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Rachel Maddow's Latest Venture

By Adam Rathe

Pictured: Erin McKeown / Photo by Merri Cyr

Most of the collaborations on Erin McKeown’s new album, MANIFESTRA, happened the old-fashioned way -- guest vocalists chimed in, a producer played bass. One song, however, involved musically spit-balling with none other than cable news’ most visible lesbian, MSNBC talk-show host Rachel Maddow, and in a much less traditional way: via text. Here, McKeown chats about the exchange, which began while Maddow was on assignment in Iraq and resulted in her bluesy, politically charged track “Baghdad to the Bayou.”

How did your collaboration with Rachel Maddow come about?
I knew Rachel from when she was a local radio DJ in western Massachusetts, where I live and where she lives part-time. We stayed in touch, and I called and asked her to do this project. We were both traveling, and she was without Internet for a lot of the time because she was overseas, so texting made the most sense.

Would you ever write another song this way?
Totally. I do a lot of writing on Skype, which is a similar way to incorporate technology into something creative. There are limitations with Skype and limitations with texting, but I also think that any time I’m writing, more limitations are better. The less colors on the palette, the more resourceful I have to be.

Erin McKeown's album is out now.

Watch the official video for "Proof" below:


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