Artist Spotlight: Sharon Van Etten

By Stephanie Holstein ’19

4d08848cSharon Van Etten came into my life at a very pivotal time. About a month ago, I had the usual sophomore slump/existential crisis—What is my major? Where am I going? Where did my motivation to do anything at all go? The answer to this slump/crisis was MUSIC. Although I’ve been suspicious of the fact, I can now confirm that when I am in a music slump (listening to the same old stuff over and over again) it drastically effects my mood, similar to that feeling when your blood sugar is low, except 24/7.

So when fellow blog contributor, Jaqcueleen Eng, put “One Day” on one of our collaborative playlists (thank you Jacqueleen!!) it felt as if the clouds parted above my head and EVERYTHING made sense. For the next few days I explored Van Etten’s discography, and life, school, relationships, etc.—the whole gamut of my existence—was not only validated but explained. Things that had been troubling me for quite awhile felt more manageable after listening to her lyrics. Not only has she experienced similar feelings of happiness, heartbreak, and uncertainty, she sings about it all so eloquently that it made it a lot easier to evaluate certain aspects of my life and either revisit them, or eliminate them from my thoughts.

Hailing from Clinton, NJ, Van Etten attended Middle Tennessee State University, studying studio recording. Dropping out after one year, she began to write her own songs. One of the biggest sources of inspiration in her 2009 debut album, Because I Was In Love stems from a six-year-long relationship with a man in Tennessee who doubted her music ability, and of which Van Etten now describes as an abusive relationship. After positive reception by fans and critics of her first album, Van Etten continued to release albums every few years: epic (2010), Tramp (2012), and Are We There (2014). Her music is best characterized as an echo of the folk tradition, relying heavily on vocal harmonies, with heartfelt, poetic lyrics. Her voice is beautifully sorrowful, yet has a certain raspiness that is not only easy to relate to, but encapsulates the the rough edges of human emotion itself.

Here are a few more of my favorites. Plug in and drift out as Van Etten sympathizes and simplifies any problem you could possibly have, ever:

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