In 2014, Sharon Van Etten released Are We There, which Rolling Stone gave four stars, saying it grew the singer-songwriter’s “trademark examinations of romantic decay to cathedral-like scale.” Contributing editor Rob Sheffield still calls it “one of the great albums of the century.”
But just a year after its release, Etten pretty much disappeared from music. In the new installment of our Morning Sessions interview series, Etten tells Sheffield what she’s been up to. A lot, it turns out: She went to grad school to work towards a degree in psychology so she ca be a therapist, she took an acting role in Netflix’s The OA, and she fell in love with her drummer and had a child. “I kind of laughed at life, but said ‘you know what? These are all things I want to do and want to figure out how to do it,” she says.
Now, Etten is back with Remind Me Tomorrow (out January 18), an album that completely upends her sound. Instead of building her songs around guitar crescendos, she veered away from the instrument and wrote on synths, keyboards, drones and drums. The sound – inspired by Nick Cave, Portishead and Suicide – is propulsive, upbeat and unlike anything she’s ever done. “I have a lot more perspective,” she says of the lyrics. “It’s a reflection of where I am in my life – how happy I am, what a good place I’m in, and how fucked up the world is.” The first single, “Comeback Kid,” can be heard now.
Van Etten full of humor during her talk with Sheffield – she even shares a bit from the stand-up act she tried out while living in Los Angeles – but she also talks about the toll heavy touring took on her relationships, as she tried to reconnect with loved ones after long stretches on the road. “You try to pick up where you left off but a lot of people move on,” she says. “Taking a break and paying attention to what’s important … and made me realize how much I’ve grown”