HonkyTonk StepChild brings simplicity back to Oklahoma City’s Americana music scene.
by Louis Fowler
July 31st, 2013
If you’re anybody in the local music scene, chances are you’ve come across Casey Friedman.
Like a local Zelig, Friedman — whose father owned Horn Trader Music, where many local musicians got their start — was the mastermind behind Inner State Studio, which produced such acts as The Reverb Brothers, as well as being the brains behind the Acoustic Oklahoma online series.But at the height of his success, he walked away from it all and went country, forming HonkyTonk StepChild with Local Honey fiddler Minna Biggs. The duo preferred to play their music on street corners rather than stages.
“What we are striving for is a joyful noise, a joyful sound,” Friedman said. “The StepChild in our name, it’s more about picking your feet up. It’s all about being a child and moving around and having fun. The idea behind HonkyTonk is that we’re kind of doing country, but it’s our own thing.”
To really understand it, he said, people need to see the upbeat act on the streets, most frequently in Bricktown, interacting with listeners.
“Within an hour, we’ll have three or four singers join up and just start singing with us; groups upon groups of dancers will show up and just start dancing,” Friedman said. “It’s a party that’s changing every second.”
For him and Biggs, breaking from the coffeehouse routine to playing simpler, less “equipment-heavy” music on city streets has led to a “creative rebirth,” allowing for more experimentation and focus in an environment that can terrify most musicians.
“You can go there when you want to and leave when you want to. You see a lot more people than you normally would inside some venue,” Biggs said. “People can engage with you or they can walk by. There’s no commitment; we’re not on anybody’s schedule; and that offers so much freedom creatively.”
Added Friedman, “It’s more fun. There’s a lot of improvisation, and combining songs and creating medleys. We take contemporary songs and give them this old-timey spin. We turn them into fiddle tunes, Cajun songs, Celtic songs. It’s been fun to create and invent these new tunes.”
As word of mouth about HonkyTonk StepChild grows, the two have decided it’s time to record an album. This project is all the more pressing, as they were one of the few local bands cast in the OKC-lensed film Rudderless, directed by actor William H. Macy.
“Here’s somebody who’s not part of the scene, who rolls into town in this big Hollywood movie and says, ‘We want these people.’ That was a real honor,” Friedman said.
“So we’re planning our next step around that, holding our breath, waiting to see what happens. Until then, we just want to keep playing for all the people who want to listen to us. Really, the bottom line of what we’re trying to do is have a good time. And we are.”