Sharon Van Etten

 ON HER PAST, MOTHERHOOD, AND BEING HAPPY

Sharon Van Etten

 ON HER PAST, MOTHERHOOD, AND BEING HAPPY

Sharon Van Etten

 ON HER PAST, MOTHERHOOD, AND BEING HAPPY

Sharon Van Etten

 ON HER PAST, MOTHERHOOD, AND BEING HAPPY

Sharon Van Etten

ON HER PAST, MOTHERHOOD, AND BEING HAPPY

Sharon3 – Ryan Pfluger
Sharon6 – Ryan Pfluger

"I wouldn’t even say that I’ve learned how to be more careful because I am still forgiving, giving, and open. But that one relationship put me on a path to finding an outlet for myself to feel better about things that happened to me."

"I wouldn’t even say that I’ve learned how to be more careful because I am still forgiving, giving, and open. But that one relationship put me on a path to finding an outlet for myself to feel better about things that happened to me."

"I wouldn’t even say that I’ve learned how to be more careful because I am still forgiving, giving, and open. But that one relationship put me on a path to finding an outlet for myself to feel better about things that happened to me."

Midnight Woman Moon

BY CARIANN BRADLEY · PHOTOS BY CARIANN BRADLEY AND RYAN PFLUGER ·  FEBRUARY 1, 2019

THIS INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED IN MARCH 2018 IN EAGLE ROCK, LOS ANGELES

BY CARIANN BRADLEY · PHOTOS BY CARIANN BRADLEY AND RYAN PFLUGER ·  FEBRUARY 1, 2019

THIS INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED IN MARCH 2018 IN EAGLE ROCK, LOS ANGELES

CARIANN: So just to explain and start off, I am starting this brand, as you know, called Midnight Woman. I’m just sort of creating this online form for people to anonymously contribute stories and experiences and things of that nature. The real reason behind the idea is that I wanted a place to tell my story [of assault], but I didn’t think that platform existed. I wanted to keep myself safe; I wanted to keep myself out of legal trouble. A platform like Midnight Woman doesn’t exist, so I’m creating one.
        With that being said, I also want to talk to people who have their own platform and have created space for themselves — such as you and your records. You have a place to tell your story and you aren’t silenced. And I don’t want to pigeon-hole Midnight Woman simply to sexual harassment or assault.
        So I have some questions prepared here, but I really just want to open this up to you. After hearing what Midnight Woman is, if there is anything that comes to mind that you want to share, that would be great. You’re in a completely different phase of life than your fans have ever seen you in. You’ve been on a musical break, you’ve been acting, you’re a new mother. I’m interested about where you are now.


SHARON VAN ETTEN: It’s funny; I met this woman the other day — we were sitting next to each other waiting. We just got to talking and finding out about each other. I told her a little bit about my life and she started laughing. She said, “All the relationships I’ve ever had, they’ve been unhealthy ones.” She said that after deciding to get out of those relationships, she feels like she’s been the most successful in her career. She said it had helped her in so many different ways — after one relationship that she left, she became a comedian. She’s an actor, a comedian, a writer — she just has a really interesting background and I kinda giggle because I wouldn't have pursued music if it wasn’t for this one really unhealthy relationship I was in. Leaving [that relationship], I decided to go back home for the first time after a while in my early twenties. I basically didn’t go back home for like four or five years. So when I finally decided to go back home and get my shit together, things just naturally started unfolding in a way that’s pretty unbelievable. Music was always a passion of mine growing up and in my teenage years, but then I never pursued it seriously, until I lived with my parents. [Laughs]
        In that way, I feel — obviously not grateful for that relationship because it was unhealthy, manipulative, controlling. He was an addict, he was abusive. Looking back on those years now, and to think that I allowed someone to treat me like that, it’s almost embarrassing because I’m a pretty strong person. But I’m also very forgiving; people see that in me. And most people don’t take advantage of it, but there are the few that do prey on that and those people. I wouldn’t even say that I’ve learned how to be more careful because I am still forgiving, giving, and open. But that one relationship put me on a path to finding an outlet for myself to feel better about things that happened to me.

 
C: That’s beautiful. I really hope with Midnight Woman, we can redefine the way we connect over what’s happened to us. In my own life and the story I’ve shared on Midnight Woman’s site; I never really felt like I got justice for myself. And I have women from my university direct messaging me and emailing me with their stories. People that I knew from high school, even. They’re coming to me with their situations and experiences and what’s happening to them. I hope that Midnight Woman can give those people the empowerment to get that justice for themselves, just by putting it out there and seeing that they are not alone. So often we can’t get that justice through actual authority, etc.
        Sexual harassment and manipulation is something that I have dealt with and—

 
SVE: I’m so sorry.

 
C: Thank you. I appreciate that. I tell you that to say I relate; it is something that I look back on and feel embarrassed that I was fooled so well. I consider myself an independent person.

 
SVE: But you’re just trusting.


C: Yeah. My empathy gets the best of me and I can feel embarrassed. However, I don’t have to be silenced because of it. That’s also what you’ve done. You had someone literally silence you. He smashed your guitar, right?


SVE: Yeah.


C: That’s just insane. But you wrote music anyway. You decided to go for it anyway. How do you think that that has affected your artistry? I’m sure it’s everything.

 
SVE: I’m still understanding it. I was like 24 when I went back home. I remember my parents gave me a laptop for Christmas because they felt like I needed to write. Then they also said, “There’s GarageBand on there… so you can record some stuff if you want.” Up until then, I was kinda playing but I didn’t do anything with it. But all of a sudden, I felt this sense of urgency to. At the midnight hour, my parents would be in bed and I would just play, write, and sing. It wasn’t for anyone but me. I didn’t know how to just sit down and write my thoughts anymore, and my thoughts were racing.

"I feel I gained a bit more confidence and I learned how to talk about my experience for those that were ready to listen."

SVE: I started seeing a therapist when I moved back in with my parents. Between going back to community college part-time and seeing this therapist, I feel I gained a bit more confidence and I learned how to talk about my experience for those that were ready to listen. I couldn’t stop singing. I didn’t understand why it felt so good to sing. It felt healing to me; it was really cathartic and it’s one of those things that even in my thirties now, nearing forty, now I really want to understand that process. Between writing and acting and family stuff, I’m going back to school and pursuing a degree. I still have to get my undergrad because I dropped out of school. So I want to get my undergrad in psychology and then go back and get my masters in mental health counseling. So then I can understand more the process of talk therapy and just helping people find their own outlet. And I want to find specifically what area I want to work in. I feel like there is something about the age after high school, before and during college —early years — when you leave home for the first time. You know nobody, you have no idea who the hell you are, and you’re around all these strangers trying to prove themselves and they don’t know why. Most people don’t have an identity. Some people get through it more easily than others, but I had a really hard time and I know a lot of people that also had a hard time. If I had had some kind of guidance around that time that was accessible, I don’t know if that would have happened to me. I had a handful of friends who were really great but I think that’s a little different. Our friends never think the guy we’re dating is good enough. 

C: And even if they said something, would we have listened?

SVE: Yeah, it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek most of the time. These are all things that I feel have shifted the way I sing, the way I write, the way I edit myself when I decide to share songs. There are songs that I write that are just for me that are way too personal. I don’t think a fan would be able to relate to it in a way to connect it to themselves. If I think there’s a song that’s good enough to share with people, I make sure to share it — similarly to how you’re making your site. Where it’s general enough — take out some specifics; sometimes there’s dates and locations — I make sure that it’s relatable so it doesn’t alienate the listener. I don’t want the fan to feel bad for me; I want them to be able to connect my music, to themselves. That’s something that I’m still honing in on and trying to get better at. Also with all these life changes, I feel like I’m trying to be more positive. In general I’m in a better place and more at peace. Well, at least with my own personal life. I’d say what’s going on in the world is a whole other shadow being cast on these songs of happiness that I’m working on right now. Like I’m in a good place but, “What about this?” Kind of thing. Constantly changing, constantly learning. I do think that there is a certain responsibility there when you’re putting something out into the world. I want to make sure that I put as much thought into it as I can.

 

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Sharon in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. March 2018 for l'Odet, by Cariann Bradley.

Sharon in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. March 2018 for l'Odet, by Cariann Bradley.

Sharon in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. March 2018 for l'Odet, by Cariann Bradley.

C: How do you think recently remastering your first album… how do you feel about that cyclical kind of milestone? Like do you think that was closure for you? What do you think that was?

 
SVE: I mean, I don’t think it’s closure. It was really nice to come back to it with some perspective. Because I’m still that person. That was almost ten years ago now and I still hear that girl who just came back home and is figuring it out. She’s a little bit broken but still pretty strong — I think there is a lot of that in me. I’m proud of those songs. It’s also uplifting and inspiring because I know that I’ve grown so much from that time and since that time. My songs are a bit more complex and they’ve developed in instrumentation. When I first recorded that record, I never thought I’d play with a band; I didn’t know keys or time signature, I didn’t even own a tuning pedal! So I never thought I’d be in the position I am today. Closure’s not the word, but it was a nice perspective.

 
C: And you said that where you are now, such as motherhood, has influenced your art positively.


SVE: Yeah. I know it sounds kinda boring, but I’m in a really good place. 


C: That's not boring at all!

 
SVE: And I’m doing everything I want to do, it’s just a lot. I have a partner who helps me figure it out. He was a musician also so he gets that whole “I’m inspired when I’m inspired and I need to write right now” mentality. I have to tour; he understands. It’s hard sometimes. In 2015, I took a break to go back to school. During that time, I got offered [The OA], so I had to split my time between acting and going back to school. During that time I found out I was pregnant. So in school, pregnant. I have this kid, then I’m home for six months. Somehow, during that time, I wrote enough songs for a record. Now I’m figuring out who I’m making the record with out here while shooting the show. I’m going to finish the record this summer, go back to school this fall, and then the record will be out at the top of the year, fingers crossed! If all goes well.
        So my head is spinning because it’s just one foot in front of another. But I’m with the person that wants to help me figure it out. You know, as a mother, a lot of the weight falls on me with just the nature of things. But he constantly checks in and is like, “Are you okay? Are you getting out enough? Are you working enough?” We still try to have one night a week where we go out on a date, just the two of us. We make sure that we have a sitter here whenever I need to work. We’re starting to get into a routine. We’ve been traveling so much. My family is all east coast, so being out west has been a little hard. We’re just figuring it out. It’s exciting because I am doing everything I want to do! It will just take a little longer to get everything done because I’m doing a lot.

"I’d say what’s going on in the world is a whole other shadow being cast on these songs of happiness that I’m working on."

"I’d say what’s going on in the world is a whole other shadow being cast on these songs of happiness that I’m working on."

C: At least for me, I don’t know about you, but being happy, for a while, is something I don’t feel as if I deserve. So coming to that place where you’re happy — that’s a huge deal! That’s amazing.

 
SVE: I thought happiness was something that came and went, you know? I didn’t think it was necessarily something I didn’t deserve, but I would overthink everything. And just feel like, this is not the time to be happy. Like I’ll be happy when I’m supposed to be happy, but right now I have a lot of work to do.
Now, even when it’s hard — for example, [my partner] just left for ten days for work stuff. Thank goodness for my sitter; she’s incredible. But it was like yes, I cried when he left, but I was also proud. It’s pride in the fact that he’s doing what he wants to do and I’m doing the shit I need to do and we’re figuring out. We’re successful and busy. We love each other. And to miss someone… those things are all good too. But it’s not easy.

 
C: So, why the move out west?

 
SVE: We’re only here temporarily. They’re shooting The OA out here. The first season they shot in New York; all the scenes that I was in, anyways. Now Netflix has relocated, they have all their production in-house here now. They have a studio out here. I got here in January and I’m not even shooting full-time. I’m just here on-call. I’ve only shot like five or six days. So between all these shoots, I’ve been exploring. I am taking an improv workshop tomorrow I’m really excited about. One of my date-night babysitters, she does sketch comedy. She’s a musician but plays kinda joke songs. She was putting on a variety show and she asked me to play. I had also set up a show for myself the following week to play new songs, so I asked her if it would be okay if I tried stand-up for the first time. [Laughs]

 
C: [Laughing] How was it?

 
SVE: Terrifying! But really fun. Now I’m considering that as a hobby — writing some sketches and exploring writing and comedy. It’s a nice outlet to have when you’re writing about such serious stuff — letting yourself laugh about the world around you and your situation. I’ve been doing that and I also think I found the producer that I’m going to work on my new record with. I’ve been testing new instruments for my new songs. It’s more synth and drumbeat based. I got this 70s drum machine where I can program drum beats in. I’ve been working on my demos that way just to have it feel different. There's not going to be as much guitar on the new record, which is kinda crazy! I’m excited about that too. I could do what I did before but it would likely sound the same. I’m just trying to challenge myself by playing different instruments. 
        So yeah, that’s why I’m out here. It’s been nice to be here. I wasn’t ready for LA the first time I came here. The few times I was out here was on tour. I’d only have a day or two to look around — finding a neighborhood that I liked, being in a house, knowing someone in the neighborhood. I randomly knew a composer in this neighborhood and he saw me drive by one day and texted me like, “I think we’re neighbors!” So that’s been nice. He has a studio out here and we’ve hung out a couple times. Everyone I’ve been meeting that’s a creative person — they’ve just been so encouraging in every path I’ve wanted to take. They’ve made me feel like I can do anything. I love New York, I’ve been there 14 years. But when I moved there, my mentality was, “Okay, I’m going to move here to do music. I’m going to get my ass kicked, I know it, but that’s what I’m here to do.” I’m just in a different stage of my life now. The music thing is exactly where I want it to be. I don’t want to be pushed any further. I’m not trying to reinvent myself, become a popstar, and make it to the next level. I like where I’m at right now. I just want to kinda ride that, while also in the meantime making room for other things. I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to do stand-up comedy in New York. I don’t think there was a point where that made sense. Especially now with a kid — having the space, the nature, the sun (most of the time, the sun) — it’s been really nice to see him open up. I never thought I’d be saying this about California, but it’s really nice. I’m going to scare the hell out of my parents by saying these things to you. [laughs] Because the last thing they want is for their grandson to relocate to the other coast! But I’ve felt the most inspired out here than I have in a long time. It’s insane.


C: I’m sure it’s top-secret, but what are you most excited about with the new record?


SVE: It’s really fun to sing. One of my friends has a couple synthesizers and keyboards that, when I was totally uninspired on guitar, I would jam on for a minute. So a lot of the songs are synth-based and key-based. It’s definitely the farthest thing from dance-y, but for me it’s... I don’t even know how to explain it.


C: It bops!

 
SVE: It’s dark, but it’s beat-driven. It’s still very left and weird, but [has] really fun melodies to sing. I think it’s just going to be a different live experience for the fans and also a more fun experience for me being able to perform them. I might not be stuck behind a guitar; I might just be able to sing. That would be interesting. I mean, I can play all the parts and stuff, but I’m curious how it will change my performance by just singing and just being able to focus on that. I’ll probably fuck up less if I don’t have to play an instrument at the same time. I’m excited about all of that. The darkness… I say vaguely pop, only different. I’m excited!

 
C: Congrats. That is awesome.


SVE: Thank you. I’m so excited.


C: I did want to ask — being a mother, how has that put into perspective… well, how do I phrase this? What do you want for your son’s generation? How has that played into your life? Even creating Midnight Woman, it makes me wonder what I want to contribute in the next ten years of my life. What do I want for these people? I want it to be easier for them to express themselves. I don’t want people to feel so silent. What do you think about for him?


SVE: There is so much that I want for him. It’s emotional sometimes. Number one, I just want him to be himself. I want to create an environment where he never feels stifled or censored. I wanna raise him in a way that he can be himself but also, he’s just a good person. He treats everybody with respect, believes in equality, and just accepts people for who they are whether he likes them or not. Just allow people to be who they are. Hopefully, because we allow him to be who he is, he’ll live his life that way too. That’s the simplest way I can put it.


C: That’s beautiful. I mean, that’s what I want for everyone. The world is a real shit show these days.

 
SVE: I know. But there is a lot of good, you know? I think about my world  — my friends, my family — those are the things I hold on to. I encourage. Hopefully our actions spread. I have family members who have conservative views I don’t believe in. I challenge them when it’s appropriate, not when it’s like a debate. I do think there are people in generations coming after me that are trying to make changes. They’re becoming activists. They’re running for office. Like, Bon Iver’s manager is running for Congress in Wisconsin. Things like that, I feel like change is happening. Change takes a long time. There are good people in the world. And seeing you trying to give people a platform to be strong enough to have this outlet — that in itself is just a sign of this undercurrent. Just because we’re not in government or running for office... I’m scared because of what’s popular on television and what’s to come with T-man, but I think because of that, there are counterparts that maybe aren’t as popular that will have more movement. They’ll have more to say. You have to stay positive.

 
C: You’re right.

 
SVE: You have to stay positive! Because the alternative isn’t productive. I really don’t think that negativity is conducive to change and growth. Rising above it and finding the alternative path is more challenging but more helpful.

 
C: I agree. Once you’re robbed of hope, you have nothing. And that’s something you can give yourself. 

THANK YOU TO SHARON AND HER MANAGEMENT TEAM FOR MAKING THIS POSSIBLE. THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY. ALL PHOTOS FEATURED IN THIS PIECE WERE TAKEN BY RYAN PFLUGER UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

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THANK YOU TO SHARON AND HER MANAGEMENT TEAM FOR MAKING THIS POSSIBLE. THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY. ALL PHOTOS FEATURED IN THIS PIECE WERE TAKEN BY RYAN PFLUGER UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

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Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister. Submit anonymously here.

For general inquiries, please contact us at hello@midnight-woman.com

 

For advertising opportunities, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com

 

Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.