During a recent stop in Charlottesville to perform for a packed house at the Jefferson Theater, Sharon Van Etten joined WNRN in studio to play guest DJ. She shared 4 songs that inspired the sound and style of new album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong and chatted in depth with Amber about its making. Scroll down to read her thoughts on each song and stream the full interview to find out which cinematic classic inspired the new album’s name (hint: it involves Babe Ruth, a giant dog, and s’mores) and more about the album which gets its full release on Friday May 6th via Jagjaguwar.
1. Cocteau Twins “Cherry-Coloured Funk”
“…this was a song that I referenced for the band when we were starting to go over influences of what I thought the instrumentation and vibe was going to be. I didn’t want to exactly rip from them, but I wanted to give permission for my bandmates, Charlie in particular, who was playing guitar on a certain song on the record, that this is how I want it to feel, so however you interpret that. And the ethereal vocals, she has such a beautiful range, and it’s like dark but uplifting, but even though it’s slow-pulsing you feel it escalating. It’s a beautiful song.”
2. Scott Walker “Duchess”
“I chose “Duchess” by Scott Walker because his melodies are so beautiful and they’re very classic. And his voice can change from iteration with his other projects, but there’s something very timeless about his storytelling, and he kind of sings in this operatic way sometimes, that can walk a line. But I connect with it as a singer, I feel like he’s a singer’s artist in the way that I want to sing along with him and I find it very cathartic to find those melodies or harmonies depending on how I’m singing along with him. I just like those classic arrangements and the timeless feeling of his voice.”
3. Joy Division “Atmosphere”
“I remember describing to my drummer Jorge Balbi, my Peruvian drummer Jorge, that I wanted a lot of space in the drums, that it didn’t have to be a constant beat, and that I wanted him to just feel free in the way he played and not feel confined by a beat. Because this one song is very intentional in its space before it develops into the driving part of the song. And he connected with it immediately, and a lot of the scapes on the record are drones, synth meets strings, and mallets and air, and allowing those moments to breathe before the other instrumentation comes in. So this song was an example of what I was trying to achieve.
4. The Cure “Plainsong”
“This one is for my bass player, Devin Hoff, he’s probably the biggest Cure fan I know, and I chose this one because, similar to the Joy Division track, what I’m learning how to do is let my band create the atmosphere for me, to be able to form in. And I wrote a lot of these songs without them, before I asked them to lay down tracks and to help me flesh them out. And so finally being in a room with them again and working on these new songs, I feel like they’re giving me permission to step back for a minute and allow them to create the space for me to perform in, as opposed to them performing on top of me. It’s learning how to perform together again and lean into each other, and again own those spaces. I sing a lot, like the joke is that I have a lot of lyrics, I have a lot of words, and my friend Ben Goldberg from Bada Bing Records who put out some of my earlier work, always said ‘Well, you just have so much to say. That’s why your lyrics are so long.’ But I’m learning to try to say less and also to have moments of just music so that the listener can take a moment to reflect on all the things that I’ve said, but also to hear the layers of what’s actually happening.