Sharon Van Etten is a singer and songwriter who’s put out five albums. She's also an actress—she’s in The OA and Twin Peaks. Her most recent album, Remind Me Tomorrow, came out in January 2019.
In this episode, Sharon breaks down a single from that album called “Seventeen.” She shares the original demo she made with the song’s co-writer Kate Davis, and we’ll hear from producer John Congleton, who helped craft Sharon’s new, more electronic sound.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Sharon Van Etten as a singer and songwriter has put out five albums she's, also an actress she's in the o, a and twin peaks. Her most recent album remind me tomorrow, came out in January, two thousand and nineteen in this
the sword sharing breaks down a single from that album called seventeen. She shares the original demo she made with the songs, Corredor Kate Davis in will here
play. Sir John Congleton, who helped Craft Sharon's new more electronic sound
We've also got a new segment, we're introducing for the first time called. This is instrumental
stick around after the full song to hear the conversation I had was sharing about her current favorite instrument, but first here's Sharon Van Etten on how she made the song. Seventeen
My name is Sharon Van Etten,
When I started writing seventeen, I was spending more time in New York and exploring other sides of being
creative person me.
With other writers and trying to collaborate on songs together, which I have never done before, because I'm
a solo writer. Usually I like to be by myself and make MR
it's one, no one's looking, but
As a writer you get stuck sometimes, and I felt like to challenge myself as an artist I needed.
to work with other people, to hear what they have to offer me because I wanted to learn,
I was just introduced to this songwriter Kate Davis and I liked her energy a lot and we were about to be set up on a blind date which,
Those writing sessions can sometimes feel like. I get no
just going into those sessions, so I usually have a tool to help get things started. If you don't really know somebody and
I idea for a song. It came for
we were walking around New York and walking by a place that I
to know is one thing and turn into something else, and then he starts sinking.
Your timing, where you're from and how things have changed, and I just kind of spiraled into this idea.
I sent her a very meandering version of a demo of this idea
and originally it was more of a country kind of dirge.
all the instruments on the demo, very
elementary style drums and guitar and bass and
The choruses kind of set- but I didn't really know what I wanted to stay quite yet.
so when she came, we kind of walk through the song and talked about what it meant to her and what it meant to me and finish: writing the lyrics together and then,
Instead of me singing the song, I had her perform the song for me, so
she sang the whole demo because
I know how I perform. I know my range, I know where I
it's safe and
I wanted to see if there is something in there I didn't hear before.
Now as first are writing. It was more being bitter about the changes that I've seen because I've been in
Your york for fifteen years and seeing one of your favorite venue
closer an old apartment being run down.
Zabulon was a music venue in Williamsburg and the first place when I moved there that I hung out at regularly.
You knew that you gonna run into one of your friends there. It was
a community centre for the neighborhood. You know
I was a really special spot and it's a restaurant now, and that is just
the New York story, but
Kate was arriving to the song with fresh eyes and
being the younger version of me in a weird way. She is bright eyed.
bullshit held tailed and excited about life and she's newer to New York than I am and hasn't seen the kind of changes that I've seen
She sang this one part with such intensity that it changed what the song meant to me at that point,
tears in my eyes when she sang that part, because
although we were really connecting on the song together, but with very different perspectives. The lira
I know what you're gonna be. I know that you're gonna be
crumble. It up, just to see afraid you'll be just like me,
and she belted it for her life like everything, is at stake and felt like, but
I did it with a smile on her face too and
that changed the way that I looked at those lines, you know just
an older sibling or your mother, telling you all these things that you don't really believe yet
The demo is done and it
is one of those songs that has risen through all the other demos as being the is going to make the record but
at really into synthesizers and in context of all the other songs that I started, writing I didn't know how it was going to fit in sonically. I got nervous the song wasn't going to make the record, because it was this country
kind of song, but
John Congleton to producer still saw something really special in it.
What I really liked was the sentiment of the song. The idea
If I sort of talking to your former seventeen year old self and
well, it's just a really well written song. I'm John Collinson record producer guy person,
Uncle John and I had talked in the past in his name- was brought up to me to work on the last record, but I wanted to be pretty hands on in the production and
I wasn't ready to let go of the songs, but
it in a moment in my life, where I just wanted to make things as simple as possible and have somebody
if the decisions for me
an already written the songs and if I was going to record
occurred myself than I would have made. This record sound like my last record, which I am proud of it, but I wanted to do something different. We got.
coffee ourselves, one morning, and we talked a little bit about music and she described to me what she wanted. The record to be here.
see what I was looking for and asked me what my influences were for this record. The reference
This report is suicide and Nick Cave
What's my fault, I want to be songs to feel really strong and and stomach and powerful l with a kind of an underlying Goff darkness.
Drones, a lot of base of dark sounds, and when I talk
his eyes just lit up, I feel like that,
would scare most people, especially knowing my music, but he got excited and I felt like he almost ticket as like a challenge like a dare or something
the version that I heard as a demo was a pretty fleshed out version, but dying
and much more of an americana style
a song that Sharon would have done in our early days, but she did
not want anything on the record to be something that sounded like a mirror
econo or something maybe that she had done in her past. I knew that the first
and to do would be to try to get it out of that feel. It was like.
have time kind of thing, but I
like it should have a double time feel. So I just
Mckenzie who played drums on that song and he started basically playing a solid like bass, drum pulse just that he did, and then he added the backbeat appointed to him, and I said that's great and we just started recording and then I laid down a basic keyboard progression. Just so people could see how the song was laid out.
and then I put a bunch of
drones and atmospheres.
The basically. So when the band would play, they would be informed by this sort of like menacing, sinister vibe, that Sharon had sort of described she wanted. I love all the wild mean, I don't know what to call them, but like all the squeals like it just feels
like fireworks in a wild way musical fireworks that is
something I made with a guitar and a bunch of pitch pedals totally. Just
messing around and I just grabbed a couple phrases that I liked and just threw it in the song in random places.
And when I
was getting notes back from the mixes. I remember someone said, can in turn the velociraptor down a little bit. I don't think
turned it down
the piano was recorded as sort of a harmonic guide for the band, and it was something that we maybe weren't, even sure if we were going to use. But there
the funny thing that happens whenever you have sort of all this alien texture surrounding
something, that's very sort of
Des strand and almost sort of working class it give
like a lot of gravitas to both sounds
One of my favorite things about the process, for this record was that I
He didn't want to bring my musicians in for a change. I had a
great time making my last record are we there but
Emotionally, having all your friends involved and wanting to have your ideas heard with, and also the balancing of letting the musicians express themselves to, you kind of
walking a line when you're working with friends. It's intense, so
He brought in all the musicians and I walk in and their already playing the song and they're just running through, and it sounds amazing divide at that point was like I'm going to work with the band and get this thing sort of percolating. So all she has to do is come in and react it was pretty man lying. I know that I could have at any moment said I dont like this or let's try this bed. There is never a moment where I have to say that she trusted me so much which, as a producer is such a gift. So there's a live performance of the drums and the symbols really come in at very specific moments in rock music to me, a lot of time symbols or like curse words, and if you use the curse words all the time. People just ignore you, but if you never curse and out of nowhere, you scream fuck, I assure you, everyone will notice that you ve done something and to me that's the same way I like to think about symbols and halfway through the song, there's like a break down where the back beat kind of goes away and then there's a second drum kid that comes in that's an overdose that was done by Brian rights. All he's hitting like a big concert, base drum and doing like these sort of extra rhythms on symbols. So it kind of gives it this more frenetic, energetic, anxious feeling coming out of that section.
My touring singer, Heather Woods, Broderick. She sings on the whole record.
Taylor, Swift, street
to be free. I
she has a really good ear, and sometimes, when we're singing together, we get lost because our voices complement each other so that we don't know who's singing, which part
we can do for five hundred,
and if we really wanted to on a track- and it makes sound like a wall of voices but
Try not to do that on this record, because I've done it so much in the past cuz. I feel
even when you try to enhance it with harmonies. Sometimes they do get buried and lost, and I wanted to be heard
I started the song just almost
like I was talking to somebody, because I
it kind of always imagined another person on the other side of that mic that I'm singing it to know chew on and say.
as a song built. I could feel myself getting more into it.
don't use the history I used to be in the team. I used to be seventeen. I just remember him telling me to just keep singing it harder. He's like this is a rock song. You know like you should belt it.
I'm not used to rocking out that hard
It was really really fun to channel kind of this Bruce Springsteen Energy that I am a big fan, but I have never gotten to express in front of people before as a
former singing songs like that, it's even more cathartic than I could have imagined, churn,
Is this very like evocative moment where she kind of goes sort of tuneless and starts screaming by the time?
it gets to that part. We wanted it.
to feel like an explosion, and two
here the agony of knowing something that somebody else doesn't
And and that explosive moment who are picturing singing too
me young, me York, that thought I knew everything.
But also envision. My mom just singing that to me too, you know
the more that I lived with it and worked on it. It felt, like
multi kind of generational song
I wish that I had listened to her when she would give me advice
His sir save it that I could be open,
with her, and I just I was so closed off and I did not accept like her help or guidance, and I thought I knew better.
For some reason. Whenever a parent gives you advice or says that they know, or they understand
The kid is, don't believe them that they ever were a human being. You know that,
there. I get an now, especially I have a son, I'm more and more, like my mother than I ever realized
I think, as you get older- and you have more and more hindsight- hopefully you can forgive
who you were. You can forgive yourself. You can have more of an understanding of where you are coming from and also where your parents were coming from
definitely a message to her to myself
apology, but it's also
forgiveness, and I feel like it's giving me
of closure. On my past, him acknowledging the weaknesses but also in
the same them.
here's seventeen by share
and then in its entirety,
Coming up more from Sharon Van Etten for our new segment called. This is instrumental
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we're trying something new and song exploder a bonus
segment outside of the creation of a song. We want to find out about
tools that influence artists and shape, how they work and make music here's more
Sharon Van Etten. What's your current favorite instrument
When I first started writing a lot of these songs, it was the Jupiter put her for the keyboard
a synthesizer from the eighties is really
and you can get lost in it for a really long time,
on one, but I shared a studio with Michael.
Sarah randomly and one day I showed up- and there is a synthesis- are in there and he sent me a message that he had gotten his legs. Phil Freedom ass round with it so
I would play it all. The time could see would play my piano and my drums and
just share each other's instruments. I
plugged it in to my guitar pedal setup like I would plug in my guitar, and I just
messed around on it, and I don't normally
do that with other people.
things but is kind of nice to not have,
Anybody watched you experiment as you're learning. What an instrument sounds like so that and there's no preconceived notion about what it's supposed to sound like or how you're supposed to play it.
and you know I don't have that kind of courage to go into music store and jam like that. I never did so
I used to have an instrument like that to to test out
ended up. Writing a lot on it. A playlist
but of pan also, I know how to play a basic cords, but you can
sustain on the synthesizer and you can hold a lot of the notes so that it frees you up when you're working on vocals and
makes me sing in a different way:
in I'm realizing that I have an interest in synthesizers and I and I want to build up. My
the proposal actually kind of hard to come by as I'm in trying to find one they're, not cheap, so I'm still on the hunter
find Jupiter, but I'm also about to move. So I'm going to wait until I settle and
studio in LOS Angeles, and I can actually spread out there, which will be really fun.
What is it song, Exploder Dotnet for more information about Sharon, Van Etten, John Congleton and Kate Davis? You also fine.
to buy or stream the song seventeen
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-27.