Hailing from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Justin Vernon, the lead of the indie pop icon Bon Iver, first developed his sound in the band Deyarmond Edison. In search of new musical boundaries, Vernon and his high school pals relocated to North Carolina in 2005, but just a year later, things had fallen apart with the band. Feeling out of place in Raleigh, Vernon broke up with the only band he had ever known, and his girlfriend came down with mono. Beaten, Vernon headed home.
Finding refuge 70 miles outside of Eau Claire in a log cabin, his father built in the snowbound woods of northwest Wisconsin, Vernon started writing music. “I didn’t go there thinking i was making a record. I knew I’d write songs, work on music, but had no idea until about halfway through that what i was doing was a new project.” After recently helping the Rosebuds do some recording, Vernon had some basic equipment with him when he made his move to the cabin. In an effort to recuperate from the previous year’s events, an album slowly began to emerge. Playing all the instruments himself and writing the lyrics while listening to a wordless melody he composed, a full length album was written entirely in Vernon’s four month period of winter isolation.
The album’s soulful low fidelity sound perfectly captures the cabin bound Vernon with the natural acoustics bringing his sound alive. Upon leaving the cabin, Vernon “still felt like shit” but in hindsight, later realized how much it did for him and his self esteem. Almost never released and originally intended as a group of demos, For Emma;Forever ago, Vernon made the first 500 first card stock bound copies were to be sent to the press, mainly blogs. It was first played at Eau Claire’s House of Rock and later gained popularity when the very influential indie rock publication, Pitchfork, gave it a very positive review. The exposure led to a performance later that same month at the CMJ Music Marathon with a lot of label attention, both major and independent. Officially released by idiosncratic in January 2008, Vernon sold 30,000 copies in the first three months alone, becoming the company’s biggest and fastest selling title ever.
Bon Iver later debuted the Blood Bank EP, the follow up For Emma; Forever Ago, and successfully landed within the top 16 on the Billboard. Along with his 2010 collaboration with Kanye West on the highly praised My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy LP, Vernon’s indie act was cemented. The cover of “Skinny Love” by 14 year old British singer Birdy landed on the UK top 25 singles showing Bon Iver’s influence had spread far and wide.