Erin Coburn is one of those trail-blazing artists who once you catch in action leave you with an indelible awe-inspiring impression that you are witnessing something singular, unique, and unforgettable. At 21-years of age this Cincinnati native and self-described “perpetual misfit” has journeyed across the country building a reputation for her prolific songwriting and modern approach to American Rock and Roll.
Her relatable lyrics and soul gripping vocals are a striking compliment to the scorching guitar solos and infectious riffs that populate her performances; and the core of her beauty stems from the sense she is unafraid to be authentically herself, always delivering an unforgettable, high energy performance that leaves people wanting more.
A wide range of artists and genres have inspired Erin throughout her musical journey. Everyone from BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Rolling Stones to Alice In Chains, Arctic Monkeys, and Nothing But Thieves. You can hear these influences lightly woven throughout her repertoire of songs. While she brings the sounds of modern Rock front and center, Erin never forgets her heavily Blues and Classic Rock influenced past. Fans of Royal Blood, Black Keys, Gary Clark, Jr and White Stripes will thoroughly appreciate Erin’s music.
Writing songs since a young age, Erin released her debut album, ‘Chaos Before Conformity’ (2015) at age 14. Her lyrical output focuses on the theme of not fitting in with societal norms - being a misfit. With the release of her second and third albums, ‘Queen of Nothing’ (2017) and ‘Out from Under’ (2019), her fanbase has grown both nationally and worldwide. With her latest single releases, ‘The MiSFIT’ (July 2020), ‘Flip’ (May 2021) and ‘Sleeve’ (June 2022) we hear her making a natural evolution to a more mature sound with edgier lyrics, searing guitar solos, and a dash of humor on full display.
Some of Erin’s more noteworthy shows and festivals have been repeat performances at Buddy Guy’s Legends and Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago, the Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis (where I caught her back in early May of this year), Summerfest in Milwaukee, BlissFest in Michigan, and the main stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Arkansas.
She has also opened for Blackberry Smoke, The Marcus King Band, The Accidentals, David Victor (formerly of Boston), Larry McCray, and Three Dog Night.
In advance of her show at The Vault, I was fortunate to be able to catch-up with Erin on the road as she was driving down to Florida for a series of shows in the Sunshine State.
REVIEW: I would venture it’s safe to say that musically you were somewhat of a child prodigy, given your vocal ability coupled with your dexterity and ability to shape such a litany of expressive sound on the guitar, so let’s start at the beginning. How did it all start and were you born with a natural ability, or did you have to practice much to focus and develop your skills?
ERIN COBURN: Yeah, well it all started with my dad’s acoustic guitar, which my Mom got for him as an anniversary gift. Being a curious 2-year old I found it and because it was much bigger than me, when I got a little acoustic guitar my size my parents were always watching live concerts on the TV and I was always performing to it, which sparked my interest. I didn’t pick up the guitar immediately and start playing awesome stuff; in fact, I was a pretty bad student and was stubborn and didn’t want to practice. All I wanted to do was write my own stuff and experience music on my own terms.
A few years later when I was 7-years old I got my first guitar teacher and we really connected. He was playing the Blues and shredding a guitar solo out of thin air to demonstrate his improvisational skills; and I was like, ‘Show me how to do that!’ Being in front of the TV and watching Prince and Joe Satriani and B.B.King play definitely rubbed off, but I soon realized I had a different voice and a different feel.
REVIEW: How old were you when you wrote your first song?
ERIN: I think I as around 11-years old. I remember that it was called Transportation Blues and I wrote it on the school bus. It was about this bus ride to school when the cops pulled the bus over because some kids were getting into fights and beating each other up, so I wrote a song about that experience.
REVIEW: Who do you consider pivotal artists that have inspired you the most and helped shape your sensibilities?
ERIN: Oh wow, I have a big list. Jimi Hendrix of course, but I also love Korn and some of the new bans as well. I enjoy listening to all genres of music and get inspiration from lots of sources and places.
REVIEW: Like so many contemporary Blues artists, the direction you seem to be going is a fusion between modern Rock with contemporary Blues. With so much genre blending and blurring of musical styles going on today, what are your thoughts about all that and what are some of the goals you’re striving to achieve with your music?
ERIN: I love the fusion and think the blending of genres is a gorgeous thing that has to happen more. We get so caught up thinking a specific genre has to have a certain sound based around defined chord progressions, but art is always built from a feeling not whether it has to fit properly within this box of definition.
That’s why I’m calling myself more and more a Rock than a Blues artist nowadays. I love the Blues because it represents a feeling, but I think of myself as a Rock artist because such a broadly defined genre that has so many different sounds and sub-categories. You can make Rock from anything. A lot of traditionalists - especially in the Blues world - insist that Blues has to have a 12-bar only progression and you can’t shuffle or mess with the tempo; or you can’t do this or can’t do that; but the beauty of Rock is that you can do anything. It breaks the rules.
REVIEW: The music industry has changed so much, arguably not for the better with the focus pushed on touring to earn a livelihood. Given that it can take up to 80,000 streams on Spotify to earn only $15.00 in royalties, how much time a year do you spend touring and does it ever get tiring? As a musician myself, I’ve always felt that performing is the fun part and it’s the set up and drive time that you get paid for.
ERIN: Yeah, the revenue from streaming is one thing, but there’s also good things about the changes. Tik-Tok is now a major player and you can become famous overnight with a million fans; plus social media has allowed artists to shift the power. Honestly, I think I’ve been on the road every single week since the age of 15; and I’m 21-years old now. Things are picking up and we’re going to be gone for 2-3 weeks at a time and then home for 2-weeks. Lately, I’ve been gone for 4-5 days in a row and home only a few days, which doesn’t afford a lot of time to record or prep for new material on the tour, so I’m glad to have more time to work in my recording studio and learn new things.
REVIEW: As an artist, what do you feel your biggest challenge is right now?
ERIN: I think balance. Nowadays an artist can’t just be a musician or play an instrument; they also have to be a social media manager and do a bunch of things people don’t expect an artist to be doing. Right now I’m my own mixing and mastering engineer, as well as producer on my 4th album. I record all my instruments and write all the parts. I run the studio and run a Tik-Tok account and live stream on Facebook and interact with audiences online, because a lot of times that’s how you book the shows as well, So I really want to start getting new material on these sites and the biggest challenge is finding balance between the time needed to address all these things. There’s a lot of hats you gotta wear nowadays as a musician, or as any kind of artist.
REVIEW: Are there any specific moments or career highlights that stand out in your mind?
ERIN: Oh yeah. I remember one show where I got to open for David Victor from the band Boston and that was the first arena show that I’d ever played that blew my mind because of the size of the crowd. And as far as branching out with my career, an important moment was when my mind switched and rather than hiring people to do things, I decided I would handle them myself. Like I was saying earlier about my upcoming 4th album, I don’t have any middle men involved. The ideas comes straight from my head and out to the world and that inspires me to no end and always think that’s super-cool.
REVIEW: Have you had any major label interest?
ERIN: I have had a few reach out to me, but the main thing they’re interested in is the rights to the material. I have to be careful because I’ve had friends sign with labels only to realize they didn’t read the fine-print and ended up relinquishing the power along with many of their proprietary rights. I’ve also had other friends post an original song that blew up with 10 million Tik-Tok hits and huge commercial endorsements, so Independent artists have the power now. The labels used to have the power, but now that the playing field is more balanced, I want to be in a position where I can say this is my sound and this is who I am right now and this is the way we need to work together before I do or sign anything.
REVIEW: Final question. Tell me about those super-cool custom-made guitars you play and the endorsement with the company that makes them?
ERIN: They are called Strandberg Guitars and I’m so glad you like them! They are made in Sweden and I met them at a guitar convention in Anaheim before the pandemic. I’m also endorsed by Black Cat Amps so I went to the convention for that purpose, but I kept going back to this Strandberg booth ten times because I couldn’t get enough of it.
I didn’t notice at first that the necks are trapezoidal instead of a ‘C’ or ‘D’ shape; and they also have an extended range that is longer than standard guitar neck, which makes them comfortable playing on a couch. It’s my pride and joy. I took some gig money and drove three or four hour to Indiana and played as many different models as I could. I ordered one and after I bought my own contacted them and became part of their family. They’re the sweetest people in the world.
People think these are metal guitars, but they’re extremely versatile. The one I play is a Stratocaster model, but they’ve just came out with a Jazz line. I bring it with me at all times. I bring it on dinner dates with me and everywhere I go, it goes.
You can also purchase Erin Coburn’s CD’s and products and track her shows on her website at www.erincoburn.com and follow her on her facebook page.
16th November, 2023