The Okee Dokee Brothers are Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, childhood friends from Colorado. Their songs often speak of nature and they have also filmed music videos for their songs in beautiful surroundings. Their album Can You Canoe? won a Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2012.
Justin kindly answered our questions for this interview, sharing how he and Joe have gone full circle from being spectators to performers at libraries, and their love for Woody Guthrie and Appalachian music. His responses have been edited for clarity.
What made you decide to write music for children and families?
Joe and I share our whole childhood together as friends. In our songs, we try to reflect on that part of our lives and share some of the things we learned back then.
How have libraries or librarians been an influence in your life or your music career?
Libraries [we]re the first place where we were able to see live performances as kids. Now, as adults, we are the ones performing in libraries for children for their first concerts. There's some kind of wisdom from all those old books in a library that makes us feel like we're doing something right.
How did you hear about and get involved with Tricycle Music Fest?
We have friends in the "Kindie Music" (Indie for Kids) genre that live in San Francisco and have told us great things about the series. We had to see for ourselves.
Band names are usually memorable or intriguing in some way. Is there a story behind yours?
We've always loved the music of Woody Guthrie and he was an Okie from Oklahoma. So our name is sort of a play off of that, along with a really memorable American saying.
In May, you went to the Appalachian Mountains and traveled the area, meeting people who play and sing Appalachian music, and blogged about it along the way. What interests you about this genre of music?
There's so much about that music that is intriguing. It's really old for one thing. It's been passed down for many, many years by people playing together and singing songs. That's one of our favorite things to do, and our favorite way of learning new songs.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked you?
Just that we're excited to make it out to San Francisco again! We love that town, and it's strong support for the arts and music.
Get outside and see The Okee Dokee Brothers perform on the following dates and locations:
- Saturday, October 5th at 10:30 am, Foster City Library (San Mateo County)
- Saturday, October 5th at 1 pm, Ortega Branch Library (San Francisco)
- Saturday, October 5th at 4 pm, Bernal Heights Branch Library (San Francisco)
- Sunday, October 6th at 11 am, Pescadero Elementary School (San Mateo County)
Jessica Chung is a MLIS student and an intern for the San Mateo County Library.