The key to Sharon Van Etten’s appeal is her subtlety. It’s in the quiet and comforting harmonies she layers upon her own voice on her latest album, “Epic” and it’s in the lyrics that seem so forthright upon first listen, and reveal a deeper vulnerability once reconsidered.
Phrases like “Don’t leave me now, you might love me back” and “Please don’t make me sure I’m not your gal” resonate with an aching that’s not immediately detectable from Van Etten’s fearless voice.
“It’s not something I try to do, but it’s what I naturally do,” she says of the way she crafts her lyrics to creep forward from the subconscious. She says it’s due to her songwriting process. Van Etten initially records a 10-minute version of whatever melodic idea she’s working on, which is “very stream-of-conscious” and that leads to her finding the song within.
“Typically when I’m feeling something intense that I need to vent about or analyze, the only way I can really look at something is after I’ve written a song for me,”?she says. “Then I listen back to it and edit it, and it’s like ‘Oh, that’s what I’m trying to say.’ And then I try to write in a way that’s more generalized so that people can understand where I’m coming from and relate to it.”
‘One day I’ll be fine with that’
Van Etten’s songs are not just meditations of self-discovery. A lot of what makes “Epic” so easy to relate to are her heartbreaking efforts to learn the true nature of others: “I’m still friends with people that I’ve dated that I once was in love with,” she says. “Just because you weren’t meant to be together doesn’t mean that you’re not supposed to know that person or that you can’t take away something from that.”