Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon Discusses Dealing With Fame, Fan Expectations
For Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, small-town Midwestern living has always been a key component of the creative process. But now that the band is a Grammy-winning phenomenon worthy of spoofing on ‘SNL,’ how is he adjusting to fame? Pretty well, as it turns out.
Vernon discussed Bon Iver’s increased profile during a recent interview with the Arkansas Times, reflecting on the impact it’s had on his ability to retain some semblance of normalcy in the Wisconsin town he’s always called home. “I’ve been there long enough that it’s mostly cool,” he mused. “There might be some college kids that move into town that aren’t used to seeing me at the coffee shop or something, but it’s almost never weird, it’s pretty chill, and everyone doesn’t give a s—, kind of. They’re excited, but they know that it’s not some celebrity thing.”
Vernon struggled a little more with the question of what an artist of his stature owes his fans, asking “I’m not sure — what do you mean?” before delving into the complex relationship between art, commerce and the weight of expectations.
“I think the only thing that you truly owe a fan is to create what you want to create for yourself and if that overlaps with what the fans want to hear, great,” he offered. “But the death of art is that first step taken in that direction of trying to appease — and it’s true of anything in life, really — I think your first step toward appeasing a situation and appeasing something that isn’t necessarily bold truth or destiny, you’re headed in the wrong direction and it’s very hard to return the other way.”
When it comes to the more mundane obligations of fame, Vernon’s happy to accommodate fans, but he still struggles with the broader implications. “It’s hard with autographs and pictures and stuff,” he admitted. “I’ll oblige somebody, you know? But it’s hard because I don’t really understand exactly what’s going on there. Do you know what I mean?”