Q&A: Sharon Van Etten Talks the Genesis of “Love More,” Recording Her New Epic, and Her Most Memorable NYC Show


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing new and emerging MP3s from local talent.

Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten is a perfect blend of fragility and warmth; a comforting hyphen uniting classic love ballads and post-modern drones. Her second album, Epic (due October 5 via Ba Da Bing!), is in the same swirling, mystical vein of kindred spirits like Marissa Nadler and Larkin Grimm, but injects tender nature-walk folk with the decidedly urban magnificence of massive drone skyscrapers–a perfect balance of city bustle, forest-dwelling meditation, and the tornado of lovelorn emotions that live in between them. The album’s soaring final track, “Love More,” has been a cult item passed around the blogosphere for a few months now, and her 3:30 p.m. appearance at this year’s Pitchfork Fest all but guarantees an October of murmuring, well-deserved buzz. It’s no fluke. Listen how “Love More” rises from brittle to triumphant, starting with a tender harmonium drone and Van Etten’s cracked clarion coo and slowly building into a tidal wave of intricately weaved harmonies.

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What is “Love More” about?

What one would do for love, and how one can rise above the darkness. Also the friends that help you through it. My friends loaned me a harmonium. I never played one before. Writing a melody was really interesting around the drones because it leaves so much room for movement, yet I wanted to still keep the instrumentation subtle.

How was recording Epic different than recording 2009’s Because I Was In Love?

There were more friends involved and wanting to collaborate. There were more instruments at my disposal. I had another singer, Cat Martino, to bounce ideas off of. She is so intuitive. I’ve never been able to do that. And a guitarist and arranger, Jeffrey Kish, who helped me map out my song–which was around 11 minutes when we went into the studio.

Tell me about the importance of drone in your music. How do you get that wild drone after the first “Love More” chorus?

The drone in this particular song is important because it conveys some kind of mourning or loss, while the melody hopefully celebrates over that to the listener. The drone leaves more room for the vocal lines–it lets the harmonies swim around it. The drone you mention is Jeffrey Kish on his guitar with the Space Echo. And we will never be able to replicate that sound.

What atmosphere do you like in the studio when you record?

I like to be comfortable. I am used to being alone so I can let my guard down. It’s only been recently I am finding I can let my guard down with some people I work with. It’s taken some time to get to the know them and have them know me where I don’t feel insecure about my process or material. It is really important for me to be relaxed so the ideas still come naturally.

What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played in New York?

I have to say, there are a few, but one was with Eric Bachmann last winter. There was a blizzard and there was such a nice crowd at the Mercury Lounge for a late show in the city. The was like feet and feet of snow and fans happy to be there, shouting out Archers of Loaf songs til close. He held that room in the palm of his hand.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

Lately it’s a new place that was the old Black Betty. Now is it called The Commodore. Cheap drinks and soul food and good music.

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