21st Century Music: OK Sweetheart
21st Century Music are playlists and profiles that focus on artists that have released their music since 2000. These highlight new(er) acts that continue the sound and spirit of the older acts that are the focus of Ceremony. OK Sweetheart’s music has limited availability on Google Play Music, therefore only Spotify and YouTube have the full playlist. Click on the streaming service of your choice below to listen to the playlist as you read along.
OK Sweetheart has been around for ten years, but due to an extended gap has not released a lot of music for such a time period. There is also a surprising dearth of information available, so compiling a profile is challenging. What I can tell you is that they are great at slow and mid-tempo ballads built on R&B and pop foundations that are raised to an ethereal level by the voice of singer, Erin Austin. It’s her voice alone that has drawn me to this artist and raised them out of the morass of contemporary new music out there.
Erin began working on her music and writing music in 2007 with her then husband, Robert Gungor. They recorded with members of the band, Midlake, and others around the University of North Texas. Austin entered contests to gain exposure to her music and did well, winning or reaching the finals with the song, “You Let Me Down.” Along the way a tweet from someone in Oklahoma referenced her as the state’s sweetheart (Austin and Gungor located there for awhile), prompting her to adopt the moniker, OK Sweetheart. Writing and recording continued in Denton as the duo gained greater attention, playing various festivals including SXSW from 2010 through 2013. They self-released OK Sweetheart’s first album, Home, in 2011, released in digital form only.
Austin and Gungor split in late 2011, leaving Austin to continue alone as OK Sweetheart. She recorded songs with a variety of artists over the years while building material for her next release. She also put together a band, first joining with bassist Jeremy Buller; the pair relocated to Seattle in 2014. Michael Porter then joined on guitar, followed by Alex Westcoat on drums by 2015. In 2016 came a single, “We’re in this Together” followed by seven more songs in 2017, including a new version of the first LP’s title track. After an EP and a single titled Some Space/Part One and Some Space/Part Two delivered new songs in 2018, a new LP, Some Space, arrived in 2019 including those songs plus more. After eight years, OK Sweetheart finally has its second album.
The music is solid, working on standard rock, pop, R&B, and occasionally country influences. It’s Erin’s vocals that gives OK Sweetheart its distinctive sound. Her voice hits its stride on the slower pieces, allowing her rich inflections to really take hold and move a song to deeper and more engaging moments. The quicker songs tend towards bouncier, piano-driven and rhythm-based songs that limit the ability for her voice to add its full effect. However, there are also definite catchy moments that undoubtedly leave you tapping your toe and bouncing your head to the bright, pop sound. There is an old-fashioned quality to the songs, eschewing the modern effects for an early rock and pop sound.
It’s such a challenge these days for bands to break through. Whether OK Sweetheart, with critical appreciation seemingly on its side, can marshal the resources and fan following to achieve higher levels of success remains to be seen. A talent such as Erin Austin’s certainly deserves it.
The Playlist - song \ album (year)
You Let Me Down \ Home (2011)
Home \ Home (2011)
Traitor \ Home (2011)
Forever and Always \ Home (2011)
We’ve Got Love \ Home (2011)
All We Have \ non-album single (2011)
We’re in this Together \ non-album single (2016)
Twist \ non-album single (2017)
This is How We Love \ non-album single (2017)
Pranks \ Some Space (2019)
Let It Go \ Some Space (2019)
See What I See \ Some Space (2019)
Far Way \ Some Space (2019)