Sharon Van Etten iimbues her songs with the naked emotion that other singer-songwriters might iron out of their recordings. She wants us to hear the humanity of her work, the imperfections that make it palpable, the longing and heartache we’ve all nursed at some point.
As a musician, as a songwriter, and a player, how has your processed changed from how you wrote songs and performed them back then to how you do things now?
Sharon Van Etten: Honestly, they all start from the same place. Over the years I’ve honed it a little bit, realizing what it is. I always write from a place of therapy, and whenever I’m feeling something, I sit down and come up with a chord progression and a melody and then I let myself go stream-of-conscious. Now, I can look at it and understand what it is that I’m trying to say and then think of the things that I’m saying subconsciously and shape that into more of a song, and be able to consciously admit to myself what it is I’m going through: Obviously, having a kid and being happy and trying to pursue a career, I mean the realities of what’s ahead of you is heavier than some people will admit to themselves.
I feel like that’s going to be a big change for me. Literally, next week I’m about to go into the studios to start recording my next record. As I’m talking to you, with a bottle in my baby’s mouth and oatmeal all over my hands, I think about how hard it’s going to be to step away and go back to work and the state of the world and what I have to offer this guy. My perspective has changed in that way, but my process is the same, maybe now it’s just whittled down to 20-minute increments. I’m just squeezing in that time in different places now.
I’m a Pisces and a wanderer by nature, but I feel like I’m the kind of person that needs a little bit of structure. Not to say that I have a baby who’s structured, but I’m excited to see how we both develop, as we learn about each other’s schedule, and as we both progress this year and for our lifetime.