Pitchfork profile: Sharon Van Etten

A&E chatted the folkster up at P-fork to cover folk music, Megafaun and whether or not her parents dig her music.

by Mark Brenden

Last December Robyn Pecknold âÄî creative honcho of the best modern folk group, Fleet Foxes âÄî told Pitchfork âÄúthe world doesnâÄôt need another traditional folk record.âÄù If this concept is valid, talented folkster Sharon Van EttenâÄôs confusion of âÄúbeing a folk singer and trying to figure out what your scene isâÄù makes sense. Even the steadfast folky Van Etten, who spends her time listening to Joni Mitchell in the mountains of Tennessee, is allowing a rock group to back her. But good tunes are good tunes, no matter the time or place or the state of âÄúwhat the world needs.âÄù And Van Etten can certainly provide that. A&E caught up with the strummer at Pitchfork to discuss folk music in 2010, disobeying your parents and Modest Mouse saving the day. Can you tell us how your set went since we got caught in traffic and missed it? Well it was scary enough to be first and being solo and feeling like people were expecting something big to start the show. I feel like people were pretty responsive to it, but, ya know, I’m not used to a big stage and outdoor festivals or whatever. People were pretty nice, bur then I broke a string like on the next-to-last song. But the guy from Modest Mouse brought out a guitar for me. I was afraid to touch it so I didn’t even adjust the strap so it was so low. What did it mean to you to get invited to Pitchfork? It was like finally being invited to the party. Being a folk singer and trying to figure out what your scene is, it’s kind of hard. Do you have any compass for what that is yet? No. [Laughs]. I have no idea. Whoever likes it. Did you stick around and watch any other acts on day one? Um [Day 1] was kinda crazy. I got to hear some of Liars, which sounded great, but I was running around a lot. Today [Day 2] I get to hang out more. Who are you excited to see today [Day 2]? I’m excited to hear Panda Bear. And Titus Andronicus is playing. I saw on your MySpace that you feel like you make “sad prairie folk music,” but you are from Brooklyn. How does that match up A lot of the songs I wrote in Tennessee in a time where I listened to a lot of Joni Mitchell and stuff. And I wrote a couple songs in Austin, Texas, so it all felt really slow and really sad for me at the time. What’s next for you after Pitchfork? I just finished a new record, and it’s full-band. Which is new to you? So new. I’ve always been solo. There’s only one other time, I got to tour with Megafaun and they backed me up on one song. How much does just having a drummer change your whole shtick? I’m suddenly being described as “rock.” It does open up possibilities for songs and âÄî oh hi! [runs into Adam from Bear in Heaven and chats him up]. Advice for college students? Always do what you love even if your parents don’t like it. Do your parents like your music? Yeah they do. And they’re happy with this one because it’s not as sad as the last one. It took them awhile to take me seriously, but whose parents are gonna be like ‘yeah, pursue music.’ but after years they finally can see that I’m serious about it. I can break even on it.