Music People

LISTEN: Justin Vernon Talks to V1 about the City, the Festival, and His Creative World

Nick Meyer, photos by Luong Huynh |

The coming week is a big one for the culture of Eau Claire. Thousands of people from around the world will descend into the valley soon for not only the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival on July 6-7, but for a whole array of related events and happenings in the days before and after.

With that on the horizon, a while back I got a text from Justin saying he wanted to talk and had some things on his mind he wanted to share with not only me, but perhaps with the city too. He was fresh off his two intimate Lock-Inn shows at The Oxbow Hotel in downtown Eau Claire and the debut of his revelatory collaboration with TU Dance. So we set up a recorder and had a little talk at Volume One a few weeks ago.

And now if you’re interested — and you can handle a few inside jokes, unfamiliar references, and unexplained name-drops — you can listen in.

We of course covered Eaux Claires and the “no-lineup lineup” and what it means to him and the city, as well as the economics and future of the festival. He also elaborates on the plan for “scoring the fireworks” with Aaron Dessner of The National at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire on the 4th of July.

We also talk about just how good I felt the TU Dance collaboration was in St. Paul (and its possible future at the Pablo Center here in Eau Claire). We also touch on the ambitious Bon Iver schedule this year and what it took emotionally for him to get back in the game.

But in true form for a couple of old locals, we talked about where the Eau Claire community has been and where it’s going, what he thinks about all the attention the city has been getting, and about how he experiences this place.

The audio comes in at about 45 minutes long, has been edited for length, and contains minor adult language.

Here are a few random excerpts:

On Eau Claire…

“The character or type of person that lives here is a very good one, very good people. But I also feel like we just don’t step out or something. We don’t take that chance. Or we don’t do the thing we’re not supposed to and that’s what kinda keeps us pulled back.”

On the Pablo Center…

“I’m just happy that’s it happening. It just seems like all of the rowboating to the truth, to the final stages of this thing has gotten a good team in place. I think Jason Jon has become a really close not only friend but like — I told him: 'This town needs you.' I just personally feel great that I feel like I can call Jason … and just be like 'Hey, can I do something there and can we work this out and can I stretch my artistic wings, like a local artist at this place?'”

On Eaux Claires…

“We plan on being around 20 years. We made money the first year. We lost a lot of money the last the couple years. But we’re not gonna give up. And we’re gonna keep trying to figure out what this thing is without trying to be like financially guided, other than just trying not to lose our asses … 20 years we hope to be doing this thing, if not longer. I foresee giving up very few times between then and now.”

On the TU Dance Performance…

“I was proud because I felt like a really new kind of reward after it because of the hard work. Because it was new and it was different. I got a chance to express myself. All I had was an opportunity to do something new, and it felt like just as exciting as like making the first album.”