Brothers
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: The ArtsCenter
300-G E. Main St., Carrboro
TICKETS: $7 youths; $9 adults

When musicians talk about writing their latest album, some say they wrote at home, or tested songs on stage, or wrote on the road. The Okee Dokee Brothers wrote on the river. The Mississippi River, as it happens. Their adventure paid off. The duo won a Grammy Award this year for Best Children’s Album for their “Can You Canoe? A Mississippi River Adventure Album.”
Joe Mailander talked about their travels by phone from their home base in Minneapolis earlier this week. His bandmate is Justin Lansing. Both sing, with Mailander on guitar and Lansing on banjo. The Okee Dokee Brothers will perform at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Saturday.
The Mississippi River trip was a month-long journey in June 2011.
“We knew our theme was about inspiring kids and families to get outdoors,” Mailander said. They took the best of their experiences from the trip and wrote songs about them. They had some song ideas before heading out on the river, and then wrote five or six more from the river itself.
They want people to know that “these things aren’t as daunting as they might think. Just get a canoe and paddle around a lake. We practice what we preach,” he said.
Neither man had gone on a month-long camping trip before, only a week or so at a time. A month was a challenge, Mailander said.
“It turned out to be awesome. We didn’t want to leave,” he said.
Their route was from Lake Itasca, Minn., to the St. Louis Arch.
The start at Itasca was not as populated, Mailander said, and as they headed south they went through a lot of industry and saw the country develop.
“There are moments of beautiful carved out rock and bluffs. There’s a nice mix of cities and towns and countryside,” Mailander said. “That’s just landscape. We met a lot of people along the way, too, who where helpful and hospitable. That was also really refreshing and hopeful.”
Winning the Grammy in February was pretty surreal, Mailander said. He didn’t expect it. It was an overwhelming, excited feeling, he said. They were also pleased that the award was opened up to independent kids’ music. “Can You Canoe?” was put out on their own do-it-yourself label, Okee Dokee Music.
In May, the Okee Dokee Brothers will go on their next excursion, to the Appalachian Trail. They’ll spend a few days in Asheville then head up to Virginia for most of the month, traveling from Damascus through the Smokies to Roanoke and then the Shenandoah.
“We’re going to be hiking, Justin and I. A video crew will follow along with a van. It’ll be slow compared to a canoe,” Mailander said.
They have some points of interest planned along the way, but try not to make their schedule too rigid, he said. They’ll interview old time musicians for the accompanying DVD. The Okee Dokee Brothers’ music on the next album will have a bit more of an old time feel, too, compared to the down home sound of “Can You Canoe?” he said.
The whole point of their music, Mailander said, is to get reactions from both kids and parents.
“We target parents and kids laughing and enjoying the same stuff. It’s important to us that kids look up to see mom and dad enjoying it, too. That’s a really great family experience,” he said.