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Interview: Sharon Van Etten

New Yorker Sharon Van Etten is a song-writer or rare courage and honesty. Her 2012 break through album ‘Tramp’ ranked right up the top of many end of year lists (our own included) and from that place of universal acclaim she did something unpredictable, she decided to produce her new album herself. She took the reigns and just told it as is, right from the heart.

We like your handwriting. I am sure you’re used to seeing your pictures in record shops, but did it feel funny to see your writing on the wall?
It’s comforting that people are connecting to it. It’s important to me that no matter what I am very hands on with artwork and keep it as personal as possible.

Which was the first shop you saw ‘Are We There’ for sale in? How did it feel to have completed that part of the journey?
I first saw it for sale at Other Music in New York City. It is one of my favorite record stores, so I was definitely tickled.

Some of the album lyrically makes for hard hearing in it’s frankness (Pitchfork went as far as “excruciatingly confessional”) - Are there things you’ve said you’d like to take back? Are there people who you don’t want to hear them?

I have no regrets. I feel badly for anyone I hurt along the way, but it is all coming from a place of love.

Your Love is Killing Me’ has been my favourite song from any album this year. I can’t concentrate on anything else whilst it plays. Do you feel like you managed to truly capture something there?
It is ALL about the performance on that one. It had started as unrelentless and we only built upon that energy.

What was the most important thing you learned from producing the album?
That I can be a leader as long as I trust the people around me. I learned how to communicate better and I am continuing to do so.

You tipped us (non-directly) off last year about Torres, so we’re very keen to hear what you’ve been into.
War on Drugs, Natureboy, She Keeps Bees, Brianna Lea Pruitt, Sam Amidon, Perfume Genius, Lyla Foy, & Tinry Ruins... to start...

I really enjoyed your vocals on the She Keeps Bees album. How did that come about? How did it differ from recording your own album?
They are old friends of mine. We go way back - early New York days. They asked me to sing on their record and I was THRILLED. I am a huge fan and have a lot of respect for their work ethic.

Is ‘Are We There’ exactly as you intended it? As you crafted all aspects of it could you see it in your head before you began?
Some songs are exactly what I heard in my head, and some came out even better - and as of a surprise. I am very proud of this album.