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Justin Vernon

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Justin Vernon
Vernon performing with Big Red Machine in 2019
Vernon performing with Big Red Machine in 2019
Background information
Birth nameJustin DeYarmond Edison Vernon
Born (1981-04-30) April 30, 1981 (age 43)
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, U.S.[1]
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • banjo
  • bass
  • drums
  • percussion
  • piano
Years active1998–present
Member of
Formerly ofDeYarmond Edison

Justin DeYarmond Edison Vernon (born April 30, 1981) is an American singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He is best-known as the primary songwriter and frontman of indie folk band Bon Iver.[2][3][4] He is also a member of the bands Volcano Choir, Big Red Machine, the Shouting Matches, and Gayngs, and was previously a member of the now-defunct band DeYarmond Edison. Known for his distinct falsetto voice,[5][6] Vernon has received widespread acclaim for his work, predominantly with Bon Iver.[7][8][9]

Early life[edit]

Vernon attended Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he still resides today. He formed his first band, Mount Vernon, in 1997 after meeting its members at a Wisconsin high school jazz camp. They released their first local musical project in 1998. He graduated from Memorial High in 1999 and attended college at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, spending a semester in Ireland.[10] Vernon majored in Religious Studies and minored in Women's Studies. In an interview on The Colbert Report, he said that was because he hadn't been ready to study music.[11]


Pre-Bon Iver[edit]

In 2001, Vernon released his first solo album under the name "J.D Vernon", titled Home Is. He went on to release two other solo albums, namely Self Record in 2005, which was followed shortly thereafter by Hazeltons in 2006.[12] Vernon founded the band DeYarmond Edison in 2001 while still in college.[13][14]

The band, which began performing in 2002, consisted of Vernon, Phil Cook, Christopher Porterfield, and Joe Westerlund. After playing in the Eau Claire music scene, the four bandmates decided to leave their longtime home and move to Raleigh, North Carolina, to try their musical hand in a new place. The band released two records themselves, the first self-titled in 2004 and the second titled Silent Signs in 2005,[15] and an EP of unreleased material is available on their Myspace page.[16] After nearly a year in Raleigh, Vernon left for Wisconsin in 2006 after a breakup with the band and a girlfriend. The remaining members of DeYarmond Edison went on to form the folk bands Megafaun and Field Report.[17]

Bon Iver[edit]

Vernon performing with Bon Iver in Black Cat, Washington, D.C., in 2008

Vernon came to international prominence with For Emma, Forever Ago, his first album as Bon Iver, which he recorded isolated in a northern Wisconsin cabin during the winter months of 2006 and 2007, while he was going through health and personal difficulties. The album was self-released by Vernon in July 2007 and after it received several positive reviews, including from Pitchfork, the album was rereleased in February 2008 and released internationally in May of that year.[citation needed]

Bon Iver won Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards, for their 2011 self-titled album.[18] On September 25, 2012, Vernon walked away from Bon Iver temporarily, virtually putting an end to the band for the time being. When asked for reasoning, he replied, "[I'm] winding it down. I look at it like a faucet. I have to turn it off and walk away from it because so much of how that music comes together is subconscious or discovering. There's so much attention on the band, it can be distracting at times. I really feel the need to walk away from it while I still care about it. And then if I come back to it – if at all – I'll feel better about it and be renewed or something to do that."[19]

The band's third studio album, 22, A Million, was released on September 30, 2016, to critical acclaim. The album marked a major shift in Bon Iver's musical style, with prominent uses of electronic instrumentation and voice modulation, a contrast to Vernon's previous acoustic style. On August 9, 2019, Vernon released I, I, to critical acclaim. The band's fourth studio LP is vocal-heavy and features dozens of collaborators, emulating the message Vernon intended to send when working with Aaron Dessner in producing Big Red Machine.[citation needed]

Collaborations and side projects[edit]

Vernon performing with Bon Iver in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2009

Vernon is a part of other musical groups, including Volcano Choir, which consists of Vernon and the members of the band Collections of Colonies of Bees. In 2009, Unmap was released. His collaborative group Gayngs, consisting of multiple established artists, including members from Megafaun, the Rosebuds, Doomtree and Solid Gold, among others, released Relayted in 2010.[20]

Vernon contributed vocals as Orpheus to seven songs on Anaïs Mitchell's 2010 album Hadestown, based on the Greek legend Orpheus and Eurydice. He is one third of the Shouting Matches, a blues-garage rock trio, along with Laarks and Peter Wolf Crier drummer Brian Moen, and former DeYarmond Edison bandmate Phil Cook. They have recorded and released a 5-track EP, Mouthoil,[21] and their debut album, Grownass Man, in 2013.[22]

During the creation of Kanye West's 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Vernon was invited to collaborate on various songs, providing vocals on "Dark Fantasy", "Monster", "Hell Of A Life" and "Lost in the World", as well as the song "That's My Bitch" from West and Jay-Z's collaborative album Watch the Throne in 2011.[23] He was also involved in West's 2013 album Yeezus, contributing to "I Am a God", "Hold My Liquor", and "I'm in It".[24]

He has, on several occasions, served as backing vocalist for West at his live performances, notably at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2011 and Glastonbury Festival in 2015, where Kanye West introduced Vernon as "one of the baddest white boys on the planet". In 2009, Vernon collaborated with Aaron Dessner on the song "Big Red Machine" for the AIDS benefit album Dark Was the Night produced by the Red Hot Organization.[citation needed]

He has produced albums for other artists, including Land of Talk's 2008 album Some Are Lakes[25] and Kathleen Edwards' 2012 album, Voyageur.[26]

Vernon at Jazz Fest in 2012

In 2012, Vernon began Chigliak, an imprint of Jagjaguwar, dedicated to albums that have had limited or non-commercial releases.[27] In 2014, Jason Feathers, a collaboration with Vernon, Ryan Olson (member of Gayngs, Poliça and Marijuana Deathsquads), indie rapper Astronautalis and Bon Iver member Sean Carey (known by his stage name S. Carey), released De Oro.[citation needed]

In 2017, Vernon collaborated with Mouse on Mars on their album Dimensional People who used his studio April Base.[28] His voice can be heard on the song Dimensional People III.[29]

On June 23, 2018, Vernon joined Dead & Company on stage at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. He performed three songs with the band: "Black Muddy River", "Friend of the Devil", and "Birdsong". Given Vernon's Wisconsin roots, it was a special appearance that highlighted the timelessness and versatility of the Dead's music.[30]

In late August 2018, Vernon released the eponymous debut album of duet Big Red Machine alongside the National's Aaron Dessner. The 10 song self-titled album Big Red Machine was co-produced by Dessner, Vernon and Brad Cook, and features approximately 40 collaborators, including Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf, and Richard Parry.[31] The majority of the album was recorded in Dessner's garage studio in Hudson Valley, New York.[32][33]

Vernon with Bon Iver in Barcelona, Spain at Primavera Sound in 2019

In March 2020 the Ryan Olson-produced album Sorry You Couldn't Make It by Swamp Dogg was released, with Vernon playing guitar on all tracks. He had previously appeared as a guest on Swamp Dogg's 2018 album Love, Loss & Autotune. Later in 2020, Vernon collaborated with Taylor Swift to write and feature on the song "Exile", with an instrumental credit on "Peace", for her eighth studio album Folklore.[34] Swift released her ninth studio album Evermore, a surprise follow-up album to Folklore. Vernon co-wrote the title track and played other instruments as well as performed background vocals on several tracks.[35][36]

Eaux Claires[edit]

Vernon founded and curated the Eaux Claires music and arts festival along with Aaron Dessner of the National.[37]

In August 2016, Vernon and Dessner curated the second annual Eaux Claires festival.[38] On the opening night of the festival, Bon Iver debuted their third album, 22, A Million, in front of a live audience.[39] 22, A Million was released on September 30, 2016, to widespread critical acclaim.[40]


Solo albums[edit]

  • Home Is (as JD Vernon, 2001)
  • Self Record (2005)
  • Hazeltons (2006)

With Mount Vernon[edit]

  • We Can Look Up (1998)
  • All of Us Free (2000)

With DeYarmond Edison[edit]

  • DeYarmond Edison (2004)
  • Silent Signs (2005)
  • The Bickett Residency (2005)
  • Unreleased EP (2006)
  • Epoch (2023)

With Bon Iver[edit]

With the Shouting Matches[edit]

  • Mouthoil (2008, limited release in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, re-released in 2013)
  • Grownass Man (2013)

With Volcano Choir[edit]

With Gayngs[edit]

With Big Red Machine[edit]

Collaborative albums[edit]

Other collaborations[edit]


  1. ^ "Justin Vernon". AskMen.com. December 13, 2008. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  2. ^ "55th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominees". Grammy.org/CBS. February 10, 2011. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Judki, Maura (February 13, 2012). "Bon Iver's Best New Artist win confuses Grammy viewers". Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  4. ^ Caramanica, Jon (June 3, 2011). "Who, What and Where is Bon Iver?". New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  5. ^ Kornhaber, Spencer (August 14, 2019). "CULTURE: Bon Iver's Inexplicable Power". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 19, 2020. The band's folk-pop experiments sound like gorgeous, nonsensical conversations on the state of the world.
  6. ^ Barton, Laura (September 24, 2016). "Bon Iver: 'There are people who are into being famous. And I don't like that'". The Guardian. Retrieved May 6, 2021. Justin Vernon's falsetto-folk infiltrated pop and caught Kanye's ear but now he's kicking against the fame game. For his new album, he explains why the last thing he'll do is a Beyoncé-style Pepsi tour
  7. ^ "Why Justin Vernon Is One Of The Greatest Musicians Of His Time". The Odyssey Online. August 11, 2015.
  8. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (September 5, 2019). "5 Years, 28 People, 1 Song: No One Writes Quite Like Bon Iver". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Bon Iver's 'i,i' Is Justin Vernon at His Most Alive". www.vice.com. August 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Szymanski, Ken. "BON IVER: Back Tracks". Volume One Magazine. December 4, 2008. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  11. ^ Colbert, Stephen (June 20, 2011). "Interview of Justin Vernon". Colbert Report. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  12. ^ Bassil, Ryan (December 7, 2017). "It's Time to Listen to the Three Forgotten Justin Vernon Albums". Vice. Vice News. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  13. ^ Foley, Ryan (September 11, 2007). "Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on February 1, 2010.
  14. ^ Deusner, Stephen (October 4, 2007). "Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on February 17, 2009.
  15. ^ Anderson, Derek. "A new residency (DeYarmond Edison)". Indy Week. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  16. ^ "DeYarmond Edison". MySpace. April 12, 2009. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  17. ^ Allen, Dustin (February 11, 2008). "Out of the Bungalow: An Interview With Bon Iver". Treblezine.com. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  18. ^ Wappler, Margaret (February 12, 2012). "Grammys 2012: Bon Iver wins for best new artist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  19. ^ "Bon Iver 'Winding It Down,' Justin Vernon Says". Rolling Stone. September 25, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  20. ^ Kathy (February 17, 2010). "Jagjaguwar Introduces GAYNGS, New Album Relayted Coming in May". Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  21. ^ "The Shouting Matches". December 9, 2009. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  22. ^ Stephen Thompson (April 7, 2013). "First Listen: The Shouting Matches, 'Grownass Man'". NPR. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  23. ^ Dombal, Ryan (August 13, 2010). "Justin Vernon Talks Kanye Collaboration, Gayngs: Bon Iver leader tells all about his work with one of the biggest pop stars on earth". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  24. ^ "Here Are The Full Liner Notes on Kanye West's "Yeezus"". Complex.
  25. ^ McNair, Bear (2008). "Land of Talk: Some Are Lakes (Saddle Creek)". Tinymixtapes.com. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  26. ^ Adams, Gregory (October 11, 2011). "Kathleen Edwards Unveils 'Voyageur'". Exclaim!. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  27. ^ Pelly, Jenn (January 9, 2012). "Bon Iver's Justin Vernon Launches Record Label, Chigliak". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  28. ^ Mouse on Mars unveil Dimensional People album (EB.TV Documentary), archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved September 29, 2021
  29. ^ "Mouse On Mars – "Dimensional People Part III" (Feat. Justin Vernon)". Stereogum. January 17, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  30. ^ Kreps, Daniel (June 24, 2018). "Watch Bon Iver's Justin Vernon Join Dead & Company in Wisconsin". Rolling Stone.
  31. ^ Kaye, Ben (July 13, 2018). "Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon's Big Red Machine announce debut LP, share four songs: Stream". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  32. ^ Kahn, Andy (July 12, 2018). "Justin Vernon & Aaron Dessner Announce Big Red Machine Debut Album". JamBase. Retrieved October 18, 2018..
  33. ^ Double J (September 5, 2018). "How Aaron Dessner & Justin Vernon's Big Red Machine is the tip of a collaborative iceberg". Double J. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  34. ^ Strauss, Matthew (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift Releases New Album folklore: Listen and Read the Full Credits". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  35. ^ Spanos, Brittany (December 10, 2020). "Taylor Swift Announces Ninth Album 'Evermore'". Rolling Stone.
  36. ^ Raihala, Ross (December 10, 2020). "Taylor Swift's second surprise album of 2020 once again features St. Paul drummer JT Bates and Justin Vernon". Pioneer Press.
  37. ^ Harley Brown (December 1, 2014). "Eaux Claires Music Festival, Curated by Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner, Announced for Summer 2015". Billboard. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  38. ^ Polanco, Luis. "Eaux Claires Festival Announces 2016 Dates". Billboard. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  39. ^ Brennan, Collin (August 14, 2016). "Bon Iver debut new album 22, A Million in full at Eaux Claires Festival — watch". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  40. ^ Kreps, Daniel (August 12, 2016). "Bon Iver Announce New LP '22, A Million,' Unveil Two Tracks". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  41. ^ "Lonnie Holley Teams With Bon Iver On New Song "Kindness Will Follow Your Tears": Listen". Stereogum. March 8, 2023. Retrieved April 22, 2023.

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