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Behind the Music with Erin McKeown

Writer, singer, and producer Erin McKeown is bringing her distinctive, unforgettable sound to Baltimore Center Stage on Saturday October 5, performing a free concert. Our current production, Miss You Like Hell is Erin’s first musical production and was named Best Musical in 2018 by the Wall Street Journal. We got a chance to talk to Erin about her work. Check it out, in her own words:

Can you share a memory of being mothered (in the most expansive sense of the word, by anyone who ever may have filled that role in your life, ex aunties, yourself, the earth, queer mamas, etc.)?

I love how this question is phrased—thank you for acknowledging those of us who have had a plethora of mother experiences outside of our families of origin: English teachers, camp counselors, seniors when we were freshmen, even celebrities. My high school job, in my hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, was working at an art supply and frame shop owned by a local painter. I'm not sure I was great at either selling art supplies or cutting mats, but she kept me on anyway. When the shop was slow, she, her mom (who lived with her above the shop), myself and my co-workers would all sit around the kitchen in the back of the shop and talk and laugh. We were all women artists (or wannabe artists in my case) swapping stories and figuring ourselves out.

What’s your favorite National Park?

I have a deep love for Capitol Reef National Park, which is in the red rocks of southeastern Utah. There’s a wonderful women’s music festival out there that I have played a number of times. And for some reason each time, I seem to be at some transitional point in my life—post break-up, career crossroads etc. I have taken many a solo hike through the moonscape of those giant rocks. Lost then found in the best possible way.

What food brings you back to a sense of family, lineage, ancestry, or your own personal archive?

My grandparents were born in Italy, emigrating to the US separately then meeting and starting a family here, making me a second-generation Italian American, which you wouldn’t guess from my name. My mom always put raisins in her meatballs, which she learned from her family. I don’t know anyone else that does this. Try it, It’s delicious.

Can you share a notable road trip memory—best or worst?

As a touring musician for the last 25+ years, I have driven across, around and through the US more times than I can count. The only states I have never played a gig in: Hawaii, Arkansas, and North Dakota. I have been pulled over too many times, had car trouble, chased huge storms across the plains, changed my routes spontaneously, visited roadside attractions. All of it! Two memories that stick out: Make sure to stop at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge if you are ever driving through Nebraska on 80. And visit Mt. Rushmore. It’s surprisingly awesome. I’ve been several times and always discover something new.

We saw that you have talked about “Now I’m Here” being situated as part of the traveling song tradition. Can you share some of your other favorite traveling songs in that lineage?

Before we ever wrote a word of Miss You Like Hell, Quiara and I traded songs back and forth, mix-tape style, creating a playlist for our show. If you are going to write a musical, I highly recommend this as a starting point. We loved Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere”, Steve Earle’s “Telephone Road”, Mark Knopfler’s “Sailing to Philadelphia”, Liz Phair’s “Go West”, Polly Paulusma’s “Over The Hill”. Anything with a steady beat and a sense of possibility! 


Erin has produced 10 studio albums and sold-out concert venues worldwide. Doors for this free event open at 5 pm and show begins at 6. RSVP now!