How much is Sharon Van Etten worth?
|Net Worth:||$10 Million|
|Date of Birth:||February 26, 1981|
|Country:||United States of America|
Who Is Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten is a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York. She sings slow, sad, incredibly-frank confessionals about life in a destructive relationship. Her doleful, slurring voice is comparable to Cat Power, and, like Chan Marshall, Van Etten favors double-tracked vocals, rich in harmony.
Born: 1981, Nutley, New Jersey
Key Albums:Because I Was in Love (2009), Epic (2010), Tramp (2012)
Van Etten grew up in a musical household, exposed to Kinks and Beatles records at an early age. She learnt clarinet and piano as a child, performed in school musicals and choir groups throughout her youth, and began teaching herself to play guitar and write songs as a teenager. “I felt better after every time that I sang, but I didn’t exactly know why,” she said, of her first bouts of songwriting.
Van Etten left New Jersey, in 1999, to attend Middle Tennessee State, where she hoped to study to be a live sound engineer. Dropping out after a year due to being “not a good student,” Van Etten managed an all-ages, vegetarian café/printing-studio/record-store space in Murfreesboro. Yet, Van Etten didn’t perform herself.
“I tried to pursue music, but the guy I was seeing wasn’t at all supportive,” Van Etten would explain. /;So, I just had to keep it secret, and write and play in my room. Then, whenever he would go out of town, I’d go play an open-mic… and just explode. Like: ‘I’ve been holding this in for so long! He’s finally gone!’ I worried that it was too much for people.”
After years caught in the destructive relationship, Van Etten eventually returned to her family home, in 2004, and sought to put her life back together. Using music as therapy, Van Etten wrote a host of confessional songs about being held prisoner in a destructive relationship, and, with her family’s support, began playing live.
Van Etten also began making home-recorded, self-released CDRs of her songs, and passed one on to TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, whose brother Van Etten had been friends with in high school. “He said, ‘You need to move to New York,'” Van Etten recounted, to AV Club. “He helped book my first couple of shows, he introduced me to venues in New York-he really gave me my start in Brooklyn. I feel really lucky.”
Another fortuitous home-made CD ended up with Philadelphia acid-folk outfit Espers. It proved fortuitous: vocalist Meg Baird would take Van Etten on tour with her, and guitarist/producer Greg Weeks would eventually roll tape on Van Etten’s debut album.
In 2009, Van Etten released Because I Was in Love; produced by Weeks and released on his Language of Stone imprint. The album kept Van Etten’s songs stark and spooky, with the songwriter’s double-tracked harmonizing on every line, and teasing out every syllable.
That year, Van Etten also sang on The Antlers’ breakout record Hospice, which was universally lauded as one of the albums of 2009.
By 2010, Van Etten’s music was attracting notable listeners: both Bon Iver and The National covering Van Etten songs live. A Take Away Show performance, an opening-act slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and a support stint for José González’s band Junip all increased Van Etten’s profile.
This lead to the release of Van Etten’s second LP, Epic. The album found Van Etten shaking off any nervousness and delivering a commanding set punctuated by the stark naked “Love More,” a tale of being kept prisoner in a relationship set only to a wheezing harmonium.
Following the release of Epic, Van Etten found herself playing gradually larger shows; opening for The Antlers, The National, and Neko Case, and collaborating on stage with Megafaun and Bon Iver. On Bon Iver’s recommendation, she signed to Jagjaguwar, and delivered 2012’s Tramp.
Produced by Aaron Dessner of The National —and featuring members of The National, The Walkmen, Wye Oak, and Julianna Barwick— tramp was a grander, more ambitious, more rockin’ set; with electric guitars and orchestral swells backing Van Etten’s sad songs.
Is She Really Going Out with Him?
Sharon Van Etten’s impressive debut album, Because I Was in Love, wore a title that was an answer to a question: why did you stay with him? A suite of songs unbroken in its sorrow, the album found Van Etten —in her glorious, doleful, honeyed voice— singing naught but sad, slow songs, all written when Van Etten was stuck in a destructive relationship.
Yet, for all the bravery of the text, the songs were at times opaque; their words evocative in indirect ways. A key to the narrative came with “I Fold,” whose tale of a spiritual/emotional/psychological breakdown found Van Etten referencing “the basement where [she] sang”; a location that spoke loudly of a life lived as prisoner. Yet it was just a glimpse into the heartache, one fragmented image shining clear. Because I Was in Love was an album more about the way Van Etten sung the words —the way she stretched vowels and rolled syllables, exploring every nuance of their sound— than the lyrics; which were evocative as sung, but not the sharpest text.
Two things have changed with Van Etten’s even-more-impressive second album, Epic. Firstly, the album features a far greater variety of musical moods. Secondly, its lyrics are now sharp as a tack. And, even better, these things work hand-in-hand.
On “Love More,” as Nico-esque harmonium gasps wheeze and splutter, Van Etten diagnoses herself with a kind of relationship Stockholm syndrome: tied to the bed, chained like a dog, growing ever more in love as the hours/days/years pass. On “Save Yourself,” as Nashville-esque dollops of sinuous pedal steel and saloon piano are piled on, Van Etten delivers its barbed refrain —”don’t you think I know/you’re only trying to save yourself”— with somewhat of a smirk. On “One Day,” as the songstress strums and pick-up piano and shuffling drums drape her in Laurel Canyon-like languor, she turns playful, and mocking, its refrain —”if you don’t leave me now/do you love me back?”— making it sound like a love-song, even when it’s anything but.
The tunes are bright and winning enough that their dark subtext could be lost; but the tenor of the set —and its confessional bent— is set on the opening gambit, “A Crime.” Just Van Etten and some lusty acoustic-guitar strums, it’s the most singer-songwritery type song, but there’s a sense of danger that rises it beyond the sad-girl-with-guitar archetypes. Again, Van Etten is “alone in the basement where [she] will write these songs,” singing the things she could never dare say.
Across the rest of Epic, there’s a feeling of courage won; “Save Yourself” and “One Day” daring to mock a man who, at other times, is pure captor. That sense of courage and conviction plays off the field, too: Van Etten, once a painfully shy performer, clearly having grown in confidence. Rather than confessionalist lost in catharsis, frightened to be singing such ugly sentiments, she now seems like a songwriter in total command of her craft, never to be bowed again.
From ‘Epic’ to Epic?
The transition from intimate confessionalist to something more expansive, more accessible, more stage-friendly can be difficult, charmless, thankless work. Often, it can be a mistaken evolution; or, at least, an unfortunate one, with the things that captured early listeners forsaken in pursuit of a bigger audience. Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten has been undergoing such a change. Since being introduced with 2009’s spartan, sad-hearted Because I Was In Love, Van Etten has been inching towards something bigger. First came 2010’s Epic, an LP whose title was only semi-ironic. Now comes Tramp.
Tramp takes its title from a peripatetic time in Van Etten’s life, where the songwriter —who’d previously been a publicist for New York’s Ba-Da-Bing! Records— was thrown into the life of the wandering minstrel; giving up her apartment and courting homelessness, with months upon months spent out on the road. There, she’d play her first outdoor-rock-festival stages, open for Neko Case, The National, and The Antlers, make a fan of Bon Iver. Van Etten would take command of a backing band, try to overcome her doubts, and make sense of how her music —so raw, so personal, so quiet— could become something bigger, broader, bolder.
The album was made throughout that time; Van Etten beginning work with National guitarist Aaron Dessner before Epic had even been released. The result is something fleshed-out, grander-sounding, more stacked with helping hands. The credits read like the Brooklyn All-Stars: Julianna Barwick, Beirut’s Zach Condon (for whom Van Etten once did PR), The Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett, and Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner all helping the Dessner brothers make an album that is bigger, broader, bolder.
First single “Serpents” was sent out to signpost that change, blazing a new trail that Tramp, as a whole, only partway picks up on. By that I mean: “Serpents” —a snarling, pissed-off rocker— is by far the loudest, most uptempo, most aggressive song on the LP. It served a warning that Van Etten was no doe-eyed singer-songwriter, that her latest record could rock enough for fans of The National’s brotastic angst. But it was, in comparison to the rest of the record, a little bit of a ruse; there’s still plenty of mournful, melancholy material herein.
For those who’ve taken Van Etten’s lyrics to heart thus far, “Serpents” is a notable marker of change (and not just because she wails “everything changes!” therein). It picks up on a subject familiar from the first two records —Van Etten’s time in an abusive relationship in Tennessee— but, instead of being written when trapped within it, comes from a perspective of hindsight; a final sign-off from someone who, years on, sounds pissed off at things that happened (“You enjoy sucking on dreams,” Van Etten barks, like an assault; “I had a thought you would take me seriously/listen up!”).
The Songwriter Authors the World Around Her
From there, the relationship that defined Van Etten’s early work —and gave Because I Was In Love its explanatory title— is dead and gone, no longer a uniting theme. If Tramp offers one —and its lyrics are open-ended enough to not— then it’s the songwriter measuring their existence through their songs.
“It’s bad to believe in any song you sing,” Van Etten sings, in “I’m Wrong,” whose dramatic slow-build is tangled up in domesticity, devotion, and an inability to communicate away from the guitar. “Stay home at night and read a book and finish songs that I hum along to all the time with you,” Van Etten sings, over the droning woodwinds and string, “but I don’t have words to say.”
It’s the most stirring example, but little lines add up. “The eyes in the back of the room” speak of a life on stage; “Leonard” a brassy self-critique (“I am bad at loving you”) whose title is more homage to Leonard Cohen than ode to beau; “Magic Chords” casting a minor-key spell in its embrace of facing up to (on stage?) failure. All this suggests a growing level of accomplishment for Van Etten, as artist, yet a growing self-awarness —if not self-consciousness— that was completely absent on her prior works.