Conducted by Capt. Obvious
Van Etten: A combination of things really… My writing is more confident and playing with an electric guitar vs. acoustic has made my style a little more aggressive than before. I felt these new songs would benefit from a different kind of catharsis. While my last record was intended to be quietly intimate, I was hoping for this one to be more urgent and direct – though still personal.
Obvious: You’re playing with a band now. How has interacting and playing with other musicians effected your growth as an artist?
Van Etten: I feel more comfortable on stage. I feel supported and (again) more confident. It’s such a release. It helps me to “let go” live a lot more than I was used to.
Obvious: Folk music seems to be a bit maligned by know-it-all hipsters lately, but in my humble opinion, the most heartrending songs are the most stripped down. What do you make of the backlash?
Van Etten: Intimate, emotional, directly honest songs can be hard for people to swallow. Especially when it’s solo and quiet. People that diss on folk music want to hang out at a show and talk or rock out or not “get deep.” I’m obviously overgeneralizing now… but yes – I agree with you that there is a negative connotation with singer/songwriter and the folk genre… when its initial uprise was meant for folk, the common everyone.
Obvious: In an old interview you admitted to being a bit socially anxious, yet your songs are intensely personal and revealing. Now that you’ve been at it a bit longer, do you find yourself more comfortable dealing with fans, large crowds, and media attention?
Van Etten: I still get anxious. No doubt. I am learning how to deal with my anxiety better, though. Breathing exercises, jokes, and whatnot… Writing and performing is very healing for me, which is why the songs are so confessional and personal. It is my therapy. It has helped me move on from harder times in my life – so each time I play them I am meditating, in a way… Maybe one day I won’t be nervous, but I am sure glad I’m able to feel something.
Obvious: Some highly touted artists, such as Bon Iver and The National, have covered your songs lately. Is it surreal knowing some high profile bands are connecting with your music? Any possible future collaborations with these or other bands?
Van Etten: I was on tour with Megafaun when Brad Cook (bassist) showed me that video. He woke me up to show me the video on his phone. I cried. So surreal. To have people you listen to and respect cover a song! It was hard to not be taken aback… I recently went to Durham and sang with Megafaun, Bon Iver, and Fight the Big Bull. They arranged a bunch of old Alan Lomax folk field recordings from the South and we had 3 nights performing in an old baptist church, now the Hayti Heritage Center. It was all recorded live and there is talk of it being released.
Obvious: Two sad songs that have been owning my life lately: “Flirted With You All My Life” by Vic Chesnutt and “Morning Hollow” by Sparklehorse. Your turn! And… go
Van Etten: Richard Youngs’ “It Soon Will Be Fire” and Big Star’s “Holocaust”