McKeown began her career in the folk scene. She released her first album, Monday Morning Cold in 1999, on her own label (TVP Records), travelling throughout New England while still a student at Brown University in order to promote the record. Although she had begun studying ornithology, she graduated from Brown with a degree in ethnomusicology.
McKeown's music is difficult to categorize in terms of genre; it has touched upon pop, swing, rock, folk, and electronic music, as well as many other genres. McKeown cites The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as an influence on her music.
"Her operative mood is effortless grace" - LA Weekly
"Her set had an exquisitely open airiness, rich and pastoral for being so stripped down." - Philadelphia Inquirer
"That's McKeown’s genius: her ability to take what is, twist it into something more relevant and maintain whatever it is about the music that makes it work. Smarter pop? Seductive commentary? REALLY? Yes." - Paste Magazine
"In several distinctive ways- voice, dynamic subtlety, and sheer songwriting ability- Erin McKeown is in a class of her own." - Sunday Times (UK)
"Her playing is so muscular, her arrangements so well conceived that she succeeds brilliantly. As with all truly great guitarists, the wonder is less in her chops than her choices." - Boston Globe
"Her clear mezzo-soprano sounds perpetually optimistic, and so do the syncopated electric guitar parts she picks and plucks through the sparsely arranged but fully realized songs. A degree in ethnomusicology, and African undercurrents, separate her from more rhythmically earth-bound folk-rockers." - Jon Pareles, New York Times for "We Will Become Like Birds" (2005)"Her voice slips into the territory of Florence Welch and Elena Tonra with its depth and texture, but stands alone in its complete clarity, a dinner bell ringing through a drafty home until the whole place is warm. She is, more simply, the kind of artist who will give you a varied, confetti-colored pocketful of secrets in return for a smile and some applause. She is easy listening without anything inherently easy about it." - New Haven Independent
McKeown continues to perform regularly, spending much of her time touring throughout the world with artists such as Ani DiFranco, Josh Ritter, the Indigo Girls, Martin Sexton, Andrew Bird, Thea Gilmore, Melissa Ferrick, Allison Miller, and others. McKeown also took part in Queerstock, a music festival dedicated to promoting LGBT musicians.
McKeown's 2005 album, We Will Become Like Birds (produced by Tucker Martine), served as a departure from her earlier work, with a more rock-oriented sound. At a September 1, 2008, concert at The Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, Virginia, McKeown told the audience that she wrote this album "in an attempt to write myself out of the worst heartache I'd experienced up to that point."
Her next studio release, Sing You Sinners, was released in Europe on the 23 October 2006 and in the United States on January 9, 2007 by Nettwerk Records LLC. It consists mostly of covers of jazz standards from the 1920s through 1950s.
McKeown's record, Hundreds of Lions, was released under Righteous Babe Records on October 13, 2009. Additionally, a series of web concerts recorded in 2009 are available at McKeown's website. McKeown is also currently member of an unsigned band known as "emma", which she created with her friend Allison Miller. McKeown has plans to write a book of poetry.
McKeown released "Manifestra" on January 15, 2013. Physical copies also came with a bonus album, "Civics", where Erin performed the entirety of "Manifestra" solo acoustic in a historic library.
McKeown is noted for her energetic stage presence and her habit of wearing tailored suits, often with ties and Fluevog shoes, to performances.
McKeown was selected to be a 2011-2012 fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. There, she will "work to connect the worlds of policy, art, and technology while considering questions about how to make a creative life a viable vocation."
In October 2016, a new musical McKeown wrote along with the playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes titled Miss You Like Hell opened at the La Jolla Playhouse directed by Lear deBessonet and starring Daphne Rubin-Vega. 
- Monday Morning Cold (TVP Records) (1999)
- Distillation (TVP Records, Signature Sounds, TVP Records) (October 10, 2000)
- Grand (Nettwerk Records) (June 10, 2003)
- We Will Become Like Birds (Nettwerk Records) (June 28, 2005)
- Sing You Sinners (Nettwerk Records) (January 9, 2007)
- Lafayette (Live) (Signature Sounds, TVP Records) (September 25, 2007)
- Small Deviant Things, vol.1 (TVP Records) (August 1, 2008)
- Hundreds of Lions (Righteous Babe Records, TVP Records) (October 13, 2009)
- 3 Songs feat. Marc Dalio + Matt Douglas (TVP Records) (December 7, 2010)
- F*ck That! Erin McKeown's Anti-Holiday Album (TVP Records) (November 1, 2011)
- MANIFESTRA (TVP Records) (January 15, 2013)
- Small Deviant Things, vol.2 + 3 (TVP Records) (November 6, 2013)
- According To Us (TVP Records) (June 24, 2016)
- "How to Say My Name". Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- interview in Lesbilicious magazine
- Queerstock: Who's played
- emma on MySpace Music
- McKenna, Dave. "Jill Sobule and Erin McKeown: Live Last Night". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- Video of Erin McKeown performing "Rhode Island Is Famous For You" with the Beantown Swing Orchestra.
- "Berkman announces 2011-2012 fellows". website. Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- "Know Before You Go: Miss You Like Hell" lajollaplayhouse.org, 2016
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Erin McKeown.|
- Official home page
- Washington Post review of We Will Become Like Birds
- Interview with Erin McKeown - small WORLD Podcast 2006
- Erin McKeown's April 2006 Daytrotter Recording Session
- Interview with Erin McKeown - Lesbilicious Magazine 2008
- Audio interview with Erin McKeown and Jill Sobule on Well-Rounded Radio, 2009
- Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Show #552 - WMV Video
- Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Show #552 - MP3 Audio
- Erin McKeown talks to the PBS NewsHour