When perusing the multitude of 2010 Best-of’s, you see a common name popping up. It’s no wonder that Sharon Van Etten enjoys a huge following from fans and critics alike. Occasionally described as neo-folk, her music drips with emotion and beauty in a genre that can so easily fall into maudlin, sentimental drivel. Sharon spent some time with TDOA writer Amy, to talk more about her craft.
TDOA: What did your work in the music industry teach you about what you wanted to do (or didn’t want to do) with your own work?
SVE: Working at a record label taught me that personal relationships are very important and transparency in business is vital. BaDaBing works very closely with their bands and adjusts their approach according to the artists’ wants and needs. Also, how relevant music blogs are to a large population of music fans. I was completely unaware of the blog world until I started working at BaDaBing (4 years ago)
TDOA: Your songs are deeply, deeply personal. Is it easy for you to share so much about yourself and your relationships? Does it come naturally?
SVE: I started writing as a way to deal with my own emotions (depression from heartbreak, etc…) and it was a method of healing for me. It is hard to share them with people sometimes.. because they are so personal… but I have tried writing in a way where it’s more relateable to people so they can heal withme.
TDOA: Has being a darling of the critics helped with the confidence troubles you were having at the beginning of your career?
SVE: Definitely. Although sometimes I wish I didn’t read some reviews… I don’t want to get a big head. But it’s nice to know that I am grouped with people I really admire and inspire me. That makes me smirk a bit.
TDOA: What was the experience of playing the Pitchfork Music Festival like? Did it open new doors?
SVE: I was terrified to play Pitchfork… especially since I was solo at a big outside event like that. I feared that people wouldn’t get the gist of the new songs solo… but I got the attention of some new listeners that may have not given my new album a chance otherwise.
TDOA: In 2010, we’ve seen a sort of resurgence of quality folk music. Who do you think is making the best music of the genre right now?
SVE: My favorites : Meg Baird, Mike Wexler, Alela Diane, Jolie Holland, Olaf Arnolds, Tiny Vipers
TDOA: Would you rather play solo or with a backing band? Why?
SVE: With my new songs, a band is the best. And it feels so good to rock out. I still love playing some songs solo, but those old songs aren’t really where my heart is right now… and I am working on new songs that are somewhere in the middle. It’s a different kind of cathartic release to play with a band and with my electric guitar.
TDOA: How has your journey through the music industry changed you, as a person? Your music?
SVE: Working at a small label out of an apartment has helped me realize that there are genuinely honest people in the industry – and to not be intimidated by someone because they are a musician I admire. Everyone is just a person and we’re all aiming for the same thing. We all are doing what we love and we are just trying to support those we care about.
TDOA: I read that your ex-boyfriend is kind of a dick. (I feel you, trust me) How has that “lesson” shaped you and your music?
SVE: Finally leaving him and having the confidence to perform live and having friends that have supported me are all things that help me to move on. ‘Because I was in Love’ was more about the bottom and ‘epic’ is more about me moving on from there. I am stronger person because of my ex. I am much more liberated and independent than I was before – and I think it is important to learn how to be so (specifically, in your 20s)
TDOA: Do you think that your songs would lose some of their edge if recorded in a studio?
SVE: The last two albums I did were recorded in the studio. I don’t think the instrumentation took away from the songs at all. I think there was just new light cast onto shadows that wasn’t there before.
TDOA: You’re touring Japan currently. What is the reception like there?
SVE: I had such an amazing time over there. Everyone is so polite and quiet and patient and hospitable. I am excited to go back there again next year with my band!
JAN 8 Bowery Ballroom New York, NY
JAN 19 Bar New Haven, Ct
JAN 20 Johnny Brenda’s Philly, Pennsylvan
JAN 21 Wexner Center Performance Space Columbus, OH
JAN 22 The 5 Spot Nashville, Tennessee
JAN 23 Broadways Asheville, NC