the clatter of keys

writing on music, politics, and sports from erin mckeown.

lost and found

this past sunday i played a fancy outdoor gig at lincoln center. i used more than half my fee to bring my band along. my drummer, marc dalio, lives in brooklyn but is leaving town for a bit, starting this week. my sax player, matt douglas, lives in raleigh NC, and i flew him up for the weekend. we rehearsed on saturday, did the gig on sunday afternoon, and afterward decided to grab a bite.

the lincoln center gig didnt have locked dressing rooms for the day, and the temporary ones erected for the afternoon were quickly taken down at the end of our set, the last one of the festival.

i had gotten super lucky and found street parking for my tour van just around the corner, in a spot that was legal saturday and sunday, but come monday morning would be a parking violation.

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maybe a little too detailed, but super interesting


Romney with Kid Rock

Mitt Romney with Kid Rock

Maybe you should just plug your iPod into the booth or connect the Diebold machine to Facebook this November. It started as an office joke, but after running the numbers, I can’t escape the data. It turns out music preference is pretty well correlated with…

White vs. Lowery (or I Don’t Have Time For This)

yesterday i tweeted this:

"i’m 2 busy hustling 2 make a living 2 wade into NPR’s E.White vs D.Lowery: but it all feels bad”

this, i’ll admit, was a hasty and somewhat confusing tweet.

and then my friend musician matt the electrician called (imagine that! a phone call!) wanting know what i really thought, because he’d read both articles and was curious. last night a friend stopped me to say she’d read my similar facebook post and was curious what i really thought too.

"i dont have time for this today", is what i think. i’m up at 8am to start a day that will include the following: listen to and approve a radio edit for my new single, which has to get to the mastering lab this morning. read, edit, and approve a draft of the bio for my new record so that advance copies of the music can get to press in time for long lead coverage. confirm a rate and schedule a day as soon as possible with my photographer so we can make photos for my album package and publicity photos. film a new pitch vid for the final stages of my pledge music campaign, which closes next week. oh, and eat. and that’s just my morning.

it absolutely kills me that my current list of daily tasks, the inbox of the modern independant musician during pre-release set-up, keeps me from doing more than skimming these articles. this is important stuff, and i hate having to choose which fire to fight first. but i will try to take a second on this flare-up.

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a hit is a hit is a hit, right?

this post first appeared on

I always knew my song “Slung-lo” was a hit.

It just took longer than I expected.

“Slung-lo” came out on my 2003 album, grand (Nettwerk). It found its way to the Brittany Murphy masterpiece “Uptown Girls” and into episodes of “Roswell”, “Gilmore Girls”, and “Privileged”. It also found its way into a Tesco F&F commercial which ran in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2008. Though not a hit by any means, it was a remarkably long life for a song that came out in 2003.

And then last year, I received two separate emails through my website pointing me to this video for a song called “Touch The Sun” sung by the Czech artist, Debbi.

“Have you seen this?”, both emails asked. I hadn’t.

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an open letter to washington about SOPA (from me and some other amazing creators)

We, the undersigned, are musicians, actors, directors, authors, and producers. We make our livelihoods with the artistic works we create. We are also Internet users.
We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
As creative professionals, we experience copyright infringement on a very personal level. Commercial piracy is deeply unfair and pervasive leaks of unreleased films and music regularly interfere with the integrity of our creations. We are grateful for the measures policymakers have enacted to protect our works.
We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services - artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.
We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA’s impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate Internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods.
We urge Congress to exercise extreme caution and ensure that the free and open Internet, upon which so many artists rely to promote and distribute their work, does not become collateral damage in the process.
Aziz Ansari
Kevin Devine, Musician
Barry Eisler, Author
Neil Gaiman, Author
Lloyd Kaufman, Filmmaker
Zoë Keating, Musician
The Lonely Island
Daniel Lorca, Musician (Nada Surf)
Erin McKeown, Musician
Benjamin Goldwasser (MGMT)
Andrew VanWyngarden (MGMT)
Samantha Murphy, Musician
Amanda Palmer, Musician (The Dresden Dolls)
Quiet Company
Trent Reznor
Adam Savage, Special Effects Artist (MythBusters)
Hank Shocklee, Music Producer (Public Enemy, The Bomb Squad)
Johnny Stimson, Musician

To help protect Internet innovation please visit:


happy holidays and f*ck you! anti-holiday spectacular webcast is now free for all!

to watch simply point your browser here at 6pm ET, Sunday, Dec 18, 2011. participate on twitter with #CFAHS.  if you miss the live feed, the archive will be available shortly after.

howdy folks! i’m writing to you from a bus, speeding along the dark highways of america. aah, the magic of the tubes! speaking of…

it’s that time of year again! yes, it’s time to marry vaudeville with cable access. it’s time for the judy garland show to meet wayne’s world. you guessed it, it’s the next installment of my web series Cabin Fever .

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“OK where’s that guy going? I’m just gonna go ahead and follow himAAUUAGHAGAHAGHGGHGHGHHHHHHHHHHHHH”


“OK where’s that guy going? I’m just gonna go ahead and follow himAAUUAGHAGAHAGHGGHGHGHHHHHHHHHHHHH”

why’d you ruin christmas??

last week, i put out a new album. maybe you’ve had a chance to hear it by now.

i conceived, wrote, recorded, and marketed it in about 4 months. it felt urgent because we are fast approaching my least favorite time of the year: christmas.

beginning with thanksgiving and ending on new year’s eve, i am pretty much miserable. why? you might ask, because for most people it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

fuck that!

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this originally appeared on my blog on 6 SEP 2010. i’m not sure why it didnt migrate over here when i changed hosts… anyway, i was thinking of this song today and wanted to look up the lyrics…

yes, it’s true. maddow, an old friend from the 413, made time in her busy schedule and corresponded with me via text on the subjects of the gulf, oil, iraq, and the ways everything is all connected. i took our conversation, wrapped it up in a slow second line, and called it a song. my new friends barkuna backed me up, and we debuted it in the low-pressure confines of The Town Hall, NYC. all of this to benefit the American Bird Conservancy. watch how it turned out below. the lyrics as they were written (but maybe not sung) are below:

from baghdad to the bayou
in the desert or plaquemines
for every gallon of oil drilled
we wanna know where the payoff is
in the strip mines or the lower 9th
fallujah to la fourche
for every gallon of oil spilled
we’re gonna organize for truth

who is watching the watcher?
whose hand is in the pie?
who is reaping profits
on the back of our coastline?
for every feather oiled
for every katrina refugee
for ever soldier in harm’s way
we want accountability

read on…

i’ve been lucky to have a relatively quiet summer. songwriting, recording, and playing on my local softball team… and reading. here’s what i’ve dug into lately:

the baseball codes- fantastic read about the unwritten rules of baseball such as: dont swing on a 3-0 pitch in the late innings if you’re leading by at least 8. dont showboat. how to throw at someone in retaliation. this has come in very handy on my softball field. just kidding.

outliers- dipping into this one occasionally. compelling but, being honest, it feeds the little voice in me that says others get better opportunities than i do to succeed. so i can only read so much at a time.

moby dick- i just got an iPad and this was an experiment to see if i liked the process of thinking of a book i wanted to read, downloading it instantly, and enjoying it. at 1300 pages, i could have picked a lighter experiment, but it’s a classic for a reason.

nickle and dimed- yes, i know this book is outdated and problematic, but i still wanted to read it to see how outdated and problematic it really was. given that, still a great read.

swallow- read an article about this one in USAToday in an airport. fascinating article about a Dr. in philly who specialized in removing objects from people’s windpipes, not so fascinating a book. in actuality, it’s a post-modern pile of processing about the act of swallowing, or putting things in your mouth, or neglecting your baby. i just wanted some facts arranged in a linear fashion. the story is so compelling it doesnt need any conceptual bells and whistles to tell it.

great mischief- my friend gretchen phillips found this on the curb in NYC in may. i traded her a book of mine. who knew she’d picked up a book whose only printing was in 1948! who knew she’d picked up a book about satan worshipers and drug addicts in 1895 charlston! this book was W-I-E-R-D and gave me nightmares, still i couldnt put it down.

professional crastination

i’m procrastinating. not like when i was in college and i had a big paper due. not like when there’s a package that needs to go to the post office, but i just keep finding reasons not to send it.

this is different. tomorrow, i have set up a one day recording session to put a foot forward on a new record. i dont have any motivation other than to see what happens when i try to play my new songs with other people. i’ve gathered my wonderful regulars in a fabulous space. i’ve sent them some demos and suggestions for what instruments to bring. i just need to finish up a couple songs. by tonite. when i drive down to new york.

this just goes to show you that you can procrastinate even when you are approaching something of unqualified awesomeness. here’s a great new yorker article about that very fact.

so i’m writing a blog. i’ve got a very clean kitchen and a very organized laundry pile. hey, look at that squirrel. i need to buy snacks for the session, now. i cant work until the files on my computer are sorted perfectly.

everything but facing the partial garageband file. the half-done lyrics. the idea that needs craft to turn it into music.

i need some blinders. some elbow grease. an assistant to keep me from distracting myself.

so help me out, friends, dont respond to this post. dont tweet anything interesting today. and please, dont call. i need all the help i can get.

the end of days

if the world is gonna end, then i think i’m in pretty good shape.

i’ve been in a bubble recently. my lefty-leaning, rural life, tiny cottage bubble. i’m writing a new album. and finally feeling like i’m getting somewhere. i’m remembering i know how to do this (it has after all been almost 20 years i’ve been at making up songs). i’m building a little momentum. i’ve given myself a deadline to put some sounds down on tape (!).

but i thought i would take a moment out of this process to lift my nose from the grindstone and address a current issue: the end of days.  indeed, it seems, according to more than a few folks, that judgement day is near. in fact, it’s less than a week away.  

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thepijeanshow asked: Hi! Just wanted to say that I saw you playing Persephone with Anais Mitchell's Hadetown Orchestra last night in Shelburne Falls. Well done! The whole show was great, and it looked like you all were having a super time.


i’m so glad you were there. isnt that music amazing???? i was humbled to be part. x erin m

dear tom’s of maine…

dear tom’s of maine.

you may not realize it, but your recent decision to switch to plastic laminate tubes has stopped Art in its tracks.

for the last 8 years, i have been carefully collecting your aluminum tubes and creating what i consider to be my masterpiece, in the most radical of all gallery spaces, my bathroom. i have personally used every inch of paste in all those tubes. and, i have long dreamt of a sculpture that would one day spill off its original shelf, take over the sink, and eventually, even the shower.

now that dream is no more.

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