“Little light you've lost your glow, you just cry and no one knows
That love isn't your friend, your friends are gone
But I say, it's okay, it's okay…”
-“Slipping” by Eryn Allen Kane
These are the lyrics from the song that made me fall in love with the soulful powerhouse that is Eryn Allen Kane (no relation to the author). I had the chance recently to sit down with this artist at her recent Bluebird Denver show, and her strength as more than just a vocalist quickly became evident.
Hailing from Detroit, Kane now calls Chicago her home, after a move to study acting at Columbia College. It was there she realized her passion and knack for singing.
Listen to Eryn Allen Kane’s “Slipping”:
When prompted about the origins of “Slipping”, a tune that mixes heart-wrenching lyrics with an uplifting melody, Kane revealed that it’s about a close friend of hers; a beautiful and talented person who supposedly could not see this about himself, and withdrew into a deep and depressive hole.
“He latched onto me in a parasitic way,” Kane said, adding that her friend believed his only happiness could be found in her. Kane’s pursuits in trying to make him aware of his beauty led her to this song.
Drawing from the people around her is Kane’s common source of creative power.
“I just absorb from my surroundings,” she said.
That being said, she also lets her listeners choose their own interpretations for her music, saying, “People can interpret my meaning however they will”. It is through this symbiotic relationship between herself and her fans that Kane is able to delve into her own emotions and understand them better, and it’s also how her listeners are able to find empowerment through her work.
Eryn Allen Kane strongly believes in self-empowerment. Despite being surrounded by some of the top emerging artists right now, she wants to be recognized for her individuality and capabilities. Her latest releases, Aviary: Act I & II, were done mostly solo. Though she comes from an environment she describes as a place where women didn’t encourage each other to do things, Kane now strives to do just the opposite. In fact, the majority of her music is written and produced by females. “Women should really empower each other,” she told me.
Another current force of female artistry in the industry is Brittany Howard, lead singer of Alabama Shakes, who happens to be on the short list of Kane’s most admired artists. In fact, I could see her eyes brighten as she spoke about Howard to me, excitedly raving, “She’s mixed like me and screamin’ like me!”. Coincidentally, Kane actually helped bring Alabama Shakes to the limelight through her friendship with the late, world-renowned Prince. After Kane introduced the band’s music to Prince, he actually brought the group to Paisley Park, his own recording studio, rehearsal space, and performance venue. Prince was a vital part of Kane’s discovery of her own inner power, and at her Bluebird Denver show, she even dedicated her last song of the set to him.
Prince is not the only musical genius to recognize Kane’s gift. Back in Chicago, she has connected and collaborated with numerous notable artists.
“I met everyone organically,” Kane humbly remarked.
And by everyone, Kane has quite a list. She’s now collaborated with Towkio, Noname, Saba, and of course, the squad of the Social Experiment, which includes Chance the Rapper and Donnie Trumpet. One of her latest collaborations, “Reality Check”, was written and recorded the day before rapper Noname dropped her debut project, Telefone. Kane spoke of Fatima (aka Noname) admiringly saying, “She’s one of the smartest human beings I’ve ever met… she’s wise beyond her years… a true poet”.
Kane’s admiration for her Chicago family doesn’t end there. When asked about the possibility of a shift in the environment since Chance and Vic Mensa’s recent jumps to stardom this year, she answered with a response on how much both artists care for their city:
“The Kanyes and Commons just up and left,” she noted, whereas Chance and Vic are giving so much of their fame-derived power straight back to the city. Her closeness with Chance really came through in this part of our conversation when she smiled, “He’s a good dude to the core… [he’s] paving the way for everyone else”.
It’s reasons like these that Eryn Allen Kane appears on so many artists’ tracks. She doesn’t collaborate simply to get her name featured, but does it for the sake of art and friendship.
“I do it because they’re good people,” she told me.
Eryn Allen Kane is spritely and genuine. The love she emanates toward everyone is unavoidable, and her unfaltering belief in her own art, as well as others, is uplifting and liberating. Hopefully you had the chance to catch her at the Bluebird this week, but if you didn’t, peep her tour schedule and get to a show.
Listen to more Eryn Allen Kane’s work here.
All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.