Multifaceted activist Erin Walter highlights social justice issues through the language of music.


By Bella Larralde, Photos courtesy of Erin Walter

What started as a simple jam session amongst advocate Erin Walter and her neighbors has since transformed into an activism movement that echoes off the walls of the Capitol (quite literally). Parker Woodland is the bridge between an activist’s mission and her fight for justice.

The Background

Growing up in the Travis Heights neighborhood of Austin, Walter was raised in a musical family. Her grandpa was a piano teacher, her cousin a choir director and her uncle had a bar band that played all around Texas. With music no stranger in her life, it prompted Walter to adapt her musical capabilities herself and start singing in church. Attending Northwestern University and majoring in journalism, she found that it was the ultimate segue between her passions.

“I was a city reporter for the Statesman. I did some music and feature writing, and it connected my passion for writing and music and justice,” Walter explains.

Life led her in a different direction when she became the minister and executive director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry. As a result, her focus shifted to mobilizing people of faith for justice causes in Texas.

“Since I am a minister, I remember my mentor saying to me that I needed to find a way to express myself about both the pain that is in my life and the joy,” recalls Walter.

Social Justice Displays

Walter’s work with the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry (TXUUJM) focuses on racial justice, health care access, environmental justice, economic justice and voting rights, to name some of the causes closest to her heart. Every legislative session, Unitarian Universalists from all over the state gather and have a legislative action day, where they speak on issues that matter.

“We reserved the Capitol rotunda, and they only let you have music,” says Walter. “They don’t let you get a mic and talk about your issues. So, I said, ‘Well, that’s great. We can reserve the rotunda, and we will sing civil rights music and make our hymns contextualize our issues.’”

austin-woman-erin-walter-Photo courtesy of Texas Freedom Network (1)

A Tradition of Activism

TXUUJM’s tradition of singing in the capitol includes actions in partnership with organizations like Border Network for Human Rights, the Texas Poor People’s Campaign, Texas Freedom Network, Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas.

Photo courtesy of Texas Freedom Network

A tradition was formed, and in 2019 and 2023, Walter continued to the Capitol and brought awareness through song.

“[The All in for Equality coalition] held a sing-in outside the house of chamber in support of transgender kids and LGBTQ+ rights,” Walter recalls.

Not only do they sing hymns and other songs at the Capitol. Walter and fellow activists often bust out Parker Woodland’s 2023 single “I Am Willing,” a cover originally recorded by fellow musical activist Holly Near in 2006.

Parker Woodland

Combining her new mission and her love of music one fateful afternoon in 2018, between the streets of Parker Lane and Woodland Avenue, a couple of neighbors and Walter decided to host a jam session, and Parker Woodland was created. Today, bandmates include Andrew Solin on guitar and Keri Cinquina on drums.
“I’d say we must have become a band and announced ourselves in 2019,” Walter says. “I wrote just at home the first nine songs that we had, over the course of a few months.”

Those nine songs became Parker Woodland’s first two EPs, Live from Love Hill and The World’s on Fire (And We Still Fall in Love), which were released throughout the pandemic in 2021.

“I like to say that I am joy and hope oriented,” says Walter. “But the fact that there is a lot that is wrong in the world. This became the spark for our theme song, ‘The World’s on Fire (And We Still Fall in Love).’ It is about us not turning away from injustice but also immersing ourselves in the beauty and joy of the community.”
Classifying themselves as emotionally charged anthemic rock, Parker Woodland combines multiple themes within their music. Spanning topics such as social justice, heartbreak, female angst, personal memories and patriarchy, Walter makes sure her music is listenable for everyone.

“My lens of justice and equity informs all the songs we make,” Walter explains. “I think about what gender or what pronouns I am using or what language used trying to make sure that I don’t use ableist language.”
“I Am Willing” details the struggles of the community everyone, from youth to the elderly, goes through. This song demonstrated how Walter’s way of showing up musically for justice interconnects with the music of Parker Woodland.

“I hope people feel uplifted and like they are a part of something. Parker Woodland as a band, and our music, is really about community.”

The Future

Parker Woodland is set to release their first full album later this year. Walter offers a sneak peek of upcoming song “Makeup” when reflecting on her favorite track on the album. She described it as a way to honor transgender kids and their fight for equality and accessible health care.

“It means to know who you are and be who you are,” she proclaims. “While trans kids inspire it, I hope it’s a message that will resonate with anyone—women, people of color, queer people and the people who aren’t the dominant culture. Everybody struggles with what it means to be your full and true self in the world. I believe it, and I hope it’s a song that can speak to everyone.”

austin-woman-parker-woodland-Photo by David Brendan Hall

Just like reading between the lines, Walter’s lyrics expose both her dedication to her community tied with her connection to music. Other than being a rockstar activist, Walter is also involved in many organizations. Some roles include past board president of Girls Rock Austin—an organization targeted to help empower womxn, girls, trans and gender-expansive individuals through music education mentorship and self-care—and currently residing on the advisory board for the SIMS foundation, which provides mental health and substance recovery for music-affiliated parties and their dependent family members. She also serves on the board of Texas Impact, an interfaith justice organization.

“I believe in inspiring and supporting young people in their musical journey and being a positive force in the community.”

Find out more about Erin Walter & Parker Woodland

Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry
Parker Woodland’s official website



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