Sharon Van Etten

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I was pretty terrified when I learned I had to jump in the van with a band I have never met before. I had never been to Germany before and I had to fly to Berlin by myself to play a show and introduce myself to Great Lake Swimmers, the band I would be traveling with and opening for for the next three weeks.

Things started off a little rocky. Julie, the singer/keyboardist, had her laptop stolen in Sweden and the day after their van broke down and that is when they found out about me hopping in the van in Germany. They didn't know I would be with them for three weeks… they thought three days.

Lucky enough for me, they were the sweetest people in the world I could've traveled with. They took me in with open arms. Julie was like a sister to me. We were roommates every night and we never got on each other’s nerves. Finding a female artist that isn’t competitive and standoffish is nearly impossible. The three weeks we traveled together we shared music and stories and insecurities. She made me laugh out loud. She was like a long lost sister.

I noticed how necessary a female energy was amidst a van full of “dudes”. Julie really took on an unspoken responsibility of maintaining balance and well-being in the group. I know at first it came as a surprise (my joining the group pretty much unannounced). After Julie and I established a connection, she embarrassingly admitted to me that her response to finding out about my arrival was, “She better be fucking cool.” She apologized, but I understood.

Within a week, I was singing with the Great Lake Swimmers and they were accompanying me. I had a family. I know it sounds cheesy, but I did. For the first time in a music scenario – outside of New York, I really felt like a part of something. I felt accepted as part of their group and acknowledged as a fellow musician.

For what could have been a nightmare of a situation, I made friends for life and I was really taken care of. Getting to see them every night, witnessing their camaraderie, feeling a part of their family – I felt so lucky, I still feel so lucky. I really wasn’t looking forward to saying goodbye.

My last show with them was at the Borderline in London. Julie and I stood next to each other for the last song and I sang harmonies on Neil Young’s “Harvest”. Julie and I held hands all the way through the song and we cried when we said goodbye later that night. They drove to France and I went back to Brooklyn and I can’t wait until I can see her again outside of touring. I still feel lucky.