24 December, 2009

top 11 moments of 2009

in an effort to clear my decks and raise a metaphorical glass to the 365 days gone by, here's my listy of mem'ries from 09. by the way, i didn't think twice at the approach, but, um, the decade is over. wierd.

Andrew Bird @ Carnegie Hall
sometimes you are just rooting for people. i have been an andrew bird fan since i was 19 and got turned onto him the summer i lived in chicago. in the intervening years, i have followed every note of every song, marveled at his evolution, and cheered every time more people found him. i wont claim any close friendship, but we are friendly, and it was pure joy to see a friend step onto the stage at carnegie and belong. more than belong, he molded that historic room to his singular vision. bravo!

angels@mariners, april, safeco field, seattle WA + mets@nationals, june, nationals park, DC you all know by now that i'm a sucker for beisbol. combine it with work, and i am a happy kitten. i got to two games this year while i was on tour, a low total for me, but at least they were in new parks, and i had great seats. at safeco, i munched on the garlic fries and walked the gorgeous open concourse that wraps the whole field. in DC, a light rainstorm let me sit first row, behind third base, for the whole game. david wright tossed me a foul ball at the end of an inning. i think he thought i was 12. oops, i dropped it.
read this cool blog on baseball camera-angles

beantown swing orchestra
this year, my good friend sam got married. as part of his wedding, he wanted his musical friends to sing with a real, live, big band. turns out, the band he found, boston's 18-piece beantown swing orchestra, were big fans of mine. in the months leading up to the wedding, they let me sing with them a few times. i learned about 20 charts, and i learned that singing with a big band is like singing strapped to the front of a runaway 18-wheeler. something about the work of 3 set nights, of playing for dances and weddings, made me feel like i was running on the orpheum circuit, circa 1927. i felt like a trouper and i loved it.

New Orleans Artist Retreat with ATC/FMC in may, i got to spend three days in new orleans at an activism workshop. i met a slew of other amazing artists and got to see parts of new orleans i hadnt been to before. for me, that i got asked to be part of a group like that was a vote of confidence for my own nascent activist work. in short, i always wanted to, but didnt know how. air traffic control and future of music coalition have gave me the tools and then some.

Among The Oak and Ash Tour for three weeks in june, i got to be a bass player. that's it. nothing else. my friends garrison and josh invited me to fill in for a tour in their new band. their music is a beautiful mix of traditional apppalachian and modern punk rock. on paper, hmm, sounds clunky. in the air and on stage, it trancends categorization.

Cabin Fever Three, In the River
of all the cabin fever episodes, this one was my favorite. perhaps it was the sheer impossibility of shooting a live web episode in 2 feet of flowing water. perhaps it was the long list of cool special guests. perhaps it was my neighbors gathering on the banks to cheer us on. perhaps it was getting to play songs about water in the water. perhaps it was getting baptised in the waters of the internets at the end. i dare say it was the proudest moment of my career.

Hike in Capital Reef National Park, Torrey UT i didnt get to do as much hiking/outdoor exploring as i would have liked this summer, but i was able to fit a little jaunt in the morning before my set at the Red Rock Women's Fest. gorgeous rocks, open space, and solitude. i do love this country.

Nature Camp Adult Session
through an old friend, i got to go back to my childhood summer camp and teach stringband in the adult session. i was in charge of the bass, mandolin, and guitar players. teaching music to non-musicians, or rather musicians who dont play anymore, was a challenge and a good reminder how blessed i am to be able to spend all my time making art. plus it was a trip to go back to summer camp and not have any rules.

Shoot for OUT Magazine 100

sometimes i get itchy about exclusively gay stuff. part of it is my pathologically fierce notion of "don't fence me in". perhaps its my growing attachment to a "queer" identity- as opposed to lesbian, bi, or straight but not narrow. in the end, i said yes to this honor, and got to spend an afternoon being fussed over by gay men and photographed by the lovely jason bell. i love how the picture came out, and i am proud to be included in such a diverse portfolio. they named me "the cool" girl. let me tell you, that was the furthest thing from who i was in highschool.

Ellnora Guitar Festival

my friend natalia zukerman and i got invited to be part of this fantastic weekend in champaign-urbana IL. as far as bang for the buck and diversity, this is the best guitar festival i've ever been to. there's a big tent called guitar, and i really liked all the people who fit under it.

FMC Conf / Lobby Day on Capitol Hill

as an extension of my new orleans time, i got to participate in the future of music policy conference. three days with smarty smarty people talking about more than theoretical mumbo jumbo. these are people who think about how to make the world better, then do it. one thing i have learned about activist work, narrow your focus and then concentrate. for me, that's led me to the question: how do we make the cultural job of Artist as viable and liveable as any other vocation? all my work is under the umbrella of answering that question!

29 November, 2009

fresh tracks

isn't this new music world overwhelming? there is so much to listen to! as a rule, i don't read music magazines or look at taste-maker blogs. for me, they're a recipe for a disasterous bout of jealousy. since i work in the music industry, i prefer to hear about new music from non-industry types.

ahem erin, you say, you've painted yourself into a metaphorical corner.

ok, ok, so i don't really know how i find out about music, but like everyone else, at any given time there are a few records that are spinning heavily in my subconscious. for the final episode in this week's series, i'll share with you what i like these days.

"gospel legends" / "goodbye babylon" box set:
a month or so ago, i had an afternoon alone in a hotel room. as i was switching channels, i became mesmerized by an info-mercial for a compilation called "gospel legends". recorded live, it is a document of the convergence of 30+ contemporary gospel artists backed by a full-on choir and house-band. i ordered it on the spot, and i've been loving it alot lately. which also reminds me of another favorite gospel collection of mine: goodbye babylon. this 6 disc set collects obscure performances by both white and black gospel artists from the 20s and 30s. it's scratchy but more punk rock than any music being made today.

"erik deutsch's hush money":
full disclosure, erik deutsch is a close friend and one of my favorite musicians. he's made a name for himself with charlie hunter, norah jones, and a whole fistful of other talented people. his playing is bright and shiny without ever being cloying or cheesy. his usual band includes piano, bass, drums, guitar, oboe and saxophone. his newest, "hush money" adds a little grit, grime, and groove to his clear sound. my favorite song is called "dirty osso bucco". enough said. http://www.hammerandstring.com

"ocote soul sounds / coconut rock":
ocote is one of the many irons in the fire of musician martin perna. he's best known as one of the founders of antibalas, the seminal brooklyn afrobeat band, but his talent can't be contained in just one group. this record has all my favorite things: warmth, groove, and space sounds. check out "the revolt of the cockroach people".

"heartless bastards / the mountain":
a few years ago, i was setting up for soundcheck at one of my favorite venues, the tractor tavern in seattle. the soundguy had a record on that caught my ear. it was the heartless bastards first release, "stairs and elevators". i've been a big fan ever since. the first time i saw them live, i was worried that they couldn't match the energy and heft of their albums, but match it they did. the fact that they didn't excede their recorded sound is more a tribute to the brilliance of their records than a slam on their live show prow-ess. their newest, "the mountain", continues to scale the rock everest.

"regina spektor / far":
i don't have a lot to say about regina except that she is brilliant, and i love her. and the more i listen to "laughing with", the more i hear. did i already say, brilliant!

so, philadelphia, i'll see you tomorrow night at world cafe live. my friend jill sobule and i are gonna make you a show, and we've got a band to back us up. thanks for reading this week, and see you soon!

the lady of the house

i am a reader, always have been. i can and do read anywhere: the car, on airplanes, at gigs, outside, inside, morning, noon, or especially at night. my idea of perfection is to climb into bed and read until the early hours of the morning.

i read some fiction, some poetry, but i am mostly a non-fiction junkie, especially biographies. some of my very favorites include my multiple judy garland tomes plus books on tab hunter, anita o'day, bette davis, rudolph valentino, and mary pickford. you see where my taste leans, no, perhaps topples.

recently, a friend gave me "mary todd lincoln: a biography" by jean h baker. yes, that's right, mary todd lincoln the wife of the asassinated president. i must confess, i love it. i haven't been able to put it down all week. in fact, when i have crawled into bed after long days of driving and shows, instead of falling gratefully to sleep, i am trying to prop my eyelids open so i can read more about the complicated, ornery, and desperate mary T.

it's unfortunate that MTL (as i like to call my new BFF) has been reduced by history to a grieved widow. dig just under the surface, and she becomes a nationally despised grieved widow. dig a little deeper, and you find a despised grieved widow who felt she was a role model and shopped for the part. and dig deeper than that long sentence, and you find a woman trapped in the limited space allowed for women in her time.

MTL was a highly educated, clever and charismatic chiid of kentucky royalty. her upbringing of privilege led her to the uncomfortable intersection of having learned to speak her mind and the burdensome assumption of marriage and child-rearing. in an era where women were beginning to be seen and heard, MTL outran the expectations of her sex. known for her vicious and accurate imitations, her strong political opinions often got her into private hot-water. known for her ostentatious dress, her unpaid shopping bills often led to back-room political patronage to settle them. had MTL lived even a generation later, she'd have had wider latitude for her bright and sharp personality.

books like this remind me i am lucky to be living in the 21st century. for all the crazy people who would like to limit or judge my lifestyle, i have plenty of space to ignore them and explore my self, unfettered. i think that's part of my wonder and fascination with MTL. i try to imagine myself in her time, and i just fail to see how i'd manage. for all her notoriety, mary todd lincoln was bound by her corsets, both metaphorical and physical.

by the way, thought i might finish with a list of a few of my favorite independent bookshops around the country. by no means definitive:

malaprops, asheville NC
elliot bay, seattle WA
powell's, portland OR
a room of one's own, chicago IL
kramer books and afterwords, washington DC

25 November, 2009

po-political adventures in the nation's cap-capital

this is an edited excerpt from a much longer piece i am working on...

i think there is a mistaken air of rarification and mystery that surrounds capital hill and our senators and congress-people. it is a common misperception that somehow there are giant hurdles put in place to stop us from communicating directly with the people who are supposed to be representing us. we see them on TV, read about them online and in the papers, and perhaps in that way they seem as inaccessible as brad pitt or paris hilton. but twice now, i have gone on lobby days to the hill, met with senators, representatives, and representatives of the representatives and senators, and found the opposite to be true. all it takes is knowledge and time.

this year, i have begun working with organization called the Future of Music Coalition . FMC was started a few years ago by a group of artists, independent label owners, and lobbyists who wanted to create a pathway for artists to be involved in the political process. beyong the usual activities of playing benefits and tabling at shows, FMC bridges the gap between the concert hall and the congress.

our lobby day this october fell directly on the heels of the annual FMC policy conference. this year, i spent three days on panels and in workshops with other musicians, thinkers, internet people, and activists tossing around ideas and trying to make sense of the intersections of the current technology and music climates. i can't resist adding that during his keynote address, the FCC chairman Julius Genachowski name-checked me as someone who was "harnessing the power" of the internets with my Cabin Fever series . the chairman is a political appointee and as such is bound to be as boring and non-confrontational as possible, so i felt a little sheepish about being held up as an example, but as i am learning, "a foot in the door is a foot in the door". i'll take it.

on this most recent trip, we visited the offices of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). we were there to thank them for their support on a few key issues: increasing low power FM, protecting net neutrality, and the digital performance right. (for more info about these issues, see the FMC site). we also got to sit down in conference with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). Senator Feingold is an avid music fan, and he name-dropped a ton of obscure indie rock bands i had never heard of. who knew? in Representative Doyle's office, i was suprised to find his chief of staff is a big fan of mine, who was genuinely thrilled to meet me. who knew?

if you want to advance an issue and effect change on it, you need to find a champion- a representative or senator who will make your cause part of their portfolio of issues. for example, rep.Doyle has been a great champion of low-power FM radio. the tricky part is that every congress person has to balance a ton of interests and pressures. they may be your champion on one issue and your enemy on another. i've observed first hand that it's a complicated job, and things move slowly. for every victory there may be a setback, but over time with persistent energy, consistent ideology, and creative tactics, any everyday citizen has an opportunity to make change.

in political lobby-ing and activism, i have found the perfect marriage of my age-old dilemma between chafing at rules and wanting to be liked. in speechifying and rabblerousing on complicated technology and policy issues, i have found a way to own my cultural place as an artist without making activism the sole content of my art. it's a fine line and a delicate balance, but my most recent trip to capital hill confirmed my suspicions that it's the path i need to be on.

east coast / west coast feud

i'm always a little sad when the van turns east and starts to head home. today, at 530am, we left los angeles to bang out a drive to denver in one day.

i grew up in virginia and have spent the last 10 years between rhode island and massachusetts, so i'm pretty firmly east coast. i've been touring since i was 17 (i'm 24 now)(just kidding, i'm 32), and i've traveled around the US in pretty much every direction and combination of geographies you can imagine. but, for economics and practicality, i always start my driving tours from home. thus, the east is the beginning, the freshest point in the tour, where the cities are clustered, and my days are busier.

as i head west, everything expands. the drives are longer, the landscape flattens, and with it, so does my mind. i slow down, life gets simpler, friends and obligations drift away in the rearview mirror. by the time i get to the west coast i'm like a zen master living in a cave, unaware of the hours of the day or even the people i am traveling with. i am concerned only with that night's show and not getting swine flu.

i've been on the road 42 days without going home. most of my shows have been with my friend jill sobule, and all of the days have been with my trusty friend and tour manager desdemona "bunty" burgin. every tour manager needs a nickname in quotes. bunty's dates from childhood, not from some unspeakable road happening that's remembered in an obscure nickname. wait! i should probably lie and say we call her "bunty" because of "that night in san francisco".

playing with jill has been a blast. i didn't know her before the tour; our managers thought we'd fit, and they were right. she's funny nearly all hours of the day, a great songwriter, and a fantastic musician. she's just got bucketfuls of style, whether it's her songs or her clothes or her palatial LA estate that she bought with money from her fans who thought they funded her record. just kidding about that last part.

in the east, i am a do-er. i never stop moving, processing, agitating either myself or those around me. i get quiet in the west and serious. the landscape is like a meditation to me, the soporific drives leave me feeling so relaxed and blank sometimes it's hard to rally to ordinary conversation. and sometimes in the west, i am just battling mere exhaustion, the result of the 4-5 weeks of touring to get out there.

for me, the east is plugged and west is unplugged. i hesitate to say which is better, but i can say after this long that the west is possibility and the east is the known comfort and electricity of home. so the moment where we turn back and start the trek home is always a bittersweet one for me. i'll be glad to get home, but i'll miss the simplicity of driving through unbroken horizon.
as we head east to philadelphia, i'll try to fill in the blanks and share some of what's been happening for me the last couple months. here's some road pictures to start.

bbq in memphis TN

book in my dressing room, portland OR

sprinter the day we left goshen MA

pittsburgh PA. dont know why i think this is so funny.

lorraine motel in memphis, where MLK was shot

church on the interstate near cincinati OH

sign in the ladies room, louisville KY

graffiti in the ark dressing room, ann arbor MI, from 2002

our van got graffitied in santa barbara CA. dont be jealous because we have universal healthcare and gay marriage

bedspread in a hotel, charlotte NC

28 August, 2009

new orleans revisited

forgive the pun, but this week, in between the stories of health care and senator kennedy, we will be inundated with stories about new orleans. from npr pieces to cnn profiles and new york times articles, new orleans finds itself on the front pages again as the four year anniversary of hurricane katrina approaches. part of me is grateful, of course, for the coverage, and another part of me is cynical about how new orleans is continually defined by the story of the storm, and subsequently given the short shrift of being covered only on anniversaries.

the problems of new orleans are too complex to be visited once a year, and though the storm brought them to the fore, they are endemic and emblematic of the greater problems our country faces. all year round people who live in new orleans and care about new orleans face those problems and try to solve them. i count myself as one of them. however, with no reasonable excuse, here i am "visiting" on the anniversary. the following has in some form been languishing on my virtual desk since may, when i took an unusual trip to the city.

circa MAY 29, 2009.

i miss new orleans... and even though i have had to switch gears immediately and get back on the road, i am clinging to new orleans even as i spend hours in the van. even as i play other music, even as i think thoughts other than new orleans, the experience is still bubbling underneath. why this attachment? what is it about that city that grabs me, that envelopes me, that sustains me. for that is what i felt in the 4 days i was there. every time i visit, new orleans is both a spiritual replenishment, and a challenge to do more with that replenished spirit.

in april, i had gotten a surprising and wonderful email. Future of Music Coalition (FMC), Air Traffic Control (ATC), and Sweet Home New Orleans (SHNO) were inviting me to join the fifth version of their Artists Retreat. i'd be joining a group of artists and activists from across the spectrum of the music business for 4 days of workshops, music, and, of course, food. Our group would include singer-songwriters, old-school punks, spoken word artists and actors, indie rockers, jazz composers, afrobeat masterminds, and classical players. plus, we'd be joined by the people who run FMC, ATC, and SHNO- people who activate, agitate, and articulate the cause of new orleans, among other causes, professionally. i'd been to new orleans many times before- to play music, to write, to record, to visit friends- but i knew that this would be yet another side of the city, yet another way to experience it.

looking back on those 4 days, i am most struck by what happens when you put bright people in a room together. some of us were famous, some of us were not, some of us had experience with activism, some of us did not. yet from the first evening, when we had a "get to know each other" crawfish fry and jam at mother-in-law's lounge, there was a wonderful equality among us. it's a rare thing to go into a completely new group of people, meet and be met, and come out the other side with friends, but that's exactly what happened.

i suffer from terrible jealousy of other artists- i am constantly comparing myself. that person sells more, that person draws more, why is that person famous when i am not. it eats at me, it sickens me spiritually, and worst of all, it paralyzes me. as i've grown older and worked with this feeling, i have discovered an antidote, a serum that i can inject to heal that sickness when it fells me: IDEAS. and there were ideas in abundance in new orleans.

one of the first things we dug into was touring. most of the people in the group made their living on the road. so how can our touring be used as activism? it's a ready-made distribution network; we've already paid for the gas. so, tapping into that aspect was an immediate idea. tying our touring into the green movement was another. as was hosting local activist groups by tabling. if we all make small requests of venues together, then practices from recycling to food to merchandising will change.

it's impossible to be in new orleans, to consider new orleans music, without the buzzword "local" landing on your tongue. new orleans music has always depended on its neighborhoods for fermentation, support, and character. katrina was a brute force that has choked those neighborhoods at the roots. SHNO is working specifically on this problem, and trying to restore neighborhoods one block, sometimes one house, at a time. as touring musicians from other parts of the country, we took that idea and ran with it. we can make each of our shows more "local" by involving adjacent communities and rewarding those in walking and biking distance from where we play. we can give away our skills as writers, composers, interpreters to the communities that nourish us.

the efforts to save new orleans require yet another relationship besides the local and environmental: the political. some of us in the room had extensive experience dealing with legislatures and committees at the state and federal level, some of us had never done anything of the like. (i fell somewhere in-between) one of the best tools we hold is our cultural role as guides of opinion and attention. as artists, our job in communities is to point in specific directions and help our neighbors look the same way, at the same time. so, choosing a cause to educate ourselves about and advocate for becomes just as important as putting a new roof on someone's house. we found out that activism of this sort is easier than you'd think. just learn about it, then open your mouth. the FMC folks shared some amazing stories how the artist can often open doors of power that seemed would never swing and melt the heart of even the crabbiest senator.

so i found, that this is what happens when you put bright people in a room. when egos deflate and the ideas expand into that void, then change can occur. after our sessions, i felt like a part of an army who'd just received their orders and is ready to crash through a wall. there is also the saying that a grateful heart has no room for jealousy or hate or pain. put me in a room like that and my heart swells with inspiration and thanks.

so, yes, we ate at mother-in law's and and i bonded with leah at historic dooky chase's. yes, we toured the 9th ward and met some newly returned residents. yes, we went to the house of a mardi gras indian chief and accompanied him while he sang to us. yes, we spent a late night dancing to a live organ trio on frenchmen street and stumbling home at dawn. and yes, on the final night of the retreat, we played a benefit show at tipitina's.

yes, that was the time line. we did this. we went there. but for me, this time in new orleans, it was the people and the ideas that moved me more than the music or the architecture. it was the play of hearts as we sussed each other out, tried to explain ourselves without our foremost language of music, that made me dance inside. in simply sharing ourselves with our group, we were all capable of being as inspiring in our collective experiences, as we are in our notes, rhythms, writing and performance. so, when on the final nite at tips we cut open our chests to sing and play together, it hit with all the more force. a hurricane of hearts came blowing across the stage and moved every soul in that room.

having come to know my fellow artists without their art, i was all the more moved to see the ease with which luke worked the crowd and played drums, despite a separated shoulder. the way saul's voice rumbled and caressed and said what i wanted to say. the way i was carried away by jolie's otherworldly rhythms and the fierce vision of her music. how martin and mariam sang with their instruments as easily as i breathe, their ears leading them out onto a tightrope of risk, with no net below. how vijay, in his own quiet way, confidently gave us ground to dance on as bonerama worked us into brassy ecstasy. and then there was the force of wayne's guitar, not only loud, but intentional and biting the top of every note. how laura pinned up her braids, wiped her glasses, then tore the roof off the place.

at the end of the night, i went out into the crowd to watch scott. he seemed so right, so himself up there leading the band and singing "shit, shit, shit" over and over again, like some rock god pronouncing us whole from the mountain. amen and pass the community.

18 August, 2009

summer camp redux

i'm leaving tomorrow to go visit the summer camp that i went to as a kid. i'm helping teach a music class with one of my oldest friends. the whole thing is crying out for more writing, so stay tuned. but i thought i would post this picture. where are you hudson heatley? (on facebook, i know.) i think we were singing "prince of darkness".

10 August, 2009

trip to utah

i spent the weekend in utah. still a marvel to me of mod-ren life that i can take off for a few days ACROSS THE COUNTRY. i've been doing it for years, but really, its pretty amazing we can do this.

i had two shows, one in the desert of Torrey and one in the mountains of Snowbird. totally different, both incredibly fun.

on friday morning, before my Torrey gig, i went on a long solo hike in the Capitol Reef National Park.

and the gig in snowbird....

05 August, 2009

katy vs. jill

the internets were afire yesterday about a supposed war between my friend jill sobule and katy perry. katy perry who is so famous right now that i am not sure where the person is underneath the gloss and hype.

the way the internet works, you probably already know the story: jill made a joke in an interview recently. she was fake mad at katy perry for stealing the song title, "I Kissed a Girl"- jill's 1995 hit. and maybe jill was a little fake mad for katy perry's sneaky relationship with queers. you can spin katy either way- does she support queers? er maybe. does she make queers the butt of the joke? er maybe. it's a little disconcerting to say the least.

speaking of dis-concert-ing. i have been to a katy perry show. i saw her in may at irving plaza in NYC. a friend of a friend works for her. an old college friend is in her band. so i went to the show and felt old (i'm fucking 31) and like this had nothing to do with the job i've had for the last 12 years. it was something entirely else.

but i was struck by how good some of katy's songs were. they pushed all my pleasure buttons with their hooks and highly singable choruses. and i am a sucker for a too small room. watching from the VIP balcony, i thought that katy perry was a good musician, and more than that i thought she knows exactly what's going on. she knows her songs are manufactured to be hits. and she knows there is a script written for her and if she sticks to it, she's gonna be famous now and make a lot of money. that's just the way it works.

but look into her eyes and i think she knows the difference between being real and not. and i'd be surprised if she hit back at a proven writer like jill. i think she looks at jill, sees her future, and hopes that she is as lucky as jill to still be doing it, and doing it better than ever, 15 years after a big-time hit.

at katy perry's level the music business is more business than music. but the other part of the story is that it will never stay that way. katy perry as we know her now will fade. she has to. there are too many others waiting in the wings with tighter asses and more pliant wills.

only time will tell what katy perry wants to do with her real self. when her notoriety fades, will she keep writing songs? will she still want that joy of too many people in a too small room, even if its 100 people in a room meant for 50?

i heard another friend of mine, ani difranco, get asked this question about her career: " do you ever wish you had a hit song?" and ani responded by pointing out the term "hit song" was pretty violent. we're being struck with a blunt object called katy perry and told to like it. who wants that out of music?

as for jill, you'll have to ask her how she feels about having her joke turned into fighting words. and you'll have plenty of opportunity because jill sobule is a real artist: articulate, accesible, creative and working every day in too small rooms with me this fall.

24 July, 2009

SERIES FINALE- episode 4 trailer!

this is your last chance to watch and participate in the live experience of Cabin Fever!

20 July, 2009

songs from the water

i'm finding it's a lot of work to produce, promote and perform a live TV show every week. not to mention the final two Cabin Fevers fall in one single week... whew! here's the episode 3 trailer... tickets available at the Cabin Fever Website!!

13 July, 2009

last chance to buy a subscription + new trailer

it's your last couple days to get the Cabin Fever subscription... you can still watch episode 1 until this thursday.... meanwhile... the episode 2 trailer:

07 July, 2009

tonights the night!

7/7/09 at 7pm
kind of poetic...
if you havent told a friend or bought a ticket:

or this tiny trailer!!!

18 June, 2009


i had this idea: why don't i broadcast live concerts from my house? i mean, i have a really fucking cool house. i love technology and the inter-nets. i've been working on this for a couple months... so here you go with the website:


here's the trailer:

and the schedule:

Tuesday, JULY 7, 2009- 7pmEST
an intimate, acoustic candlit evening in ERIN's living room + tour of her house

Thursday, JULY 16, 2009- NoonEST
interactive, all-request electric set from ERIN's riverside porch

Wednesday, JULY 22, 2009- 3pmEST
ERIN performs classic cover songs about water of all sorts from a rock in the middle of her river. We're not kidding.

Sunday, JULY 26, 2009- 5pmEST
the new album, "Hundreds of Lions", performed in sequence by ERIN and band, from her front yard

Rain Location:
We'll broadcast from the inside of ERIN's Sprinter Touring Van. We're not kidding about that either.

14 June, 2009

the way it should be

found this stenciled on the side of a municipal power box in athens, GA. i say, "amen".

05 June, 2009

a new tenant, a new tenet

i found myself today across the street from the white house. i had just finished lunch with Michael Bracy of the Future of Music Coalition, one of the groups that invited me to new orleans, and i didnt want to get on the metro just yet. so i wandered a little bit around the department of the treasury and eisenhower office buildings (under renovation), and around the grounds of the white house. it brought back memories of family trips to see the national christmas tree and to take the white house tour. and it brought back memories of marches i went on in highschool and gatherings on the mall. DC on a wet, early summer day is literally dripping with business. good business. people bustling around, now doing the work of an administration that points as close to my way of thinking as anything i can remember. what a change. i stood in front of the white house and just took it all in. a great leader lives there again. and my heart swelled a bit with a strange feeling: pride.

PS: i saw michelle's garden, and what i think was a beehive. is it possible the white house is making its own honey?

19 May, 2009

my ancient phone...

... a tweeter asked, was my phone so old i had to dial the operator... well, almost. but 4 years later it's still alive and kicking AND it can twitter, tweet, twat.

30 April, 2009

words fail me...

this is a postcard we found in schenectady NY advertising just what... i cant say.

20 April, 2009

on baseball

i've got a tendency to make lists in my life. i generate massive lists of ideas for my manager. i make list after list of potential songs. i make grocery lists, lists of friends to call back, lists of appointments to keep. lists make me feel in control. they help my form-less, self-employed days take on a more formal shape. they help me figure out my priorities. my brain never stops spinning, so lists keep that spinning moving forward, instead of zipping willy-nilly all over creation.

on the list of Important Things I Like to Do With My Time are such activities as play music, exercise, read, and be intimate with people i care about. i dont tend to rank activities on this list for the most part, but this time of year, i am reminded again and again what is the indisputable top of that list. baseball. i would rather talk baseball, listen to baseball, watch baseball, go to a game, throw a ball, or swing a bat, than anything else. come february, when pitchers and catchers report, my life starts to lift a little. when spring training games begin, i smile more and take myself less seriously. and when opening day rolls around, i am positively euphoric. baseball is here!

i grew up going to games with my dad. we usually went once a year, on father's day or sometime close to it in june. the first games i can remember going to were at the old memorial stadium in baltimore. once, when i was 7 years old, i had broken my collarbone at gymnastics. my left arm was in a sling. my dad still took me to the game. we went down to the field after batting practice to get autographs. the orioles big slugger then was eddie murray- often a grumpy and irasicble man. but on that day, he smiled at me and signed my sling.

when the orioles built their new park, camden yards, of course we were there. what a step up from the shabby concrete of memorial! my dad and i used to love sharing a heaping plate of boog powell's BBQ and cheering on what were then very good orioles teams. you can't do this now, but in highschool, i was able to bring my fieldhockey stick to the park with me. i elbowed my way down to the field again after batting practice and leaned over the rail, waving my stick. cal ripken, my second favorite oriole after brady anderson, came over and took the stick from my hands. he held it like a bat, testing its weight. he took a few golf-like swings with it, then he signed it! believe it or not, i played the better part of two more seasons with that stick. i covered the autograph with layers of tape and prayed my stick wouldnt splinter.

as an adult, i have continued the tradition of going to games. my dad does too. we'll be traveling for business and find ways to get to ball parks. he mostly goes to the rangers in arlington, but he's also gotten to see st.louis and the nationals. i took my parents to fenway when i was in college and the redsox weren't very good. through touring, i've been to wrigley several times, fenway, old yankee stadium, shea, the metrodome, camden yards, and plenty of minor league parks. i was even able to see the better part of an orioles game before WALKING to my gig and hopping straight onstage. last week, while in seattle for a music project, i added a new park to my list, safeco field.

i like baseball because it is slow. i like baseball because it is rarely violent, but incredibly entertaining. it's unpredictable. it rewards individual performances, but is ultimately a team game. i like its rules and quirks. i like that every park is different. i like that there are two leagues with vastly different styles and strategies. i love the long season, with all its slumps and tears.

but by far, the biggest joy of baseball for me is listening on the radio. i stream games on the internet at home or in my dressing room, i have satellite radio in my van so i dont miss a pitch. from march to october, the background noise in my life is always baseball. i like watching games on TV every once in awhile, i love going to the park for atmosphere and friends (and safeco was MAGNIFICENT), but for the pure game, it's got to be on the radio. there's something about the emotion and description that the announcers bring. i love the matter of fact narration punctuated by crescendos of action. i clap my hands and shout out-loud when something good happens. i turn off the radio in disgust when my team is sucking, only to turn it back on a few minutes later, hoping for an improvement. i cry at home-runs and two-out, bases clearing doubles.

baseball lets me talk to anyone, anywhere. i cant tell you how many times i have sat in random sports bars and airports and AirportSportBars, all over this country, and had wonderful conversations with people i would never ever talk to otherwise. traveling during the playoffs is especially fun. just like an election, everyone is tuned in, and our collective consciousness is pointed in the same direction. yes, the business of sports is faulty. yes, mainstream sports is biased toward men's games. my favorite pastime is imperfect. but put aside its flaws and imagine the tension of a close game, between teams you love, listening or watching with friends who share your passion. you cant keep the smile off my face or the tears from my eyes.

11 March, 2009

oh estelle, you were right! (or how to play my songs)

howdy! i wasnt planning on a bloggie today, but a thought occured to me as i was going through some emails from listeners and answering them... several of you have written asking for chords to some songs of mine. at one point, on an ancient version of my site, there was a TABS link. and i had quite a few songs up there that friends had sent in. maybe i will find it again and put it up. maybe one of you wants to become OFFICIAL ERIN MCKEOWN TABMASTER. yes? you can email me: mckeown.the.writer@gmail.com . meantime, i'll throw a few up here that were recently requested...

"you were right about everything"
the song is in A... the form is:

A A/c# F#m E D
A A/c# F#m E D
E F#m D A
E F#m D A
A A/c# D A
E F#m D A

for the outro, i just repeat the last line of the form, over and over. ad infinitum. or ad nauseum.
oh! and it's nice to throw in an Asus every once in awhile. suspend for drama!

"la petite mort (oh estelle)"

the song is in C, but i play it capo-ed at the 5th fret.
so here are the "cheating" chords so you dont have to transpose in your mind.
HINT: the song is in B (capo4) on the "distillation"recording

G D/F# Em C
G D/F# Em D7
B B Em C
G D/F# Em C D7

G D/F# Em C
G D/F# Em Cm
G D/F# Em C
G D/F# Em C D7

in the second chorus, the last line looks like this:

G D/F# Em Am F

and then you're off to the races, solo-ing over whatever you like...

ok, now, here's your assignment... learn to play any of my songs (you can email me for help), make a wee video (a la "slung lo on the uke") and post them to you tube... get creative!

17 February, 2009

a little bit of a name drop

i have waited as long as possible to post a new blog, because i have been LOVING the responses people have sent me public-ly and privately about the "knee-jerk" post... i have more to say about that... but this morning, i just want to put up something lite. the night i spoke of in the last post, i was opening for bettye lavette. when i met her after the show, she was incredibly complementary and gracious.

"girl, you have written a song about every emotion you've ever had. that is something."

and then we had a great chat about how hard it is to write songs, how important it is to speak your truth that way. and yet, i wanted to know how you could sing other people's songs as convincingly as you sing your own, something i have struggled with, for sure.

"believe them," she said. " you just have to believe them."

and i cant resist posting this one too... guess who, before she got crazy-famous? and whose T-shirt is she sporting?????

23 January, 2009


i hardly ever get nasty emails, and i think this is a product of my relative obscurity. to come to my show, to know about my music, you have to work hard, and it's unlikely you'll work hard to find something you want to complain about. so, how odd that in the last week, i have gotten two critical, dare i say, nasty emails from listeners. it's been my policy, based on my slim experience with this sort of thing, to not respond directly. if someone wants to complain to me in person, we can have a dialogue. if they just want to insult me via email, i dont need to engage in that.

one of the emails was about how i shouldnt wear a boyscout shirt (or any other uniform) if i am not a member of that society. however, the other one has inspired some thinking on my part. here's the backstory:

i have a song called "the taste of you". it got released in 2003, on my record "grand". when i play it in concert, i often introduce it by telling a story about why i wrote it. i used to live in providence, which if you have ever been there, you know has a lot of strip clubs. one of them, "the satin doll", was across the alley from where i lived. i could literally go out my backdoor, walk 20 feet, and be in a strip club. which i did a few times. i find going into a strip club, as a woman, a very interesting experience. sometimes it turns me on sometimes it feels like an anthropology experiment, depending on the vibe. i remember going into the satin doll and being completely ignored. i would sit at the edge of the dance bar, with my dollar bills and my watery drink and wait for the women to come dance near me. they never did. only once, in another strip club- "the foxy lady"- was i ever noticed. i was wearing a tiara that said "its my birthday". a woman offered me a birthday lapdance. i thought it over, looked around, and ended up refusing politely because of all the men staring hungrily at the scene unfolding. like i said, a very interesting experience.

so i told this story last week in fall river, MA, when i opened for bettye lavette (!!!). and then i played the song and went on with my show. i have literally told this story at least a hundred times and never had any reaction besides nervous laughter (older straight audiences) or loud guffaws (younger, mixed or gay audiences). either way, it works to set up the tune. and yet, a gentleman in the audience that night was so offended that he had to write me:

While suffering through your sub-textually convoluted tale about nights at the Satin Doll, I was reminded of early African American movie actors who would make fools of their own race on camera.No matter how many jazz chord progressions and clever vocal inflections you employ, the conclusion is that you have tasked yourself to resound the message to a full house that it's acceptable to objectify other females for entertainment purposes.

Holding out a dollar bill to extort bizarre behavior from a fellow human being is beyond repugnant. Maybe you have a special - "Gee, I'm bored tonight" - clause in your moral code, that allows you to randomly minimalize others.

I came to the conclusion some time ago that not all misogynists are necessarily men.

this email has set me thinking how to respond. in fact, there are several ways to view what i was talking about:
firstly, there is a very good argument that women in the position of dancers at the satin doll are there of their own choice, are expressing their sexuality as they see fit, and not suffering in the least. my friend gretchen recommends the documentary Live Nude Girls Unite for more info on this viewpoint.

secondly, heterosexuality is assumed everywhere, regardless of gender. as a lesbian fruitlessly expressing desire in the traditionally male guise of a stripclub, i am drawing attention to the pervasiveness of heterosexual privelege. plus i find the image of wee old me in the stripclub, trying on the ill-fitting coat of the "misogynist" dance patron, to be comic.

thirdly, regarding the analogy about race, i am reminded of the great bert williams and his signature song, "nobody".
have a listen right now. maybe it appears that bert williams, in blackface as he often was, is a pathetic specimen of a black man making a fool of his race. i dont think so. i think bert williams bravely uses himself, and the only language given to him by society, to artfully and effectually subvert the hegemonic assumption of white righteousness.

i respect the writer of this email for taking the time to express his offense passionately, and i enjoyed the mental exercise of considering and articulating my reaction. but i have a few questions remaining. how would i have reacted if it were a woman complaining? should i keep telling the story? should i turn this guys email into a story? what do you think?

08 January, 2009


i've recently been hanging out with some friends who blog much more frequently than i do. they spotlight funny pictures, new toys, cool cover songs, general awe-some-ness EVERY DAY. how do they have time to do this? how do they keep it short like that? every time i sit down to write a blog it becomes a novel of personal growth. can i learn to keep it simple? do i need to? i actually think i am ok with my mostly-monthly blog of great heft (or the cyber equivalent).

i do write everyday. i am a proponent of morning pages- the oft-talked about process of waking up, rolling over, and spewing. i do 5 pages most mornings, with the exceptions of mornings like this one, where i got up at 7am. gasp. thats too early for me to take the extra 30-45minutes it takes me to do my pages. today is my annual trip to the dodge dealer in keene where i get my sprinter-van serviced. it's quite a van, if you havent seen it outside my gigs, and you cant just take it round the corner to meineke for a quick lube. it usually takes half the day. or most of the day when there's something wrong with the transmission. like today. so i am wasting time in the waiting room of the dealer, with the history channel blaring, and rotating cast of grumpy car-owners. who is ever happy to have to wait for their car to be worked on?

the ostensible subject of this blog is "resolutions". new year's or otherwise. in fact, it just struck me "resolution" has several meanings to me. but first, the easy definition. that which we resolve to do. resolutions can be tricky. they are often about change on a big scale. the kind of scale that ironically can only happen one day at a time. "i resolve to lose weight". this, for example, is not a one time statement. it's gonna take a while. i think that's why most resolutions fade. by april, they are a dim memory. or, sometimes they aren't. sometimes, it really does help change something to resolve it at the new year.

last year, my new years resolution was to stop using a set list. which i did. which has taken me most of this year to be comfortable with. at first it was terrifying. despite having written hundreds of songs and having them all memorized, i still worried that i would forget everything i knew the moment i walked onstage. what a lesson to learn to both trust yourself and to access all your knowledge even when you have to do it quickly, with a lot of people watching! from the very first time i tried it (22 jan 08, larchmont NY), i got results. i was more connected with my songs, more engaged with the audience, i played a longer, more dynamic set. the longer i've stuck with this, more has been revealed. i am constantly surprised by the new turns a show can take when you dont script the musical arc ahead of time. granted, this is easier when i play solo, but i've even started to be able to do this with some band gigs, which is really really fun. i think i'll resolve to keep on without a setlist.

this year, for new year's, i played at a fantastic little place in philly, the tin angel. my friend garrison and i did 2 shows, and at each i asked the audience to write their resolutions on a piece of paper at the merch table. here are a few of the ones people wrote down, divided into category:

the ordinary with extraordinary effects:
"to be more organized"
"to make a new friend"
"to be patient"
"to send folks "just because" cards, just because"

the masochistic:
"to go to boot camp 4x a week"

the denial:
"i will not use tobacco in 2009"
"to stop using the f-word in preparation for my child"

the entreprenureal:
"to make erin mckeown's tshirts" (ok girls, i GOT it)

the ambitious and heartbreaking:
"to tell my kids more stories about my childhood, learn to play my harmonica finally, and accept my husband for who he is"

i love this last one. it looks backwards, it looks forwards, and its painfully honest. my own new year's resolution was two part: to stop wearing jeans and to be more of myself, more often. ok, so i said this onstage, which i think means i have to stick with it or 250 people are gonna call me on it. actually the second part is easier. do you know how hard it is to give up wearing jeans? why am i doing this? i think i want to feel like i am stepping myself up. not just haphazardly throwing on the easiest thing. the ordinary thing. the comfortable thing. why am i doing this? does around the house count? what about in the snow?

it struck me, writing this, that "resolution" can also mean clarity. i think anniversaries provide clarity. they let us stop for a moment and look back. how are we different than we were the last time we stopped? what's changed? anniversaries provide awareness and perspective; they enhance the resolution of our view of ourselves. the more we look, the more aware of ourselves we are, the finer that resolution grows. eventually i will be able to witness myself on the cellular level.

"resolution" is also the close of something. it is the final chapter of a saga, it is a completion, it is a point after which we stop struggling and accept. i like that too. a new year's resolution to let go. to give up. to surrender. to let the plot be done. to walk away. easier said than accomplished. but thinking of "resolution" like that, i can let 2008, and all its details, float away. resolved.

happy new year, everybody! may it be your best!