Music is unique. The more I know about how it works, the deeper it gets; the better it becomes.
~ Erin McKeown, from the Interview
Erin McKeown first opened my eyes about how practice can be very different depending on the kind of music you’re making. When I spoke with her, she said a variation of what many non-classical musicians say about practice, “I never practice.” Turns out she was getting better in a different way, one that can be more interesting and more effective than sitting in a room working on scales. The kind of creative approach Erin uses to get better is covered in more detail in Chapters 26 and 38 of The Practice of Practice. Below is a recording of my 2011 interview with Erin, talking about how she gets better.
I’ve been a fan of Erin’s since hearing Distillation in 2000. Erin is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist; she plays guitar, piano, drums, and bass. I learned of Erin McKeown’s music about ten years ago through one of many appearances on NPR, this one on The World Cafe, a most excellent show hosted on WXPN in Philadelphia and hosted by David Dye. Great stuff!
Erin’s got 12 albums out, and they’re all worth owning. My favorite 3 albums are Distillation, Grand, and, Hundreds of Lions, three songs from which are re-arranged for her latest release, Three Songs. The arrangements are well-crafted and spare, and I think I enjoy them more than the originals, though that’s a tough call. Erin puts on an energetic live show, too.
Erin’s got a tasty mix of many of my favorite styles: Django, tin-pan alley, singer-songwriter, punk, as well as some old-timey and rockabilly overtones, and when the mood strikes her she might just whip out a Grateful Dead cover. She also sings and plays from the Great American Songbook as well as crafting her own clever and playful originals. If you haven’t heard of her, you should most definitely buy some of her music. Samples below. I mean, how can you not want to hear someone who is inspired in part by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?
I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did. Erin has some interesting things to say about practice.
Here she is singing one of her songs, The Taste of You.
Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.
Mentioned in the interview:
- Allison Miller, drums (definitely check out her 2010 album, Boom Tic Boom, LA Times named it a top jazz album of the year: mp3, CD)
- Adam Levy: guitarist (Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman…) and teacher.
- Carrie Rodriguez (samples of her music)
- The Drummer’s Cookbook
- Sleater-Kinney (mp3, CD): part of the Riot Grrrl scene
- Ryan Adams: Demolition (mp3, CD, vinyl)
- Haughty Melodic by Mike Doughty
- Soul Coughing
- Old Town School of Folk Music
- Johnny Cash (music samples)
- napping and music practice: previous blog post
- Natalia Zuckerman (samples of her music)
- Erin’s “Cabin Fever” concerts, Episode 3: Water
Other Resources (links from Erin’s Wikipedia Page)
- Official home page
- Erin McKeown is a Righteous Babe
- Washington Post review of We Will Become Like Birds
- Interview with Erin McKeown – small WORLD Podcast 2006
- Erin McKeown’s April 2006 Daytrotter Recording Session
- Interview with Erin McKeown – Lesbilicious Magazine 2008
- Audio interview with Erin McKeown and Jill Sobule on Well-Rounded Radio, 2009
- Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Show #552 – WMV Video
- Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Show #552 – MP3 Audio
- Erin McKeown talks to the PBS NewsHour
And, as a special bonus in tribute to one of Erin’s musical influences and because physical humor is funny, here’s a 10-second clip from the movie version of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (both the books, and the audiobooks are better than the movie):
If only this happened every time we thought too much….
Have fun and good luck with your practice.