Photo by Alex Johnson of Alex Johnson Photography
Okee Dokee Brothers Band
Childhood friends Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing of the Grammy-winning Okee Dokee Brothers canoed down the Mississippi, rode horses across the West, and hiked the Appalachians to create their adventure album trilogy for kids and families. For their newest song, “Countin’ On Me,” their travels were a little more local: They took a behind-the-scenes tour of the conservation work happening at the Minnesota Zoo.
The new song was commissioned by the Minnesota Zoo, and all of its proceeds will be donated to the zoo and its conservation efforts, which include prairie butterflies, bison, and trumpeter swans. Mailander and Lansing spent time in the field with the zoo’s butterfly conservation expert, helping track butterfly populations by catching them and placing a harmless sticker on their wings. They learned about the prairie butterfly rehabilitation projects at the zoo, and they saw the numbers upon numbers of data points researchers collected and used to understand the large impact of the smallest changes.
That idea, that realization that all of the little things spelled out a great big message, became the chorus of “Countin’ On Me.”
To unveil the new song, The Okee Dokee Brothers will return to the zoo on Saturday, March 18 for two special animal encounters in the Discovery Bay stadium.
The very next day, the band will perform with the Minnesota Orchestra in a launch for Thousand Star Hotel, a CD-picture book based on a folktale about appreciating the simpler joys in life with those you love.
The guys are busy, no doubt about it. But they still love to adventure, whether they’re back in their home state of Colorado or exploring the land of 10,000 lakes.
“The first time I ever got in a canoe was in Minnesota,” says Mailander. “The lake culture, the trails through the woods—that whole feel is very different than Colorado, and I fell in love with it.”
While they have more projects in the works (Who said podcast? I didn’t say podcast), in the end, everything comes back to the folk-Americana music they love and the messages they deliver. For “Countin’ On Me,” the message is simple, a call to action that holds true to their values and love of the outdoors: “We’ve gotta build this home again.”
The Okee Dokee Brothers at the Minnesota Zoo. March 18 at 10 and 11 a.m., free with admission (online RSVP required), Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, 952-431-9200, mnzoo.org
The Okee Dokee Brothers with the Minnesota Orchestra. March 19 at 2 p.m., $25-50, Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5600, minnesotaorchestra.org