For a decade now, Dallas roots-rock duo The O's have been a highly beloved outfit, fueled primarily by shiny, happy feelings. And it only takes seeing John Pedigo and Taylor Young bust out a couple of banjo-intensive tunes to hear their hilarity: The comedic banter between songs during an O's show is as entertaining as the boot-stomping tunes.
Understandably, the songs that Pedigo started putting on paper after his father was diagnosed with cancer weren't as plucky.
"After my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2016," Pedigo says, "my brother and I took over his business, which meant that touring and recording with The O's would come to a halt for a good while. The songs I wrote at that point were all about my dad and mortality and that sort of thing.
"A couple of the songs on the record might've worked for The O's," Pedigo adds. "But for the most part, the O's play happy-go-lucky stuff, and these songs are certainly darker in general."
After being approached to record an EP of the new material by Trey Johnson of State Fair Records, Pedigo decided he had enough songs for a full album, and that if he was going to go big in that way, he needed a new band name that fit the occasion.
"One time my dad basically tried to make beer in the kitchen sink, and he called it Pedigo's Magic Pilsner," he says. "It became a family joke after that, and he even ended up using the same name for his bowling team. So it just felt like the perfect homage."
Complete with plugged-in, full-band flourishes, the self-titled record is distinctly different from the music Pedigo has produced with any of his other many band projects from the past, whether it be Slick 57, Boys Named Sue, Rose County Fair or (and especially) The O's.
And for a record that's rooted in a heartbreaking subject, Pedigo's Magic Pilsner never sags under the weight of such heaviness.
The record isn't a play-by-play of his father's last days, but a collection of songs Pedigo wrote as he went through and lived past that final stretch. "Garage Sale," is about a scorned lover tossing her ex's things onto the lawn, while "The Comedian" -- a song that's rather sad, though not about death -- features Pedigo singing "Is this thing on?" in an almost deadpan manner.
For the many who are surely wondering, it isn't the end of The O's, not by a long shot. Pedigo says they have "about six" songs ready to roll for their next record, which will likely be completed later this year, possibly as early as the fall. But for now, especially given that he and his brother finally sold their father's business, Pedigo is all about that Magic Pilsner.
"I want to make a legitimate go at it with this record," he says. "I'm in it to win it. I think it's really good and I think people are going to like it. This time next year, I'll look back and either say, 'Cool, that was a great time!' or 'Well, maybe that wasn't so great.'"
Regardless of how audiences receive the new album or how many people come to see his new band perform, the inspiration for this new phase of Pedigo's musical journey has made it impossible to escape without soaking in some valuable lessons.
"Our timeline here is finite," he says. "Our connections to one another are extremely fragile, so I now try not to hold onto grudges and to forgive instead."
The album Pedigo's Magic Pilsner is being released March 2. Pedigo performs Friday at Dada. Details here.