The word “tramp” has never been synonymous with beauty. But singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten has turned the word around to title her newest record. With Tramp, Van Etten manages something beautiful. She explores intense personal territory with entrancing tunes, matching emotional lyrics with layers of instrumentation that create a thick, almost dream-like sonic atmosphere. She recently took the time to talk to assistant Diversions editor Allison Hussey about the new record, her time on the road and women in the music business.
DIVERSIONS: What would you say the biggest differences are between Tramp and your earlier material?
h6 (liner mb). SVE AT CAT’S CRADLE:
Time: 9 p.m. Sunday
Location: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
SHARON VAN ETTEN: I think the content is a lot more confident, and I’m a lot more secure with who I am and what I’m doing. Also, I show a broader range of emotion, whereas before I only really … it was mostly sad, whereas now I feel like it’s more … I’m letting myself be angry. I’m not afraid to show people that I can be happy. It sounds simple, but it’s a broader range of emotion on this record. But also, sonically, we set the mood more with drones and sustains and random arrangements that I probably would have never done on my own.
DIVE: What has been your best experience on the road so far?
SVE: Finding the best swimming holes with my band when we have down time or when we need a break from the van. We found this really awesome website called swimmingholes.org, and I think it was actually on the border of North Carolina when we found it last fall. There was this really amazing truck stop that we found that had a really incredible pier, just a dock right off of the rest stop. Sometimes that’s just the best thing, when you’re kind of cooped up in a van and you’re kind of getting tired of each other, and all of a sudden you see this lake in the middle of nowhere and you kind of forget where you are for a minute. Moments like that are pretty great.
DIVE: You’re pretty closely connected to the Triangle, how did you make that connection?
SVE: I don’t know, there’s a bunch of levels. I got to tour with Bowerbirds and Megafaun a couple of times. I love them so much. I think Trekky Records is a really, really incredible label. And I think Hometapes, who, even though they live out west, they’re strongly connected to the Triangle, and that’s a great label as well. I used to live down south, so every time I visit North Carolina I just feel at home. It’s really comfortable. And everyone there is so friendly, it’s really disarming. I could see myself settling down there for sure. North Carolina is a pretty magical place.
DIVE: From my own observations, I’ve gotten the impression that a lot of the music industry is kind of a boy’s club. There are women in music, but they seem to be pretty few and far between. What has been your experience?
SVE: I actually feel like right now, there are lot of really amazing female-fronted bands. I think people are more critical of female-fronted bands because it’s so easy. Like, whenever you read comments or whatever, it’s always mostly sexual or how they got to where they are, and they don’t talk about the songs. And when they do talk about the songs, they usually give them s—t because we talk about our emotions more than men do. But that’s a ridiculous concept to me.
There’s so many unique voices right now coming out, like between Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), and Jana Hunter from Lower Dens, and the bands Callers and She Keeps Bees — women that actually have really unique voices and are in really incredible bands that are doing something new and different that I feel like we haven’t seen in a really long time. And I feel like this is going to be a really powerful year for female-centered bands.
Although I want to say it’s a boy’s club, I just feel like there just needs to be more encouragement for women and more support by critics and stop trying to make it about sexuality, because it’s really not about that at all in most cases.
DIVE: What is something that you think people should know about you or your music?
SVE: When I write, it comes from a therapeutic place. I write whenever I’m going through something intense, and whenever there’s something to share that’s general enough where I think people can grow from my experiences, then I turn it into a song.
So it’s really like self therapy when I start writing, but it turns into a song when I feel like it’s more than that. Performing it is really like going through that all over again.
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