OK Sweetheart began as a duo between Erin Kathleen Austin and Robert Gungor (Wilderman). After the split, Austin retained the name as her moniker. Erin Kathleen Austin (born January 21, 1983), better known by her stage name OK Sweetheart, is an American singer-songwriter, with late 1960s pop influences. She spent a number of years in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the name OK Sweetheart developed out of her involvement with the Oklahoma music community. She has relentlessly toured extensively throughout the United States and some in Canada and Europe in support of her debut record, Home, starting in early 2010. Home was independently released on April 5, 2011.
Austin was born in Utica, New York, and raised in Oriskany, NY until the age of 17. She was raised around her extended family. Her father, Dane Austin, is a business man. Her mother, Kathleen Austin, was a nurse. Austin is the middle of three sisters of which the older sister, Nicole Austin, was a semi-professional figure skater. Her interest in songwriting started as a young child, age 3, when she would make up her own lyrics and melodies to songs she heard. She started studying piano at age 4. Although not raised in a family of professional musicians, her parents, siblings and extended family were very musical and played a variety of instruments and would sing at most family gatherings. Her parents were born again Christians. Subsequently, Austin was brought up in singing at church and was only allowed to listen to Christian pop music, outside of the family gatherings where her father's "rock-n-roll" roots would shine while playing songs from 60's bands, like The Beatles, The Band and Charlie Daniel's Band, with his brothers. She attended a small private Christian school associated with the church until 3rd grade, was home schooled for 4th grade and then entered the Oriskany public school system. When entering Oriskany High School (grades 7-12) at age of 12, under the advisement of professional opera singer and family friend, Bruce Reid, Austin's parents placed her in private vocal lessons studying classical voice. Through this study, she honed her voice and started the framework for pursuing a career in musical theater and eventually opera. Austin's parents transferred her to, Clinton Senior High School, neighboring high school that had a more developed music program, where she graduated in 2001. She was active in school and community choirs and musical theater productions as well as sports and community service. She studied with a variety of vocal teachers until graduating from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK in 2006 with a degree in classical voice.
Erin Austin started writing pop songs in December 2007, while living in San Francisco with the help of then husband Robert Gungor. They researched influences, such as The Beatles, Harry Nilsson, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Randy Newman, to learn song and lyric form, melody flow and chord structure. In October 2008, she and Gungor recorded at the Midlake Studio in Denton, Texas, the beginning of what would be debut record Home, collaborating with members of Midlake and other University of North Texas musicians, finishing the first track "You Let Me Down". Finding out about Sonicbids around the same time, Austin submitted to and won the international John Lennon Songwriting Contest for Pop and a subsequent Lennon Award for the track. In September 2009, Austin finished in the Top 5 "The Sound and the Jury" competition.1 Before she headed to Austin, TX for the final performance, someone in Oklahoma tweeted about her saying "Oklahoma Sweetheart, Erin Austin ...". She and Gungor then decided to go by OK Sweetheart and changed the name before the Austin/ACL debut at "The Sound and The Jury" performance. Afterward, they returned to Denton until July 2010 and decided to formalize OK Sweetheart as a duo. Gungor spearheaded the recording process (engineered, produced, arranged and mixed the record), using the Retrofit studio they co-founded with Mckenzie Smith of Midlake. Working with members of Midlake, Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult, Danny Molad of Lucius, Matthew Gray of Matthew and the Arrogant Sea and many others.2 After playing SXSW in March 2010, over a year before releasing the record, they enlisted management from The Collective (Enrique Iglesias, Counting Crows) with a Seattle based day-to-day manager also managing Barcelona and Allen Stone. In the fall of 2010, Erin Austin also appeared in a major commercial for Microsoft (with Andrew Belle and Allen Stone).8 The band was featured on SPIN Earth.9 Austin and Gungor started touring in September 2010 to foster awareness getting attention from major booking agencies such as High Road Touring, who felt they needed more time on the road before signing on with an agency. Through this fall touring, OK SWEETHEART caught the ears of music licensing and publishing entities from Mixtape to Sony ATV, and signed a co-publishing deal with Riptide Music before the independent release of Home. They enlisted publicity help from BWR. Home was produced by Rob Gungor and released on April 5, 2011, and is digitally distributed. Home has helped OK SWEETHEART gain a larger audience and been well received by fans and critics alike. In the fall of 2011 Gungor and Austin discontinued working together and Austin retained the moniker OK SWEETHEARTT to continue making music on her own accord. OK SWEETHEART showcased at SXSW Music Festival in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 and at CMJ Music Marathon in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. She has also performed at LIV Music Festival 2011, Doe Bay Festival 2011 and 2013, Norman Music Festival 2011, 35 Conferette 2010 and 2011, Neon Reverb Festival 2011, Inaugural Tulsa International Film Festival and more. She has toured the United States extensively.
In search for the next creative collaborators, Austin has recorded singles with John Vanderslice (at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco), David Hopkins (Damien Rice, Matt Nathanson) and Kevin Killen (U2, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel). She is currently recording at Bear Creek Studios with Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers).
OK SWEETHEART is currently associated with three non-profits. For the OCCJ (Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice), she was part of the 2010, Woody Guthrie themed "This Machine" campaign to raise awareness about social justice and equality. In 2013, she headlined the OCCJ's Unity Concert at the newly established Guthrie Green in downtown Tulsa.In early 2013, Austin donated song "Home" to the Whole Foods', Whole Planet Foundation campaign called "Download for a Difference". Continuing her support of the Whole Planet Foundation, OK Sweetheart performed on the rooftop of Whole Foods' headquarters in Austin, Texas, during the 2012 and 2013 SXSW music festival. Hadlock first saw OK SWEETHEART perform at the 2013 SXSW performance and expressed interest in working together. After an experience playing music in friend's LA home for an elderly relative who had endured multiple strokes and suffered memory loss, Austin wanted to find a way to bring music to people with Alzheimer's and dementia. On a flight from Seattle to NYC, Austin came across an article in an inflight magazine about Music and Memory. Shortly afterward, she contacted founder, Dan Cohen, about collaborating. OK SWEETHEART collects used i-pods at shows to donate to associated facilities and performs in some of the facilities while touring.
In September 2011, Austin was deemed one of the "Most Fashionable Girls in Indie Music" by Lucky Magazine. She is know to buy vintage clothing and "re-build" them. OK SWEETHEART has become a clothing style and brand set to be released in the Spring of 2014.
Television and film:
"Home" featured on The CW's 2011 season finale of 90210, WB's One Tree Hill (2011), ABC's Revenge (2012), and Around the World for Free (2011), Nissan Versa Commercial (2011), Gas South Commercials (2011, 2012, 2013),
"Traitor" featured in the 2012 film Contraband,
"All We Have" featured on USA's Royal Pains (2011) and MTV's Awkward (2013),
"We've Got Love" featured on ABC's The Lying Game and in commercials for Zales (2015),
"Before You Go" featured on TCM throughout December 2011