Erin McKeown is all about serving the song with immediacy on ‘Manifestra’

Erin McKeown plays Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA on January 17th, at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on January 18th, at Littlefield in Brooklyn on January 19th and at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia on January 20th.

When it came to making her seventh studio album “Manifestra,” Western Mass.-based Erin McKeown had the whole thing written in five days. With McKeown producing, the socially smart singer/songwriter’s record was finished two weeks later and will be released via McKeown’s TVP Records in mid-January.

“That couldn’t have happened if I had been waiting around for approval or for money to be OKed,” says the Virginia-native, who used PledgeMusic to fan-fund the project.

McKeown’s debut album came out on TVP and then she flitted from
label to label before landing back where she started. Well, not quite.

“I couldn’t have done it with my first record. Going through all that, I
now know the rhythm of making a record. I know what happens when. I’ve
made business mistakes on this project, but I don’t think I made any
musical mistakes.”

But being on a label other than her own just does not suit her right now.

“Being on a label and dealing with that is more distance from my thoughts to the song and that does not serve the song. These songs are quite immediate. Flexibility,” she says, “is another tick in the pro column for having your own label. Labels aren’t flexible. Going alone, you can change direction at any time.”

She doesn’t mean completely alone. McKeown credits her band and friends — including Ryan Montbleau and Anais Mitchell — with helping bring the record to fruition. Two songs were co-written remotely: one, “Baghdad To The Bayou,” came into being via text message with her pal, TV presenter Rachel Maddow;  “Manifestra,” well, that came from some intrinsic force.

“The title track is really important,” insists McKeown. “How I write is like hearing music two rooms away and I bring it into focus. I was literally woken up at 6 a.m. with the first four lines of ‘Manifestra’ in my head. No editing, it’s the song as it came out. I’m a great believer in internal change and external action, cellular level change that compels you to do something. That’s where the song came from, a cellular level.”


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