Since i’ve been crushing heavily on Erin McKeown’s music lately, i just thought i’d log a little link to a prominent website about her at Imperfectly (which, incidentally, used to host the best Ani DiFranco web site on the internet). Erin fascinates me, because listening to her albums i can hardly imagine that these songs just come to her … it’s seems much more than she deliberately chooses a way for a song to sound and them molds it into the exact shape that she wants. However, no matter how she does it the results are completely arresting on record, even more so live.
Erin just graduated from Brown University last week with a degree in EthnoMusicology (she had to fly in from a UK tour with Peter Mulvey for the ceremonies), and she is touring the American folk-festival circuit this summer. I consider this success… whether or not she ever meant to be a rock star or a folk hero doesn’t really matter; what matters is that she has adoring audiences in each city she heads into, and that she heads out of every one with new fans (myself included).
Her long journey to this point started (apparently) with being named a semi-finalist by the songwriters’ association of washington dc before ever getting to Brown, and with gigging and selling tapes around Brown’s campus. At some point those tapes found their way onto a cd called Monday Morning Cold, and from the attention she garnered from that she moved forward to create last year’s Distillation. Five years. The difference between being a high school senior and a college graduate, and Erin McKeown is living the life that i would choose for myself above all other lives. She went to the school i wanted to attend, she writes songs i envy and adore, and she tours with Peter Mulvey (he was her opening act here in Philly!), and she’s not even 25. And i’m left, as i always am, wondering how she got there.
Of course, we all know how she got there. She had a relentless vision and an amazing talent, and she didn’t keep it a secret. However, it’s hard being relentless or anything else about music while i’m working every day and trying to line up an internship for next year and fretting about classes and paying my bills. Of course, musicians come from much worse all the time, but in the void of major label interest (that is, i wouldn’t be vaguely interested) i am in awe of the Ani DiFrancos, the Peter Mulveys, and the Erin McKeowns because at some point they decided that music was what was for them and that they needed to devote all of their attention to it. I think i need to make that decision or let the matter drop; if only i spent as much time on my music as i do writing for this website.
And therein lies the conflict: as much as i need to better myself musically, the time i spend writing for and administering this site feels like a definite way to prepare my voice and my patience for the world of journalism. I feel like having a successful blog (still an aspiration of mine rather than a reality) is the equivalent of Erin McKeown’s summer folk festival tour. Even if i got to write cd reviews for a local paper with a circulation of 100,000 – how many people read past the cover story? How many people read past the albums they want to buy to the reviews they aren’t really interested in, just to hear new & different opinions? Having your own successful website means you are in touch with an audience much more focused than any group your circulated publication could ever reach. So… to give this up would be to emphasize music over my course of study, when really in my mind they are equals now.
Somewhere in there i think i came to a conclusion that i’ve been working on for the last four years; I can tell because my stomach just dropped out of the center of my body as if i’m being spun on a tilt-a-whirl. Or, perhaps it is just time for lunch. I suspect that i’ll get back to you on this one…