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Sharon Van Etten: ‘Whenever I Begin Writing It’s Because I’m in a Vulnerable State’

Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the acclaimed indie rocker ahead of her Australian and New Zealand tour dates.

Sharon Van Etten


When Sharon Van Etten last toured Australia and New Zealand, she was at the peak of her powers; or so most thought.

She toured in 2019 in support of her masterful fifth album, Remind Me Tomorrow, an emphatic and cathartic record that most publications hailed as being one of the best releases of that year.

Three years and one unprecedented pandemic later, she’s back on Antipodean shores to showcase her equally powerful sixth album, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong; it’s a collection of songs that cements Van Etten’s position as one of the foremost indie rock songwriters of her generation.

After returning to Sydney Opera House to play the iconic venue for the second time, she’ll visit Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne, Auckland and Wellington, with an appearance at Meredith Music Festival thrown in for good measure (see full dates below).

Ahead of her run of shows Down Under, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Van Etten, which you can read below.

Performing at the Opera House is a huge deal – how are you feeling ahead of the show?

I am excited and nervous and honoured, and quite honestly a little rusty and I am hoping that translates to a fun raw, emotional show.

You also performed there back in 2019 for Vivid Live, how do you feel looking back at that in regards to where you are now as an artist?

I am grateful for the path I have been on since 2019. Even though it’s been a rough ride the last few years, I have more conviction in my live performance and have a deeper connection with my band.

It’s hard to leave home and go on tour and leave your friends and family behind.  I am so fortunate to have such a tight group of people surrounding and supporting me on stage. From this support I’ve gained cofidence and a sense of presence on stage I never had before.  

How different was your experience in writing an album during the pandemic as opposed to your usual creative process?

On one hand, I always tend to write by myself and share my songs once they are done to elaborate in the studio together with musicians. This time, during isolation, I sent songs in early forms and I sent tracks back and forth talking about ideas for instrumentation before we went into the studio.

Then I brought my band into the studio together after we hashed concepts out remotely. I used a lot of the tracks that I recorded myself in my home studio, as well as session from The Village I worked on with Zach Dawes, and then took those mixes into Balboa Studios in Los Angeles to build on top of that. A bit of a Frankenstein, but these are the times…

Your music is deeply personal, do you ever feel vulnerable being so open or are you comfortable with sharing your innermost thoughts?

Whenever I begin writing it’s because I am in a vulnerable state. It can be uncomfortable to share at times, of course, but it’s when people let me know that my music helps them where I feel more validated in sharing these intense thoughts.

You also recently teamed up with Gina Birch of The Raincoats to release the Illustrated Lyrics, how did that come about?

I was a fan of The Raincoats before I was lucky enough to meet Gina, but I met Gina through Mike Holdsworth who was label manager and hosted me on my press trips overseas. He got his start at the original Rough Trade in London and went on to work at Matador.

He invited me over for dinners while I was in town and I got to sit at the table with Mike, Gina, and their amazingly talented and smart children (who are now adults!). Gina was working on new paintings, which she showed me, and at the time (2019) I asked her if she would do a rendition of my friend Katherine Deickmann’s photo that I used as my album cover for Remind Me Tomorrow in connection with a B-sides and rarities release (which hasn’t been made yet).

However, she created a beautiful painting of that beautifully chaotic scene and it has been sitting in her studio all this time. Thames and Hudson reached out to me to see if I would like to collaborate with a visual artist for a lyric book and we immediately approached Gina. The fact that Gina is a mother, musician, visual artist and works with someone that is a creative as well really resonates with me and I aspire to do so much more by seeing how Gina continues to live her life.  

What artists have previously/are currently inspiring you?

Currently listening to a lot of Sinead O’Connor, Body Type, Afternoon Bike Ride, Ezra Furman, Batts, The Cure, Cash Savage, Low, Sarah Grace White, Cocteau Twins, and Joy Division. 

Sharon Van Etten Australian/New Zealand Tour Dates

Thursday, December 1st
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Tickets: Sydney Opera House

Saturday, December 3rd
The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD
Tickets: Ticketmaster

Monday, December 5th
Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA
Tickets: Oztix

Tuesday, December 6th
Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA
Tickets: Oztix

Thursday, December 8th (SOLD OUT)
Northcote Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Friday, December 9th (SOLD OUT)
Northcote Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Saturday, December 10th
Meredith Music Festival, VIC
Tickets: Meredith Music Festival

Monday, December 12th
Auckland Town Hall, Auckland, NZ
Tickets: Ticketmaster

Tuesday, December 13th (SOLD OUT)
Opera House, Wellington, NZ