Arts & Culture

Scenic Songs with Erin McKeown

These unplugged and acoustic shows offered at Trustees properties across the state are unique opportunities to enjoy live music in community and nature.

A musician playing a guitar on a large rock in front of a live audience outdoors, with a green vista in the background

Erin McKeown performs a set at Scenic Songs

The first time Erin McKeown performed at the Trustees, they remember thinking to themselves, as they sat under a tent at Fruitlands Museum overlooking stunning vistas, “of course there should be music in places like this.” 

It was late 2021, and they describe what many artists at the time were feeling, an immense sense of burnout. They felt distant from those who cherish their work and enrich it with their own interpretation and lived experience.  

“I have spent many years as a touring musician all over the world and have seen every kind of venue you can imagine,” they explained. “Especially at that time in the pandemic, it was exciting to just get together, and to do it in a space that didn’t feel ad hoc or didn’t feel less than. It felt like a real concert in the right place.” 

That important moment created a seed of an idea, that would soon become Scenic Songs. Speaking with Trustees staff members Catherine Shortliffe and Michael Busack, McKeown recalls saying, “All I want to do is hike. Wouldn’t it be cool to play music and hike?” The resounding answer was a yes – it would be cool to do that, and how cool would it be to make it happen at Trustees properties? 

“It’s like a house concert in the biggest house available,” McKeown mused. 

Erin McKeown at Notchview

Erin performs at Notchview, in Windsor

Who is Erin McKeown?

McKeown grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a subdivision that bordered preserved battlegrounds from the Civil War. “I spent my time as a kid roaming in the woods,” they recalled. “It was just such a space of creativity for me, whether it was like making forts or I used to build little weather stations, I collected rocks, stuff like that.” 

It was at an ecology summer camp in Shenandoah National Park that McKeown learned to play the guitar and started writing songs.  

“What I learned there was that being in nature and studying nature was a form of storytelling. That turned me into a storyteller, essentially,” they shared.  

“I mean, I certainly at that time was thinking I’m going to be a wildlife biologist or an ornithologist. I was not thinking I’m going to be a singer-songwriter, or any kind of like artist or musician.” 

They spent some time in the city for college, but quickly returned to more rural Western Massachusetts to build their life after school.  

“I live in a very small town on a river. The river gives and the river takes. It can be hard, and was hard, especially last summer,” they shared, citing extreme flooding that was seen across Western Massachusetts due to excessive rainfall in the area 

“All of that being true, being in this environment allows me to relax, to dream, to be creative,” they said. “I’m just surrounded by these stories.  I don’t know if other people think about it this way, but watching the river change every day here is as good as any basketball game in my eyes. There are always new stories and new lines to follow.” 

“I don’t really write songs about nature,” they continued. “But it is sort of like it’s integral to who I am and my health.” 

World's End vista

A view from World's End in Hingham

The Scenic Songs Experience

“You know, most people have been to a nightclub, have had a drink, have sat or stood and watched a rock band. But most people have not walked with the artist, and seen that artist play unmediated, without even a microphone in front of their face.” 

That’s the experience Scenic Songs offers visitors – an unmediated, acoustic set in nature, coupled with an easy to moderate hike through beautiful terrain.  

“I certainly want to be respected as a performer, but I don’t want to be treated as untouchable,” McKeown shared. “These hiking concerts, and I think house concerts are like this too, put everybody on the same level,” they continued. “We’re all a little hot. We’re all swatting at bugs.” 

World's End Sunset

World's End at sunset

McKeown says many conversations they’ve shared on the trail during these events have been about anything but music. Most recently, their dog Carl (full name Carl Richard Marx), a Red Labrador, joined them for Scenic Songs. He was a fan favorite topic of conversation. 

“He wasn’t up with me while I was performing, because he would have stolen the show,” laughed McKeown. 

McKeown describes the Scenic Songs experience in one word as “radical.”  

“It feels radical to ask people to do something different than they’ve done before…that can make them just as uncomfortable as it makes me, in a good way.”  

“This is exactly the kind of thing that I’m interested in doing at this point in my career.  Unique, radical, community-oriented experiences that are local,” they shared.  

What’s In Store for This Season?

McKeown joins the Trustees on June first at World’s End, in Hingham, the second Scenic Songs performance of the 2024 season. They’re excited to perform their first Scenic Songs set in the eastern part of the state, after performing the past two years at both Fruitlands, in Harvard and Notchview, in Windsor. 

They’ve never hiked World’s End but will be digging into researching the property to prepare a setlist, and of course, will be taking requests. 

For those who may not have listened to their music before, they recommend their top streamed on Spotify to get a good taste of what’s in store, which includes “Born to Hum,” “Queen of Quiet,” “La Petite Mort,” “The Taste of You,” and “Slung-Lo” among others. 

Register for one of the many Scenic Songs concerts today! 

You Might Also Enjoy

Join the Trustees

Enjoy 120 sites featuring inspired trails, historic homes, beautiful gardens, farms, summer camps and more.
Become a Member

Lend a Hand

Join a community passionate about a sustainable future and engaged in diverse projects across the state.

Support Our Work

We rely on your generous support to protect the irreplaceable landscapes and landmarks of Massachusetts.