By Nicole Silveira
While dozens of students sat eager to hear her play, Erin McQueen strolled to her keyboard with fear in her eye. She sat at her keyboard ready to play, when the nervous energy overflowed as her speakers didn’t work. But once the music started flowing, the crowd snapped along in approval.
Erin McQueen has had many positive influences in her musical career. Poetry classes at Las Positas, her love to read, as well as performing in front of people, have all helped her to write her own music. By taking part in poetry club, Erin learned about the Soul Speaks open mic put on by the Black Student Union on Feb. 19, where the students of Las Positas had the chance to hear her perform her own music.
“For the most part I just started trying to push myself,” McQueen said of the Soul Speaks event, “because I had just never gotten there before. I was thinking just taking every opportunity that I see because I definitely have anxiety performing, especially when it’s my own music.”
When asked about her musical influences, there was one that stood out.
“My mom,” McQueen said. “I grew up listening to her sing. She did operas and musicals … she started a program called ‘OperaSmARTs’. By the time I was in second grade, she started teaching piano and voice and we opened up our home, that was kind of like her studio.”
“I always grew up immersed in (a performance environment)” McQueen said. “I was just always a part of it so I learned piano from her pretty much, even though I’ve had other teachers, but I just grew up in that kind of environment.”
Her mother, Deborah, was a huge influence in Erin’s life. She provided an environment for Erin to grow up learning about all aspects of the theater and performing, even implementing her with the proper tools. Erin said, “recently I started getting better recording equipment. I used to record everything on the voice memos on my phone, so the recordings aren’t that good. But for my birthday this past year, my mom got me a keyboard and some software.”
She started writing her own music in middle school and has been focused on it ever since.
“I think as I kind of started to identify with myself a little bit more and figure out things I liked, that was kind of how I channeled my feelings and everything,” Erin said.
Erin posts her songs onto her SoundCloud account.
“Just being able to put my music online has that ability to branch out.”
Her mom, Deborah, said, “Erin’s natural ability at song craft is indeed her highly sensitive vocal inflections help interpret the complex emotional thoughts and ideas she writes about.”
And it’s evident in her lyrics from one of her many original songs, “Nothing To Cry About.”
Erin writes and sings, “so on the gloomy days, picture the ocean waves, close your eyes and you can almost feel the sun on your face, nothing to cry about, oh you don’t need to doubt yourself, cause if you’re feeling lonely just know you got a friend, and if it feel like it’s over, just know it ain’t the end.”
There were key things that made Erin realize that music was what she wanted to do with her life.
“I think it was kind of just a gradual thing because I’ve always loved to perform. I kind of grew up in that kind of environment where I was either onstage or acting and it kind of built my confidence up to a point where I felt comfortable doing my own music. It definitely started as a more personal thing.”
Deborah said, “she had the ability to absorb and synthesize information around her unconsciously, and turn that into an amazing song. She composed her melodies, lyrics, and supporting harmonic structures at the piano, but she does not write music. She works entirely by ear and memory.” When asked about how far Erin wants to take her career in music, she said, “it would be really cool to be able to travel and have a tour at some point, that’s probably as big as I’d want to get. Just like small venues you know, it doesn’t have to be like a coliseum. Just being able to reach more people in different areas.”
It goes along with what her mom said, “I also believe that artistry is like a rose that unfolds at it’s own pace, and can’t be rushed. Each artist has their own internal tempo and rhythm for getting things done. There is a balance between the pressure to accomplish, and the freedom to dream and be creative.
That balance can be altered when expectations to meet societal norms are given too much weight or if trying to make ‘it big’ in the music world is given excessive emphasis.”
Erin described what music means to her.
“Music has always been such a personal thing for me. What I love most about it, I think, is being able to connect with someone and when someone says ‘oh I was really able to relate to that song or the words you were saying, or even the melody really touched me,’ that’s really warming tome.”
Erin now takes her love of music to her first paying audience on March 21st at Britannia Arms Cupertino.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in her house, or on the stage, what starts out as nervous energy always translates into a powerful performance.