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Rogue Valley bringing Americana sound to Worthington

Rogue Valley is composed of (from left) drummer Luke Anderson, bassist/vocalist Paul Engels, keyboardist/vocalist Linnea Mohn, frontman Chris Koza and guitarist/vocalist Peter Sieve. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Twin Cities-based Americana folk pop band Rogue Valley — the brainchild of Portland, Ore. native and prolific Minneapolis artist Chris Koza — will kick off its 2018 tour with a performance at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center next Saturday.

Koza — who’s released nearly a dozen albums between Rogue Valley and his solo work — has long had a passion for making music, ever since he first heard his kindergarten teacher play Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” on the piano.

He moved to Minnesota to study music theory at St. Olaf College and has stayed ever since. His ambitious vision was to release four full-length albums in a single year — one for each season. But he couldn’t do that without a committed group of band members.

So Rogue Valley, composed of Koza’s friends and longtime collaborators, came together to get the job done in 2009. The group realized Koza’s ambitious dream and released four albums — “Crater Lake,” “The Bookseller's House,” “Geese in the Flyway” and “False Floors” — from 2010 to 2011.

As each of the band’s members have their own projects, the group didn’t release another album until 2016 with “Radiate / Dissolve.”

Koza said the music on the newest album as “dark but also optimistic,” with a “bouncy, forward motion.” He said his band’s sound — which always features an acoustic guitar — falls under the broad genre of Americana.

“But if I want to get a little more wordy, I would say it’s cinematic, surf-tinged, folk pop,” Koza said. “It’s not bubble gum, it’s more like a hunk of tree bark … it keeps you chewing no matter what.”

Koza covers a diverse variety of topics, but a significant inspiration for his songwriting comes from the different seasons and the effect they have on people.

“The Color Wheel” is about the wondrous glory of oncoming summer and how it makes everyone go wild. On the other hand, “Icebox” is a song about the freezing cold winters on the northern edge of International Falls. The latter will be featured next Saturday.

“I thought that would be an appropriate one to play in Worthington right about now,” Koza said.

It’s difficult to get discovered as an indie band without a major label. But Rogue Valley attracted a flurry of new fans in 2013 when its song “The Wolves and the Ravens” was featured in Ben Stiller's film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It’s by far their most popular song.

The band also has had songs featured on several TV shows, including — to the surprise of Koza and his bandmates — “Jersey Shore.” The national exposure creates a diverse audience that expands far beyond the state of Minnesota.

“We have people posting YouTube comments from Brazil, Australia, South Korea saying ‘come play here,’” Koza said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, I sure wish we were closer. Then we could.’”

Instead, the group has been sticking to the Midwest lately. It tends to pick its spots, opting to perform in nice venues with good acoustics.

“There’s nothing that I love more than being in a beautiful venue and being able to share the music I write with people that want to hear it,” Koza said.

The group will perform at Memorial Auditorium at 7 p.m. Jan. 13. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 376-9101 or online at www.friendsoftheauditorium.com.

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