Led by songwriter and guitarist Katie Jo Oberthaler, Katie Jo & The Mijos play classic country music fit for the modern era—and often fit for folks who say they don’t like country music at all. A native of Kansas, and currently based in California, Katie Jo brings a Midwestern sensibility to songs that dance in defeat of life’s plainest realities: circumstances might be bad, and probably getting worse, so better to take it in stride and get on with it, then. This isn’t soft-spoken folk melodies nor hard-scrabble outlaw snarls: it’s lyrical vulnerability mixed with a vivacious live energy. It’s having a chip on your shoulder while still looking for one to cry on. It’s being your own worst enemy and your own savior.
With a broad sound backed by a seven-piece country band, her high-energy live show is not often expected of the diminutive band leader. Katie Jo’s out to prove that modern country music should be played with just enough bite to last—and you don’t have to wear big hat or beard to do it.
Starting in 2017, she cut her teeth playing punk dive bars and honky tonk holdouts around Southern California and carved out strong support with non-country music fans by playing shows in untraditional venues like boxing gyms and barbershops as well as regional festivals. Since then, she has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with notable artists such as Billy Joe Shaver, Lucero, and more.
2018’s Prairie Flower EP melded Katie Jo’s windswept Kansas roots with her background in bluegrass music, covering ground with both boot-stomping rompers and mournful country ballads. Lead single “All My Money’s on the Highway” was inspired by the song “Asheville Turnaround” by The Del McCoury Band, a rework of the bluegrass number into a cynical story of what it’s like to try to date in Los Angeles. Swaying two-step title track “Prairie Flower” chronicles a desire to leave one’s rural roots for more pastures and was derived from the 1930s song by The Two Leslies, “I’m a Little Prairie Flower.” Acoustic ballad “Pawn Shop Queen” laments the castaways of past relationships, backed by a mournful accordion and melodic fingerpicking. “Crooked Lies” takes rumors head-on in a country stomper accented with organs and chorus-lifting harmonies.
Katie Jo’s debut full-length country album is currently in production at Big Ego Studios in Long Beach, CA, under the helm of producer Chris Schlarb. The album was recorded in tradition of country records past, with a live backing band in one room, in just three days. It will be released in late 2019.
Also a proficient banjo picker ("2018 Banjo Babe Calendar" artist), Oberthaler can be also often be heard playing with local artists on and offstage at bluegrass jam circles in the Los Angeles area.