McHENRY – OTIS guitarist Steve Jewell describes the band’s sound as raw, southern, blues-flavored rock ’n’ roll. The four-piece band will bring that flavor to the stage of Mackey’s Hideout in McHenry on Saturday.
The Kentucky-based band formed in 2012, developing their sound from what Jewell refers to as “roots music” from the south and surrounding areas, including blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, branches of folk, jug band, Appalachian, and the list goes on.
“We grew up listening to roots music and other great music fed to us from our fathers,” Jewell said. “We also dug into roots music in general through the influence of our friend Greg Martin of The Kentucky Headhunters. That’s been the key factor in our sound and the best thing we’ve ever done – studying roots music.
“So much music has come out over all of the decades; it’s easy to become a carbon copy. It’s difficult to find your own sound. All of the greats studied roots music and it worked out for them so we developed a love and passion for roots music and it’s had a profound effect on having us stand on our own two feet and defining us a band.”
Jewell started playing guitar at the tender age of 5, following in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad is a guitarist and I grew up playing music with my father. I’ve got musicians on both sides of my family,” Jewell said. “When I was a kid, my mom would take me to some of my dad’s shows and I was so infatuated and overwhelmed by the band and I just knew that this was what I needed and wanted to do.
“It’s a big common interest in our band. We cut our teeth on the same style of music and three of the four of us played music with our fathers. One guy’s guilty pleasure is another guy’s guilty pleasure and our band is like a marriage in its own right.”
OTIS’s second album, “Eyes of the Sun,” was released in 2017 following their 2014 album, “Tough Times.” The band currently is working on a new album in the middle of their winter tour. Audiences will get a taste of their new songs as the band likes to perform new material on stage before recording.
“It’s part of our writing process,” Jewell said. “We like to write new material and go out and play it live before we record. We like to get the response of the audience and see their energy. Sometimes, when you’re on stage and you’re feeling good and the audience is being responsive, you lock in with each other and you get in this indescribable headspace. It can drastically alter the song when you’re in it and you can come up with something new. We may play the same song every night, but we don’t play it the same way. We like to give the songs some time to grow and mature.”
This is the first time OTIS will perform at Mackey’s. There is no cover for the show and OTIS performs at 9 p.m.
Jewell encourages music fans to come out and help themselves to a “mouthful of soul.”