Pay My Debts

Album: I Don't Want to Let You Down (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • Sharon Van Etten told Uncut magazine that this song is about, "when my parents finally understood that I was serious about music."
  • Van Etten told the story of the song to NPR: "This was just kind of a freak song. I had just started learning how to do digital drums in Garage Band. The demo version is a little bit different, but as soon as I added the electronic drums it sounded like Peter Gabriel. So I kind of set it aside. It just wasn't fitting with everything else we were working on."

    "The lyrics have changed in the year or two I worked on it. It started off where, with [the 2012 album] Tramp, I literally was able to pay off all my debts, and was able to get my first apartment in a while and my first place on my own. So it's one of the first songs I wrote when I got my own apartment. But in that process, also [I was] returning home, reconnecting with people from home who seemed to resent you for being gone. And that time travel that seems to take place when you go on tour and you're gone for six months and you come back home and you're excited to see everybody."

    "But every now and then there's a friend of yours you reconnect with and you realize life goes on without you. There are some people where you can't just go and pick back up with them. A lot happens when you're gone. So in that way, the debts you have to pay by coming back and catching up and reconnecting and making that effort. I mean, that's an intense thing to come home to."

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