Erik Balkey

Erik Balkey



An engaging mix of honesty, intimacy and humor. An agile voice accompanied by sparse and deliberate guitar work. Dirty Linen Magazine says, "Balkey's confident delivery and sparse arrangements frame the songs with uncommon poise."

Erik Balkey has been on the road since January 2002. Keeping just a post office box in Philadelphia, he has taken to the highway with his guitar and notebook as well as paint brushes and rollers. He picks up interior house painting jobs to sustain his travels, and performs all over the country from Maine to Texas, Florida to Chicago covering over 50,000 miles annually. Among recent honors, Balkey was named a Kerrville New Folk Winner in 2005 and was selected for a Top-12 DIY feature in the January 2006 issue of Performing Songwriter magazine. His recent recording, "Mission Street Project," caught the attention of Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary) who called the socially relevant collection "important, very important."

Prior to choosing a life on the road, Balkey began songwriting as part of the Red Bank, NJ music scene in 1994 before a four-year stint in New York City. Among the songwriters in the city, Balkey listened and learned as an active volunteer and performer as part of the Fast Folk Cafe scene of the nineties.

Legendary Philadelphia radio deejay, Michael Tearson wrote in SingOut! Magazine, "These songs are literate, exacting portraits in amber... Nicely played and beautifully recorded." His albums contain songs that have garnered Balkey recognition in over a dozen songwriting competitions across the country including being named Kerrville New Folk Winner in 2005 as well as finalist at the Mountain Stage New Song Festival songwriting competition in 2003 and 2004. In 2006, his song "Cut 'em Down" caught the attention of Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul and Mary), Judy Collins, Tom Paxton, Christine Lavin and other judges when it took 2nd Place at the national "Music To Life" songwriting competition.

Since the beginning of 2006, Balkey has written or co-written over sixty songs. Many are written on commission for his "Custom Songs" side effort. Among his writing collaborators are Johnsmith, Jonathan Byrd, Amy Speace, Tom Prasada-Rao, Cary Cooper, Freebo and Pat Wictor. Some of the new songs are gathered on Balkey's two recent releases, "Mission Street Project" and "My Sacred Heart." His current recordings include performances from, among others, Chris Chandler, the Dreamsicles, Jonathan Byrd, Laurie MacAllister, and Duke Levine (formerly in Mary Chapin Carpenter's band). The "Sanctuary Road" recording contains includes Balkey's performance at the legendary Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas.

Balkey's albums have been played on radio stations across the country, each "charting" on the Folk DJ playlists with "God's Poet Now" peaking at No. 6 for most played song in July 2003. Radio deejays who have played his music include Gene Shay at WXPN in Philadelphia, John Platt at WFUV in New York City, Rich Warren at WFMT in Chicago , and Marilyn Beyer at WUMB in Boston. His tour stops include the Tin Angel in Philadelphia; Makor in New York City; Jammin Java in Vienna, VA; Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse in Dallas, TX .

Balkey is a member of the Folk Alliance and BMI. He writes the "Songwriter's Tour Guide." He has held volunteer positions with the Fast Folk Cafe (NYC), Music Among Friends (Hoboken, NJ), the Philadelphia Songwriters Alliance, and Nameless Coffeehouse (Cambridge, MA). He is founder of Hudson Harding Music doing artist representation for Folk Radio distribution and promotion.


My Own Reason Why

Written By: Erik Balkey

Me and the blacktop
On that country road
Six months of Sundays
That's where I'd go
I'm no natural runner
Not light on my feet
But if I'd just show up
Something would carry me

Before I put my shoes
Up on a shelf
There's one promise
I made to myself
"I'll run a marathon
twenty-six miles"
Said a voice in my head
And I don't know why

Who said I can't go that far
They don't know the size of my heart
Why should I even try
I've got a reason why
You'll never walk on the moon
If you're afraid to touch they sky
I've got my own reason why

My heart on my sleeve
And paint on my shirt
I'm not afraid
Of an honest day's work
But I won't let brushes
Or buckets of paint
Tell me I'm something
That I know I ain't

I let the poetry
From deep in my bones
Rise up while I'm working
Painting other people's homes
I can go deeper
It's the journey I chose
When, I bow down
A slave to the muse


Franklin flew a kite
Rosa sat for what's right
Ghandi won without a fight
Orville and Wilbur took flight


Red and Gold

Written By: Erik Balkey and Bonnie Lee Panda

When I was young, my horse named Flight
Was my best friend
The two of us snuck out at night
To fly like the wind
Passin’ days in the fall
Among among the wild weeds
The wilted summer flowers all,
All had gone to seed
Was worth it just to see...

The leaves turn brown
From red and gold
Summer leaves,
You can not hold
Summer leaves
Summer leaves
The leaves turn brown
From red and gold

When school was out, it was my time
Life was calling me
My mom stood strong and waved goodbye
And set her baby free
There’s things you learn when it’s your turn
My kids are grown up too
You give your heart, then let ‘em go
It’s what all parents do
And the old turns into new

The leaves turn brown
From red and gold
Birds will leave
You let ‘em go
You let 'em leave
You let 'em leave
The leaves turn brown
From red and gold

When you plant a seed
Let it grow

Now I’ve got pictures of my grandsons
Hanging on the wall
Each year when Thanksgiving comes
I get to see them all
I stop a while among the trees
The birds sing clear
The birch lets go, the shimmering leaves
Fall like tears
And, I'm blessed for all the years

Leaves turn brown
From red and gold
Leaves return
To the ground below
The leaves return
The leaves return
Leaves turn brown
From red and gold
Leaves turn brown
From red and gold

Eyes Wide Open

Written By: Erik Balkey and Amy Speace

Out in the cold
It's starting to snow
Red turns to green on the street
And it's all stop and go
Does anyone know

What would it be like
With no Christmas lights
If we came face to face with a world
That was just black and white
For only one night

Could I walk these streets
With eyes wide open
Could I keep the faith
For change
Would my heart remain
Would I see the world the same

It gets dark by five
But the town is alive
A crowd pushes off of a bus
From another day's ride
It's a way to survive

From Belfast to Rome
Moscow to home
The sidewalks of Bethlehem,
Baghdad and Cleveland, Ohio
Wherever you go

Could you walk these streets
With eyes wide open
Could you keep the faith
For change
Would our hearts remain
Could we see the world the same

We're all in this together
Turn out the colored lights
This is the darkest season
This is the longest night

Could we walk these streets
With eyes wide open
Could we keep the faith
For change
Would our hearts remain
Could we see the world the same
Could we see the world the same


- Deadpan Alley (2007)
- My Sacred Heart (2007)
- Mission Street Project (2006)
- Sanctuary Road (2005)
- While the Paint Dries (2004)
- God's Poet Now (2003)
- Negotiations & Compromise (2002)
- Erik Balkey (1999)