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Erin McKeown

By Gary Wien

When Erin McKeown sees the audience dancing, she knows that she's made a connection with them. The singer-songwriter says she feels more like a musician when people dance. That may be something you'd expect to hear from the next Madonna wannabee, but Erin's music is far from the usual sounds heard in a dance club. That and the fact that most people don't seem to dance at rock shows anymore.

"Yeah, I know," says Erin McKeown in a phone interview. "It's funny because to me there's a bunch of reasons you can listen to music. You put something on when you're cooking at night or put something on while you're driving. You can sit down and really analyze it or you can dance. And dancing to music is such a primal reason to listen to music. I love to go out dancing and I love to experience music that way without my mind. I think that too often people are too intellectual about music and so when they're dancing I feel we're having a level of communication that is far deeper than an intellectual one."

McKeown is touring in support of her latest release, We Will Become Like Birds. This is her fourth CD and one that will most likely become a staple of NPR stations across the country.

"I love music so much, and it is so much a part of who I am, that the temptation to do everything has always gotten the better of me," explained McKeown. "With this project, I deliberately set out to narrow my focus. What would happen if I concentrated on one thing for a whole album? What would happen if I could get my mind to stand very still for 12 songs?"

She wrote all of the songs and recorded them on her 4-track at her home before gathering the group of people she wanted to record the songs. Even though she is capable of playing all of the instruments she wanted people that were wonderful players to fulfill her vision for the record. And, she wanted them to all be in the same room at the same time to give it a more organic and more live feel than most studio recordings.

"I think for every record I need to be excited and obviously that's always changing," she continued. "For Grand, the real excitement was that I was finding out a lot about Judy Garland and it seemed to be something to build a record around. And in the case of Grand it made sense to try out different genres of music in that exploration. For this record, the challenge was that I had a bunch of songs really about the same thing and the challenge was in making an interesting piece of art around that."

Her music is often described as folk, a description that she's comfortable with but not one that she feels truly describes what she does. It's just a description that the record industry has bestowed on her work. In her eyes, records should be given much different labels. An approach that actually makes a lot of sense.

"I've always preferred the idea of describing music in terms of reactions versus sound," said McKeown. "Like what if you went into a record store and there was a section for things to listen to when you're sad or there was a break up section or a section for how much you just want to drive really fast on a sunny day. I think I might have a record in each of those sections. And I think most artists would because people are varied in terms of why we write records and in the types of records they make. So every time they put your record in the bin marked folk rock, it just doesn't seem that useful to me."

This will be the second time Erin McKeown has played at the Saint in Asbury Park. The first time was as part of a benefit for 90.5 The Night, the local NPR station. Those types of stations are really the lifeblood of artists like McKeown although she, like many artists, has amassed a much bigger following in Europe. Part of her success abroad has to do with the way radio is handled there.

"I have a much bigger record label over there," she explained. "And radio and television are set up much differently. You're also talking about countries that are each autonomous and much smaller than ours. It's easy to be famous in Indiana, but not famous in the rest of the United States. Well, Ireland is the size of Indiana. That's just the way I think about it. It has nothing to do with the quality or whether people in Europe are smarter or more attuned to smart music. I don't think it's that at all. I think it's just the size of the media outlets."

This time around Erin will be backed by her trio which includes guitar, organ and drums. She'll be supplying the backbeat, it's up to you to dance. Go ahead, show her you're listening and dance to smart music. Maybe you'll even help start a trend.

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Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme Presents Patrick Fitzsimmons On December 16
(SUCCASUNNA, NJ) -- Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme (RR&R) presents Patrick Fitzsimmons on Sunday, December 16 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Investors Bank Theatre in Succasunna. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for RAA/SSG/JAM members; and free for those under 18.
Outpost in the Burbs Presents Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Outpost in the Burbs presents Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams on Saturday, December 8th at 8:00pm at the First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Avenue.  Opening the show will be New York City-based singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson. Outpost volunteers will be accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for the holiday season for Toys for Tots at the show.
Jann Klose and The Voice's Josett Diaz To Perform At Ethical Brew To Benefit A Cause Close To Home
(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 8th, singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jann Klose will perform at Ethical Brew on behalf of Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, a community arts and cultural center for children and teens located in Bronx, New York.  Doors open at 7:30, show begins at 8:00pm.
Kenny Chesney To Perform At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Focusing on smaller venues and markets not directly impacted by his massive stadium tours, Kenny Chesney sought to make his Songs for the Saints 2019 Tour mirror the intimacy of its namesake album. Inspired by the resilience of the people around him, Chesney doubles down on the human connection for his 2019 tour by seeking those members of No Shoes Nation who have spent the past decade and a half making the trip to stadium markets for what is now a summer tradition. On Saturday, May 11, 2019 he brings the tour to Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.
State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.

"Great Music!" Tavares and Harold Melvin's Blue Notes LIVE! at the Strand Theater
The music of the 1970s is alive and well this Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Lakewood, NJ’s Strand Theater with a concert by the ’70’s R&B and soul groups Tavares and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes!
"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Nov 20, 2018

The Madness of George III @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm and 7:00pm


Warren Miller’s Face of Winter @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

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