Who: Bon Iver, the nom de plume of Justin Vernon, who isolated himself in a cabin during a harsh Wisconsin winter and emerged with 2008’s most buzzed-about folk album, For Emma, Forever Ago, a set of nine songs adored by music critics and Grey’s Anatomy fans alike.
Sounds Like: Picture Nick Drake if the Pink Moon singer pulled a Henry David Thoreau and ensconced himself in the woods. For Emma is an icy moonscape of an album, with Vernon layering vocal track over vocal track, harmonizing his eerie falsetto with itself along to chopped and spliced acoustic guitar on songs like “Flume” and “Creature Fear.”
• Vernon took refuge in his father’s Wisconsin hunting cabin in the winter of 2006 following a bad breakup and a nasty case of mono. “This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization/It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away,” he sings. Once there, the man we call Bon Iver subsisted on deer meat, Leinenkugel beer and Northern Exposure DVDs.
• Since the album’s release in 2007 (and subsequent rerelease this year), Vernon’s songs have been featured three times on Grey’s Anatomy, he’s performed with the likes of Okkervil River and Lykke Li and even Lily Allen has blogged about his music. He was also invited to participate in a tribute to one of his personal heroes, John Prine.
• Bon Iver will release a new EP, titled Blood Bank, in January. After that, Vernon will tour Australia before returning back to Madison, Wisconsin for one last blowout show before he “disappears” to work on his next album. “I’m not going to go back to the cabin,” Vernon admits, “That would be ridiculous.”
Popular on Rollingstone
Hear It Now: For Emma, Forever Ago is in stores both physical and digital now, with the Blood Bank EP due out January 20th. Until then, check out this week’s Breaking video, featuring Bon Iver’s clip for Emma‘s “The Wolves, Act I and II.”