Home is where the music is

Justin Vernon at the United Nations Equator Prize Gala in New York City in 2014.
Justin Vernon at the United Nations Equator Prize Gala in New York City in 2014.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Justin Vernon, frontman of indie darling Bon Iver, returns to touring after a three-year break

The frontman of critically acclaimed American indie-folk band Bon Iver, Justin Vernon, is as enamoured with the hit Netflix documentary series, Making A Murderer, as is the rest of the world.

"I'm obsessed. I think about it every day, I read articles (on it) every day," says the 34-year-old singer in a telephone interview with The Straits Times from his home, a cabin in Fall Creek, Wisconsin.

The documentary, filmed over a decade, tells the story of American Steven Avery. He served an 18-year jail sentence for a rape he did not commit and after his release from prison, he was arrested and convicted of murder in the Wisconsin town Manitowoc.

Vernon's confession is one of many candid moments during the interview in which he opens up about his life off the touring circuit and his return to the stage after a three-year break.

His band will perform in Singapore for the first time on Feb 26 with an eight-piece line-up at the 5,000-seat Star Performing Arts Centre. So far, 90 per cent of the tickets have been sold.

The band returned to the stage last year at the Eaux Claires music festival in Wisconsin and they are embarking on a seven-date Asian tour this year. The tour kicks off in Seoul on Feb 21 and makes stops in cities such as Taipei, Tokyo and Manila.

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Explaining his time away from the live music circuit, he says: "I love playing shows, but I just think the attention on me as a person was getting a little too much."

The gruelling tour schedule also got to him.

"When you do that every night for 150 nights, you start to not find yourself being impressive, so I needed to take a break," he says.

The band's last album, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, was released in 2011 to critical acclaim. The track Holocene, a dreamy, atmospheric number, was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2012 Grammy Awards and the album won Best Alternative Music Album.

Vernon says it is "a special thing" for the band to be playing in Asia.

When he started making music in high school in small town Wisconsin, he never thought he would make it halfway across the world to perform in Asia.

His priorities were simple: be a local musician and have a family.

"The problem is you grow up and you go all around the world and you don't know where your home is any more," says the bachelor, making reference to the years when the band were busy touring.

"It turns out my home is my recording studio ," he says.

His studio, located in his cabin home in Wisconsin, is where he has kept busy during his hiatus. He returned to his producer roots and worked on albums such as If I Was by British folk rock trio The Staves, which was released last year.

He has collaborated with Chicago rapper Kanye West and was featured on tracks such as Lost In The World, Monster and I Am A God, which appeared in the last two albums by West.

He says he worked on "a bunch" of new music for West too. "But I don't know what I did that's going to make it," he says, referring to West's highly guarded and anticipated album release on Thursday.

As for his own music, he says he has dabbled in writing "little bits here and there", but "nothing that's come to fruition".

He says: " I think doing this tour is a good way of checking in and seeing how I feel about it. I'm hopeful."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Home is where the music is'. Print Edition | Subscribe