INTERVIEW: Sharon Van Etten | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Besides ranking among 2019’s most celebrated thus far, new album Remind Me Tomorrow has marked a significant shift for Sharon Van Etten, both from a musical and personal standpoint. Together with its expanded array of sounds and textures, the record has drawn praise for its fresh, optimistic outlook – a trait owing heavily to the Brooklyn singer-songwriter’s newfound life as a mother.

“I’m still learning the balance, in case you haven’t guessed!” she confesses, during a phone call riddled with background commotion. “We’re hanging with the grandparents, and my three-year-old is here,” she explains: “We’re relocating to California – I’ve lived in New York for the past 15 years. All of our things are in storage and we’re living in a family beach house right now in-between tours. It’s pretty hectic!”

Despite her demanding schedule the singer is in a buoyant mood, riding her latest surge of acclaim and clearly looking forward to impending jaunts across Europe and the US – the former of which features an eagerly anticipated show at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre & Opera House on Tuesday 20th August. “There’s always a bit of nervousness when you put out a record, especially when you’ve taken chances sonically and production-wise like we did,” she muses. “I didn’t want to alienate any of my fans, but I wanted to challenge myself as well as them – pushing the envelope with my writing and performance.”

There’s always a bit of nervousness when you put out a record, especially when you’ve taken chances sonically and production-wise like we did

Among the key moments in this process was the decision to abandon her guitar – a commitment that’s extended to the current live tour: “It’s a different style of expression,” she reveals. “I’m learning how to perform without holding or hiding behind anything – addressing the audience more; making eye contact at certain points; having more energy onstage and being a lot more direct. Most of my bandmates are new for this record too, so it’s been a learning curve for all of us.” The material itself, however, has provided something of a release – not least for a songwriter long-famed for her forlorn and bruised romantic reflections. “Melodically my songs have always challenged me – but I think for my headspace these have been liberating, as they’re coming from a much more positive place. All of my songs have positive messages, but a positive frame of mind goes much further – it helps to keep the tour going as much as it does individual shows.”

Our conversation turns to Heather Woods Broderick, Sharon’s long-time backing singer who’ll also be the upcoming tour’s opening act. “It’s amazing how much we’ve grown together as singers, but she’s developed and experimented so much as an artist in her own right, and her new record [Invitation] is so beautiful,” she enthuses. “I keep encouraging her to tour outside of ‘The SVE Unit;’ I don’t want to lose her as a bandmate, but I also want her to get out there!”

As our focus turns to the future, Sharon admits her evolution as an artist can’t help but be informed by her current phase. “I’m learning how to prioritise time better,” she concludes. “I have a couple of keyboards here which I’m experimenting with… I haven’t really had time to think about the next record – but I know that this period is going to be key to whatever happens next, that’s for sure!”

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