+5 Interview w/ Sharon Van Etten


Those Who Dig loves interviewing our favorite artists as much as the next awesome music blog. We just like to spice things up a bit. Thus was born the +5 Interview. First, we find out all the fascinating music-related info we wanted to know about an artist. Then, we throw caution to the wind and get a little car-razzeee with 5 short, out-there questions to reveal the soul of an artist (or at least find out what kind of sandwiches they dig).

Sharon Van Etten – A Crime

Sharon Van Etten – Love More

It's safe to say that no album this year truly meant more to me on an intimate, emotional level than Sharon Van Etten's epic. High praise, I know, but sometimes an album flies in from the vastness of undiscovered music space and sweeps you completely off your feet. Van Etten easily inserted herself into my top albums of the year and I continue to listen to epic night after night.

With all this in mind, I can't even begin to describe how thrilled and giddy like a schoolgirl I was to have the opportunity to talk to Sharon. It's moments like this that I remember why I devote so much love and time into music bloggerin'. Alright, enough fanboy gushing, on with the show!


Those Who Dig : When did you start playing music and realize you had such an amazing voice? How long before you realized music would be your profession?

Sharon Van Etten : I started off in choirs. I loved singing harmonies. Then, I did musicals. Then, I realized I wanted to start writing my own songs. My high school friends always encouraged me, but my parents wanted me to go to school for something safe; so I went to M.T.S.U for recording… but dropped out before I got very deep into the program. I then got a job at The Red Rose. A really great all ages venue in Murfreesboro, TN and got schooled in indie rock by the staff that worked there and the bands that played there.

I know Kyp Malone was a great mentor for you breaking into the music scene. Who would you say were your biggest influences growing up and now?

Growing up I listened to my parents' music : The Kinks, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, The Everly Brothers, Leslie Gore… and then music my friends turned me onto : Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Ani DiFranco, Amiee Mann, Portishead, Tori Amos, The Lemonheads … and my own discoveries : Elastica, R.E.M, Liz Phair, Frente, The Murmurs…

What’s your songwriting process? Lyrics, harmonies, or melody first?

Melody and guitar usually first, and I write stream of consciousness lyrics as a form of self therapy. I have a hard time communicating my emotions with people and so I starting writing lyrics to solve my own inner conflicts…

Epic is an intensely emotional album. Was its recording a cathartic experience for you?

Definitely… because not only were my friends helping me to discover the depth of my songs I wasn't able to communicate in my demos… but I realized it was possible for me to communicate in that environment with other people and gave me the courage to finally start playing in a band context. Unbelievable experince. (Thank you, Brian McTear!!!)

How did the music evolve on epic with the inclusion of a band and varied instrumentation?

We started with the bare bones of what I knew I wanted : vocals, guitar… Then I knew I wanted drums and gave Andy LaPlant vague ideas of what I wanted and he nailed it… I always have harmonies ready, but wanted two very specific voices : Jessica Larrabee (of She Keeps Bees) and Cat Martino. After that we would listen to the natural dynamics that were happening and we all just gave ideas out. Mostly Brian and I … but we had some key players added like Dave Hartley (War on Drugs, Nightlands) who added bass lines that KILLED me and lifted the songs in a way I didn't think possible and Brian Christinzio (BC Camplight) played keys to lighten everything up… and I just can't thank Meg Baird (Espers) enough for going crazy on the Space Echo for Don't Do It… I could go on and on… it was a musical playground that I've never played on before.

You’re about to set out for a big tour. Do you enjoy the road life?

I am still learning how to do it… but I love my band and we have such a great time together. We love meeting people and seeing new places and having random adventures… This will be our biggest one yet, with an added guests Julianna Barwick from New York and Little Scream from Toronto. So excited!

Working on any new material for your hordes of eager fans?

Yes, I am going over new demos with Aaron Dessner (The National) and we've been in and out of their Ditmas Park home studio for the last few months.

Plus 5:

Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan?

Johnny Cash

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Pepper Turkey (sliced thin) and Provolone on rye w/ Tomato, Lettuce, Mayo

Who would you play with in your fantasy concert (alive or dead)?

PJ Harvey or REM or Neil Young or a Megaband of all

What director would you want to score a film for?

Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen

Aliens or Predators?