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When a scruffily bearded Justin Vernon, the voice behind indie folk band Bon Iver, took the stage to accept the award for Best New Artist, viewers flocked to the blogosphere to express their opinions, with a large number simply asking, “Who is he?”
For those who have yet to fall in love with the airy acoustic melodies and mesmerizing vocals of Bon Iver, here is a quick run down. According to MTV, Vernon began his musical career in a jazzy band called Mount Vernon, which later became DeYarmond Edison. In 2006, the band and his relationship ended, leaving Vernon with a case of mono and the blues. Holing up in his father’s deer-hunting log cabin in Wisconsin, Vernon began writing songs for what would become the album For Emma.
The name “Bon Iver” came to be after months of drinking and “Northern Exposure” marathons, a TV show based in Alaska which used the French phrase, translating to “good winter,” as a greeting.
Though the tunes were initially made as demos, their popularity in the blogosphere led to a record deal with label Jagjaguwar. In 2008, For Emma was released with resounding success in the indie community, leading to a spot on "The Twilight Saga: New Moon” soundtrack and a collaboration with Kanye West. Vernon continued to work with other artists such as English singer James Blake and the indie group Gayngs.
After building his own cabin outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Vernon got to work on his self-titled album and soon-to-be Grammy winner.
Despite his rebuff of the Grammy’s offer for a performance, Vernon left that night with a pair of awards—the second for Best Alternative Album. His acceptance speech, although slightly awkward, was lauded for its honesty by his fans.
“It's really hard to accept this award," he began. "There's so much talent here on this stage and there's so much talent that's not here tonight . . . And it's also hard to accept because when I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here."
Despite the mixed messages, the group Bon Iver (or “Bonny Bear” as confused searchers typed) has lit up the Internet with searches, downloads, and Tweets since their Grammy success over more recognizable artists like Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, Skrillex, and the Band Perry.