Q&A with Sharon Van Etten

photo courtesy of Sharon Van Etten


Sharon Van Etten has a beautiful, pure, at times haunting voice, which she uses to bring her dark, hypnotic songs to glorious life. Her songs are vocal and guitar driven, dreamy, dark, moody rock with a folk influence. The Brooklyn-based Van Etten has released three albums to date- 2009’s Because I Was In Love, 2010’s Epic, and this year’s Tramp. She is currently on tour of the U.S., and in December will head to Europe and Australia. Sharon Van Etten plays DC’s 930 Club this Thursday, October 25th. Amidst her chaotic tour schedule she took a few minutes to answer some questions from We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman.


Alexia Kauffman: How did you start playing music?

Sharon Van Etten: I took piano lessons, violin lessons, clairinet lessons, then I was in choir and musicals.

Alexia: What music did you grow up listening to?

Sharon: Neil Young, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez (parents)
Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Screaming Trees, Guns ‘n Roses (brother)
Julianna Hatifeld, Lemonheads, Mazzy Star (sister)
PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Sonic Youth, Frente, Murmurs, Portishead

Alexia: Was there any artist or album that first made you fall in love with music/rock?

Sharon: Neil Young

Alexia: How did you start writing music?

Sharon: By making up words ad singing to chords I didn’t know existed yet. It was terrible.

Alexia: What inspires you?

Sharon: Everything. Love.

Alexia: Are there any singers that have been really influencial to you?

Sharon: PJ Harvey, Rufus Wainwright

Alexia: You’ve been touring a lot- do you have any favorite or really memorable moment from tour?

Sharon: Getting stuck in the mud at a festival and having the tow-truck get stuck and we had to get another tow-truck to get the two of us out. Ha!

Alexia: If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?

Sharon: PJ Harvey

Alexia: I saw that you worked with The National’s Aaron Dessner on your latest album, Tramp- what was the experience of making this album like?

Sharon: Working with Aaron was amazing. He pushed me to try new things and he helped my ideas flourish in his instrumentation.

Alexia: Who are you listening to these days?

Sharon: Angel Olsen, TEEN, Triffids, Nick Cave, The Rolling Stones, Robyn Hitchcock, John Cale.

Alexia: What’s on the horizon for you?

Sharon: I have three more tours: US, Europe, then Australia. Then in January I am taking a three-month break to decompress, rest, write, and hopefully record. I really miss having a normal life.


Check out Sharon’s song “Warsaw” and “Serpents” from her latest album, Tramp. See Sharon Van Etten live this Thursday, October 25th at the 930 Club!

Sharon Van Etten
w/Damien Jurado
get tickets here!

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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