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Sharon Van Etten

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Title: Sharon Van Etten  
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Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten in 2010
Background information
Birth name Sharon Van Etten
Born (1981-02-26) February 26, 1981 [1]
Clinton, New Jersey, United States
Origin Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres Indie rock, folk, folk rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments harmonium
Years active 2007 - present
Labels Jagjaguwar, Ba Da Bing, Language Of Stone
Associated acts The Antlers, Shilpa Ray, The National, Beirut, The Walkmen, Wye Oak, Julianna Barwick, Shearwater
Website .comsharonvanetten

Sharon Van Etten (born February 26, 1981) is an American singer-songwriter[2][3] from Brooklyn, New York.[4][5][6][7]

Early life

Sharon Van Etten was born in Clinton, New Jersey[8] the daughter of a history teacher, Janice Van Etten, and a computer programmer, Stephen Van Etten.[9][10] Sharon Van Etten is the middle of five children, an older brother, two sisters Jessica and Laura, and a younger brother Pete.[10]

Van Etten grew up in Nutley, New Jersey,[4] where she lived at the corner of Prospect and Vreeland streets, attending Yantacaw Elementary School.[11] She studied clarinet, violin, and piano.[11] In 6th grade she was part of a choir called The Mini Singers.[12]

Her family later moved to Clinton, New Jersey, where she attended North Hunterdon High School.[13] She taught herself to play guitar.[12] Van Etten said she began to take her singing more seriously in high school.[1] She was part of the high school choir group, The Madrigals, who performed a lot of classical pieces. Van Etten credits this training with how she learned how to write and sing harmonies.[12][14]

She moved to Tennessee to attend Middle Tennessee State University and studied recording, but dropped out of college after a year. Van Etten ending up working at the Red Rose, a coffee and record shop and music venue in Murfreesboro, for about five years.[5][15] Van Etten said she was writing songs then, but did not perform publicly.[11][16] Van Etten said her boyfriend at the time wasn't very supportive of her and didn't think highly of her musical abilities.[10] After six years of what she now describes as an abusive relationship, she moved back to New Jersey to live with her parents.[14][17]


After moving back home to New Jersey and working at Perryville Wine and Spirits,[11] Van Etten saved up enough money to move to Brooklyn in 2005,[18] where she was encouraged by Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio to pursue a career in music.[19] Malone said she'd approached him at one of his shows and gave him a CD-R of her songs. Van Etten was friends with Malone's brother, Colin, in high school.[5] Malone normally doesn't listen to fan submissions, but he enjoyed her work. "Really very arresting. She just sends me," he said.[20] Malone ended up playing Van Etten on his Guest DJ set for NPR's All Songs Considered.[21][22]

Van Etten self-released several recordings prior to her debut studio recording.[23][24] The hand-painted images used on the covers were also sold as postcards and on T-shirts.[15] She worked as a publicist at Ba Da Bing Records,[25] a job she got via a friend, Alicia Savoy, who she went to college with in Tennessee. She started out as an intern and worked her way up to being a full-time publicist.[15][26]

Van Etten said that Jeffrey Davison, a deejay on WFMU who has a show called Shrunken Planet, was the first person to play one of her homemade CDs on his show. Van Etten has become close to Davison and his wife, who have her over for record listening evenings.[15]

Because I Was in Love

Sharon Van Etten
(Newport Folk Festival 2012)

Van Etten's official debut, Because I Was in Love, was released on May 26, 2009, on Language of Stone, and was manufactured and distributed by Drag City.

In 2008, Van Etten had gone on tour opening for [27]


On September 21, 2010, she released her second album epic on Ba Da Bing Records. The record features Meg Baird, Cat Martino, and Jessica Larrabee on backing vocals.[22] NPR described it as possessing "a fuller sound compared to the super-spare arrangements on her first two self-produced albums, but epic still feels incredibly intimate, with lots of room to breathe and unfold."[22]

epic features the song "Love More," which is characterized by its use of harmonium and guitarist and arranger, Jeffrey Kish on guitar with the Space Echo.[14][28]


Sharon Van Etten (January 6, 2013)

Her third studio album, Tramp, was released on February 7, 2012, on Jagjaguwar. Tramp was produced by The National's Aaron Dessner, and recorded in his studio from October 2010 to July 2011.[29] The album features guest appearances from Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Matt Barrick, Zach Condon, and Jenn Wasner.[30]

In regard to the album's guest appearances, Van Etten told American Songwriter magazine, "People may think 'They got this star-studded cast,' but what it boils down to is that they're friends that wanted to participate on this record."[29] Tramp debuted at No. 75 on the Billboard 200 charts.

The record has been described, compared to her prior records, as having "a professional polish, with layered vocal harmony, electric and acoustic guitars, organ, ukelele, and drums. Most songs follow the classic arc: quiet beginning with an instrument or two, a gradual increase in volume and complexity, followed by a peak, and a quiet denouement."[31]

Are We There

May 2014 brought about the release of Van Etten's fourth record, Are We There on Jagjaguwar.[32] Van Etten self-produced the record with Stewart Lerman. The record includes Torres' Mackenzie Scott, Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg, Lower Dens' Jana Hunter and Efterklang affiliate Peter Broderick. Van Etten said some of the instruments in the recording of the album were used by John Lennon and Patti Smith.[33] The album was recorded at Hobo Sound Studios in Weehawken, New Jersey, and at Electric Lady Studios in New York City.[34]


Musical style

Van Etten's music is characterized by a heavy use of harmonies.[2] Van Etten's songs were described by the music website Pitchfork Media as having "echoes of folk tradition."[23] NPR Music asserts: "Her songs are heartfelt without being overly earnest; her poetry is plainspoken but not overt, and her elegant voice is wrapped in enough rasp and sorrow to keep from sounding too pure or confident."[22]




  • 2007: "Much More Than That" / "Over Your Shoulder" by Sharon Van Etten (7") - Abaton Book Company, Lost Lathe Series (limited edition: 30 hand-numbered copies)[38]
  • September 10, 2010: "I'm Giving Up on You" / "You Didn't Really Do That" by Sharon Van Etten (7") - Polyvinyl Record Company – PRC-206 (limited edition: 500 copies on black vinyl)[39]
  • April 2013: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" / "A Wake for the Minotaur" (7") by Shearon Van Ettenwater (Subpop) - a collaboration between Van Etten and Shearwater for Record Store Day 2013 (limited edition: 1,000 copies)[40][41][42]
  • January 2015: "I Don't Want to Let You Down" by Sharon Van Etten (Digital) - Jagjaguwar [43]

Other contributions

Personal life

Van Etten lives in Brooklyn, New York.[7]

Van Etten has many tattoos: "three black armbands in memory of relatives who have died, an African violet symbolising her maternal grandmother, a fairy, a guitar and a number of others."[10]

Before becoming a musician, she was training to be a sommelier, working as a manager at a New York City wine store for three years.[10]


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  48. ^ "Life Along the Borderline: A Tribute to Nico", BAM. Accessed 4 August 2014.
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External links

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