|Musician Sharon Van Etten. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images/AFP)
Third time has proven the charm for Brooklyn-based folk-rock singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.
The 31-year-old artist -- who teamed up with The National's Aaron Dessner as producer on Tramp, her critically acclaimed third album of gritty, raw, and exquisitely rendered songs about heartache delivered in a distinctively beautiful, raspy voice -- said the recognition is hard-won.
"I have been doing this for a really long time and I've been steadily building an audience," said Van Etten down the line from New York's East Village, where she was visiting her boyfriend on a tour break before playing Ottawa and Toronto on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
"And with that process, too, I feel like I've been growing as writer and as a performer. And just learning how to tour and learning how to record. With Aaron supporting me on this record, he really help push it further than I would have been able to alone."
Van Etten added moving to the indie rock record label Jagjaguwar, also home to Bon Iver, being "willing to tour like crazy," and finding the right live band didn't hurt either.
"There's so many things that it could be but I still think a lot of it is luck, too," she said.
As for the album title, it has many meanings for her, a lover of puns and plays on words.
"During the writing and recording of this record, I didn't have a home base, really. And when I was looking up a word that summed up where I was -- 'cause I was all over the place, I was really confused, I was really run ragged, I was getting over a broken heart, I was reassessing my life, I was like at a crossroads -- Tramp was one word."
But don't think Van Etten's a sad sack for one second.
"I'm a total nerd. I write when I'm feeling really intense things. I get rid of those demons and what remains is this little joker."
She hooked up with Tramp's producer after she heard Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Dessner and his brother Bryce (also in The National) covering her song, Love More, from her yet-to-be-released second album, 2010's Epic, at a festival in Cincinnati.
She was in Montreal at the time when she was shown the video.
"I just totally welled up," she said. "I was like, 'How do they know who I am?'"
Still, she got the confidence to reach out to Dessner, and when she eventually arrived at his Brooklyn studio, she immediately felt at home.
"To see somebody the whole entire time so comfortable in that kind of environment was really inspiring," she said. "There was a lot more room for us to mess around a lot more and for him to help me feel comfortable in letting go and not being embarrassed about messing up or recording something that we weren't going to use. Just getting used to that process that it can be disposable. Nothing's permanent."