As of today, over half the covers featured on Sharon Van Etten’s Epic Ten anniversary reissue have been released. Following Big Red Machine’s “A Crime”, IDLES’ “Peace Signs”, and Shamir’s “Dsharpg”, we’re now getting a listen to Courtney Barnett and Vagabon’s collaborative take on “Don’t Do It”.
Just like each participating artist has done, Barnett and Vagabon stay true to Van Etten’s original work while making it distinctly their own. In fact, this feels like it could easily come off any of Barnett’s own albums; just swap SVE’s reverberating drone with some shambling fuzz, add in harmonies from Vagabon, and it’s as if it’s an Aussie original.
In an Instagram post announcing the cover, Van Etten revealed her meaningful friendship with Barnett, writing,
“Courtney Barnett has been an important musical influence on me since 2014, when we first met at The Neptune theater in Seattle. From the first time we met, I felt like I made an immediate friend. From performing together, to having home hangs in between tours, commiserating with the very specific mixed feelings of tour life assimilating back to home life and figuring out the in between as we have been learning how to nurture our domestic lives while paying attention to our creative selves outside of the album and touring cycle. I admire Courtney’s writing style in that she has such a unique and intimate narrative approach while being personal and funny, without giving too much away. I feel connected to her music and perspective, while always wanting to learn more – and as a friend she has offered me guidance and advice while also being an ear when I have been in a rut or when I am in need of a new approach to look at my writing in a new way.”
In a second post, she added,
“The last show I played before the COVID lockdown was for a benefit in Los Angeles that Courtney put together for Newport Folk Festival. There, we got to perform a song together and she introduced me to the incredibly talented artist, Vagabon. Little did I know that a year later, I would be putting together this compilation of songs from my album ‘epic’ in which we are celebrating the 10 year anniversary now. Happily surprised that she was able to make the emotional space to cover my song ‘Don’t Do It’ with Vagabon — she thoughtfully reached out on what the lyrics meant to me when I wrote it and what it means to me now. Obviously, a deep time of introspection as I reflect on the meanings of the songs now, it was important to give more light and personality and someone else’s narrative in order to give the songs new life and new meaning. Their voices together and choice of arrangement helped breathe more hope in a song that when I wrote it was from more of a desperate mindset. Thanks to Courtney & Vagabon, I feel like ‘Don’t Do It’ is now a more optimistic view of someone getting to the other side. And it means the world to collaborate, even at a distance, to feel a bit closer to getting to the other side as a collective.”
Take a listen to Barnett and Vagabon’s cover of Van Etten’s “Don’t Do It” below.
Epic Ten is out digitally on April 16th, with physical versions coming June 11th via Ba Da Bing. Van Etten will also stream an Epic Ten documentary and full-album concert on April 16th and 17th, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Los Angeles venue Zebulon. Tickets can be purchased at No Cap.