Erin McKeown got her start in the New England folk scene, but she’s since grown into a genre dancer of the highest order, gliding from folk to big band to gospel without straining her crystal clear voice.
But even for an artist who regularly tackles politics and social justice, something feels particularly urgent about the six songs that make up her first studio album in three years, the EP “According to Us.” She released its first single, “The Queer Gospel,” just days after the Orlando shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. It was originally written in response to the bathroom laws barring transgender individuals from using bathrooms that match their gender identity, but it took on an even more powerful note after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which took place in a gay and lesbian nightclub.
“I took it really hard, as did a lot of people. Three days from then was when the song was supposed to premiere, and I thought about pulling it because I wasn’t sure if it was the right time. And then I decided to let it go and let the song be what it was and hope that it would help people. And that’s the reaction I’ve gotten so far. Lots of folks have told me that they just listen to it on repeat and it makes them feel better. It’s really great to have been able to make something that’s really helpful to people in that way.”
McKeown recently toured through Portland with the hit podcast “Welcome to Nightvale.” She stopped by the OPB studio to play a couple of songs and talk about what sets apart her new EP, “According to Us,” from her previous seven albums.
Listen to McKeown’s interview with “State of Wonder” producer Aaron Scott below, and download mp3s of the session performances. You can hear “State of Wonder” Saturday at noon on OPB Radio.
Recording and mixes: Steven Kray and Zack Carver-Gustin
Editor: Nick Hennessy
Videographers: Chase Amen, Meleah Ennis, Aashish Edakadampil
Executive Producer: David Christensen