Sharon Van Etten

There are two types of jobs — the ones you leave behind at the end of the day, and the ones that linger, like a habit or a craving, blurring the line between office hours and the endangered species we fleetingly know as “leisure time.”

Growing up, both my parents were college professors. Being on an academic calendar has some serious perks — my father’s tradition of blasting The Jamies’ “Summertime, Summertime” after he turned in his spring semester grades embodied the biggest perk of all — but teaching at any level means signing on for late nights marking up exams, early mornings getting last-minute lesson plans together, and who knows how many hours of worrying about the success of your students. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s non-stop.

It’s the difference between leaving the house to go get a paycheck and leaving to put your passion on the line, for a reward determined only by your perception of your capabilities. And it’s the way artists have to live, both because of the uphill battle facing anyone who chooses to survive by their creativity and because of the elusive nature of the inspiration that justifies that pursuit. These were the things Sharon Van Etten got me thinking about when she tweeted the following a few weeks ago…

Imagine yourself hopping off a plane from Japan and hopping right into an installment of the Black Cab Sessions. It’s just you, a guitar, a cameraman, a driver, and a song you wrote. (This one happens to be “Joke Or A Lie,” which can be found on her outstanding recent album, Tramp.) And this song you’re playing — this idea you had, this combination of words and notes and chords — comes together to create a beautiful moment, one that’s snuck in between items on your travel itinerary, but no less worthwhile and moving than a performance given during a more traditional nighttime headlining set. Maybe even more moving in this case, given how exceptional the rendition is, with lots of gripping, noisy silence and fun anticipation of when those gaps will be closed, either by the sparse plucking of a few guitar strings or by Van Etten’s frank words.

The devotion on display here is a beautiful thing. I’m so thankful for having had the chance to see it growing up, and it makes me happy to see it being put to music by passionate people like SVE. Watch her Black Cab Session above, listen to “Joke Or A Lie” below and click here to snag Tramp from iTunes.

Sharon Van Etten — “Joke Or A Lie” [Spotify/iTunes]

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