The Meaning Behind “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” by Sharon Van Etten to Celebrate 10 Years of ‘Are We There’

Sharon Van Etten celebrated the 10th anniversary of her fourth studio album, Are We There, with a special edition released on May 31 via Jagjaguwar.

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Here’s a closer look at the album closer, “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” where Van Etten asks, “People say I’m a one-hit wonder, but what happens when I have two?”

She’s in Trouble

Pace mine for you, hold my horses
Hey man, tricks can’t wait to hear
My emotions

The singer narrates mundane events from the day, washing dishes next to the toilet, and going to the bathroom, described in a song she cut while the drinks worked a cool buzz into her head.

People say I’m a one-hit wonder
But what happens when I have two?
I washed your dishes, but I s–t in your bathroom

“Every Time the Sun Comes Up” creeps along like an afternoon spent doing nothing with friends. Van Etten’s voice is easy and occasionally despairing. The vibe sounds like the kind of hang that happens at a friend’s house or apartment where the windows are covered with blankets—the rising sun hidden behind a thrift-store comforter.

We broke your glasses but covered our a—s
Take time silently, feel real room hi-fi

The track ends with Van Etten singing and laughing as her headphones slip off. It’s a peek inside the idle party.

A New Version

Jagjaguwar issued an alternate version of “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” as part of the anniversary edition.

“This version of ‘Every Time the Sun Comes Up’ developed as the band and I were really honing our sound,” Van Etten writes. “We were rehearsing for the We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong Tour, leaning into some of our influences to give the song a more current feel to where we were all creatively at the time. [The band] performed it live and the audience really responded to our new Joy Division-like spin on it. We had the idea to release it to celebrate the Are We There 10-year anniversary and breathe new life into it, which feels like the perfect time.”

Just Checking in

The album title is a phrase Van Etten uses to check in with friends. She uses it rhetorically, and the lack of a question mark leaves the phrase “open-ended.”

“I ask myself that question all the time, for my work, for my love, even for my friends. It’s just really good to check in with yourself and it’s a play on words, about touring and about traveling, being in transition,” she said.

She co-produced the album with Stewart Lerman, who has worked with David Byrne, Patti Smith, and St. Vincent. Are We There reached No. 25 on the Billboard 200 and remains Van Etten’s most popular album.

When every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble
Every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble
Yeah, every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble
Imagine when every time the sun comes up, I see double
Yes, she is

Almost There

Are We There is built on the small moments in life that cascade into more revealing consequences. Meanwhile, “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” zooms in on events from a banal day, a lazy party, time wasted.

She describes seeing double when the sun comes up, and dizziness isn’t just the result of booze. It’s the dizzying boredom of everyday routines, faltering relationships, and things given up sustaining those relationships, whether or not they survive.

“Every Time the Sun Comes Up” is the sound of exhaustive trying in real time. You’re waiting down on the corner / And thinking of ways to get back home, The Velvet Underground song “Sweet Jane” reveals. Both songs conjure a border between daily experience and the lonely glimpse of a person’s life.

Sometimes, singing or laughing about it is enough.

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Photo by Alison Buck/WireImage for The Recording Academy

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