INTERVIEW: Erin McKeown

 

A multi-faceted musician, guitarist, writer, and producer, Erin McKeown is known for her prolific disregard of stylistic boundaries. Her brash and clever electric guitar playing pairs with a clear, cool, and collected singing voice to create smart, distinctive pop. She’ll be at The Cedar on Saturday, September 16th supported by a full band, her first such show in Minneapolis in over a decade.

 

We spoke to Erin about activism, breaking down barriers, and her favorite podcasts in advance of the show. Tickets for Erin McKeown with The Cabin Project are still available here.

 

Q: As a queer female rock artist, you have found great success in an industry that’s traditionally been very male-centered. What excites you about the coming generation of queer musicians or other artists who are breaking down barriers in the field?
A: What excites me most is that more and more people are finding the courage and confidence to express themselves as singular beings. There will always be trends and there will always be artists who move in and out of mainstream popularity, but we’re starting to build a thriving and sustainable music economy that doesn’t have to ride those waves to succeed. Every time we get a new open source music tool, every time a band creates a new funding model or revenue stream, it sets an example for more folks to follow.

 

Q: You have recently released a brand new EP, Mirrors Break Back. What new twists is your latest music taking? What’s exciting you most about playing this new material? 

A: I am always interested in percussion and rhythm. For me, it’s my fundamental curiosity about music, so I’ve been deeply exploring that in my writing process for many years. In my new music, I’ve been doing more detailed drum and percussion writing and moving into more spacious beats and odd measures and meters. If you lay a traditional song structure over that, then good things happen. On this tour, I have three other musicians helping me with this. I haven’t had a band in Minneapolis in at least a decade. This time I’ll have keyboardist Katie Sawicki and drummer Zanny Geffel of The Cabin Project (who are also opening the show) joined by Tina Richerson on saxophones.

 

Q: When you’re not making music, you’ve been known to run in various activist circles, including the Media Action Grassroots Network. How do you pair your work as an activist with your work as an artist?

A: I think culture is a tremendous tool to advance social change. Hearts and minds! Once I understood the opportunity I have as an artist to reflect my community, to help folks process events, or observe themselves in a new way, then I was on my way. I broadly believe in equity, justice, and empathy so I try to apply that to specific issues in useful ways.

 

Q: You were recently in Minneapolis as a special tour guest with the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. What was it like being a musical guest for that audience? What are your favorite podcasts?
A Being the musical guest for Night Vale is the sweetest gig ever, not only are my touring compatriots talented, they’re great people and we have a really fun time on the road. After years of touring solo, it’s nice to be on a team. Plus the audiences are fantastic, really hungry for a different aural experience to go alongside the radio drama.

My current favorite podcasts are The Daily, Longform, Codeswitch, Nancy, Death Sex & Money, and, of course, My Favorite Murder.

 

Q: What’s inspiring you lately?

A: I’ve been feeling really inspired by my bandmates on this tour. Everyone prepared so well that we have been able to take the songs to the next level right away. Plus at every rest stop, we take a moment and throw a rainbow football around. Queering exercise, road trips, and sports!