Music Interviews

5 Quotes From Justin Vernon's Billboard Q&A

Eric Christenson, photos by Lee Butterworth, Luong Huynh |

Justin Vernon and Bon Iver close out Eaux Claires 2015
Justin Vernon and Bon Iver close out Eaux Claires 2015

On the same day organizers released the lineup for Eaux Claires 2016, Billboard ran an interview with fest co-curator, Bon Iver frontman, and Chippewa Valley native Justin Vernon. He said a lot of stuff, but here are five of the more interesting takeaways ...

1. On last year’s inaugural festival ...

"If we learned something positive it's that we're on the right path. We're doing the thing that we set out to do, which is to make a unique experience. And I think that unique experience has so much to do with who we're asking to come. It's not just good musicians, it's musicians that are willing to step over the normal bounds of playing a festival."

2. On his Eaux Claires 2016 goals ...

"In year two, it's about taking what we learned that was all positive and fixing a few of the other things and just trying to graduate. To keep graduating every year."

3. On new Bon Iver music ...

"I’m no longer winding down. I’m not exactly sure where I am with it. I’ve been winding down for a number of years for numerous reasons. For exhaustion, exposure. It’s never died or anything to me. It’s one of those things that needs to be protected in my own spirit ... You know, we’re not just gonna play the same set we did last year. I’ve been working on music, you know, man. It takes a long time, and I’m not sure exactly what it is or what it means to me, and until that happens I won’t really know exactly what sharing it will look like or feel like or when. There’s sort of this internal pressure, not from anybody but myself, to come out with new music for the festival. But I’m not gonna make myself do anything. I really have to take it step by step and have patience and know that the music – if it comes out, it’s gotta be really true, it’s gotta really live with the other records and extend from them and be reborn and all that. There’s a lot that goes into it. I’ve definitely been working on music."

Vernon steps in with Aero Flynn's Josh Scott
Vernon steps in with Aero Flynn's Josh Scott

4. A surprisingly coherent boat metaphor ...

"I never grew up trying to be somebody that was a recognized person, and that sort of happened. The metaphor that I’ve been using lately is like, 'I was looking for a fishing boat.' Like, I was looking for a really nice fishing boat to go through life in. To just have enough success to be happy and play music and to share my feelings and thoughts and express those things in music. And then one day rather than a fishing boat showing up in my front yard, someone just pulled up with a yacht. And it took me a while, I was like, 'Oh, of course. I’ll drive a yacht around for a while.' I had to trade that in. I’m looking for a new boat on my own terms a little more."

5. On the creative energy of the Midwest ...

"There's something about being from here my whole life and everyone else that's from here. You can be the world's best musician, but there's a humility that you're just forced to deal with being from the Midwest. It's a humbleness that's required if you're going to make it through the winters here."

Journey Ahead

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