OWATONNA—JRD & The Big Mistake, a classic country band that—despite only forming in March—has been selling out gigs in the Twin Cities, will bring their act to Owatonna for the summer’s final Downtown Thursday next week.
The vast amount of their songs are originals, inspired by country icons like Waylon Jennings, Gene Autry, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson, said singer/songwriter Joseph Downing, who arranged this ensemble, which includes Owatonna-native Marty Lestock. “We do not intend to reinvent the wheel,” but, rather “pay homage to our heroes.”
Downing also plays in a jazz ensemble, and jazz is often “music for musicians,” but JRD & The Big Mistake is “melodically accessible,” Downing said. “I’m trying to keep things simple, honest, and accessible to the listener.”
That philosophy has helped JRD & The Big Mistake “pick up a massive following” despite not engaging heavily in social media promotion, nor having an album, yet, he said. “The feedback we hear” after concerts is that the music is “catchy, memorable, and” audience members “feel like they’ve heard it before.”
Downing inherited some of his musical talent, as his father remains an active singer/songwriter, and “I identify closest as a singer/songwriter,” he said. His music incorporates quintessential country themes of “heartbreak, substance abuse, and tough times,” among others, which people can relate to.
The group’s most-popular song, “by a country mile,” is “You Can Come to My Funeral,” he said. It’s “dark, but funny,” as the storyteller will allow his ex-partner to attend his funeral, but not to bring her new partner.
In “our second-ever show,” the crowd “was singing along with us” to that song, he said. “That has to be number one.”
He’s also fond of “Bury Me in My Favorite Boots,” which is “almost a will and testament,” he said. In the song, “I sing about how, when I die, you can have all the stuff I have,” because “where I’m going”—wherever that happens to be—“I don’t need any of it.”
Furthermore, he’s “really proud” of “Fond Memories,” which is in the Roy Orbison-style of country, he said. He collaborated with Lestock on “Fond Memories,” and he “really helped with it.”
Lestock is “a Swiss army knife of playing music, arranging, and music history,” Downing said. “I haven’t met an instrument yet he can’t play.”
The Music Space of Owatonna’s Mark Woodrich, who booked JRD & The Big Mistake for Thursday’s 7 p.m. concert, alighted upon the ensemble through Lestock, whose career he has closely followed.
“I watched a few videos, saw they were up and coming, (and selling) out regularly at familiar venues, and (I) thought they would be perfect for our Downtown Thursday,” Woodrich said. “They are a modern classic country band with some great original songs, and I think it’s going to be a great concert.”
In addition to Downing, guitar and vocals, and Lestock, pedal steel, the ensemble includes Colin Wymore, lead guitar, Daniel Burchette, bass, and Paul Collier, drums.
The band plans to go into the studio to record music in September, and they certainly don’t lack material, Downing said. Last year, Downing challenge himself to write a song a day, so, but the end of 2018, “I had about 250 songs.”
The ensemble is based in Minneapolis, and despite only playing together since March, “the band is so tight,” he said. “There’s a great playing relationship between us.”
Downing and Lestock “share a love for classic country,” and they began playing country jam sessions with other like-minded musicians, he said. Eventually, that led to the creation of JRD & The Big Mistake.
Between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the green space of the 200 block of Cedar Avenue, a new band called The Foragers will perform, Woodrich said. An Americana group with Owatonna ties, The Forgers “will fit in well as the opening band” for JRD & The Big Mistake, who will play at 7 p.m.
In addition, while JRD & The Big Mistake and The Forgers will both play in that pocket park on Cedar, the Arizona Territorial Band will perform in Central Park at 7 p.m. for the 11@7 series.
The Arizona Territorial Band is Arizona’s “official historical brass band,” said Jerry Besser, who was instrumental in bringing them to town. “Sometimes they have unique instruments and talk about what they have.”
For Owatonna’s 11@7 concert series, Besser seeks, first and foremost, “a variety of music,” because “I got a kick out of that,” and the Arizona Territorial Band is merely the latest example, he said. “We want to expose the community to different forms of music.”
This is slated to be the last of three Downtown Thursday events this summer. The evening closes off a couple of blocks of Cedar Avenue for food purveyors, artists, and — obviously — musicians. Restaurants, bars, and shops are planning special offerings and experiences in their businesses. Hours for Downtown Thursday are 5-8:30 p.m.