On Bon Iver's 2008 debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, frontman Justin Vernon created a gorgeous mix of haunting multistacked harmonies and gentle acoustic-guitar strums. For the follow-up, due the middle of next year, Vernon mines an entirely new sound. "I don't really fancy myself just an acoustic-guitar player and singer," he says, promising a Bon Iver album that is "denser, darker and fuller."
Instead of building songs around his acoustic, Vernon has invited session musicians to join in at his barn studio in northwest Wisconsin. "I'm trying to figure out, 'Will the pedal steel work with the French horn?'" he says. "'How does a bass saxophone work with a double-bass drum?'"
Another influence was Kanye West, who invited Vernon to Hawaii to contribute to the rapper's upcoming LP. "Kanye pushes boundaries and does really weird fucking shit," Vernon says. "But he never gives up on the song. I immediately related to him."
This is a story from the September 16th, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.