Erin Austin of OK Sweetheart spent the last two years literally living in a van, touring relentlessly in support of her debut album, “Home.” But now, Austin is reordering her life to include recording a new album and building her sense of social responsibility into her performance schedule.
This Saturday, OK Sweetheart is the headliner for the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice’s Unity Concert, a free event from 2 to 8 p.m. at Guthrie Green, located on North Boston in Tulsa’s Brady District. Austin’s relationship with the OCCJ, a group that promotes strengthening relationships between racial, religious and social groups, began with 2010′s “This Machine” public service campaign. In that series, artists and musicians created messages modeled on Woody Guthrie’s “This Machine Kills Fascists” scrawl on his guitar.
“I really love what they stand for, the people behind it and the motivation for the whole thing,” Austin said in a recent phone interview. “Really, we’re uniting people — we’re bringing people together and saying, ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter how much money you make or where you come from or what color your skin is or what color you paint your nails. It doesn’t matter.’ What matters is that we can all be accepting of differences.”
Joining OK Sweetheart for the OCCJ Unity Concert are Travis Linville, The Electric Rag Band, The Passing Tones, Tulsa Jam’bassadors, Voices of Unity Choir and Tulsa’s Louder Than a Bomb Poetry group.
Austin, whose 2008 song “You Let Me Down” won the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Award, received considerable acclaim for “Home,” and the closing track on the disc, “Before You Go,” was used to memorable effect by Turner Classic Movies for its “TCM Remembers 2011” montage of stars and filmmakers who died that year. Since releasing “Home,” Austin has lived like a nomad, touring in support of the album, but she is now prepared to record her follow-up.
Next month, Austin enters the studio with producer Kevin Killen, who has worked extensively as an engineer for U2, Elvis Costello, Sugarland, Shakira and Elton John. Austin said she met Killen at a recent CMJ convention, and the two made plans to record.
“He was talking about the quality of recordings and how to capture a moment,” Austin said. “That the best records capture this thing you can’t describe. He went on and on and my jaw hit the floor — I was like, ‘Who is that guy? I want to meet that guy.’”