Early 2012 was a glorious period for Bon Iver but the hard work began more than seven years earlier. Singer-songwriter Justin Vernon led quartet DeYarmon Edison which hit local clubs in Raleigh, N.C. The band hit rough patch, artistic-wise, and disbanded in summer 2006. Vernon was back in Wisconsin and secluded himself for three months in his father's cabin to let his creative juice flow out.
"For Emma, Forever Ago" was conceived during this period and recorded independently in July 2007. "When I made For Emma, it was my last chance to see if I could sit down and make something, for myself, that was beautiful," Vernon recalled. The album received a very positive review from indie internet publication Pitchfork and it led to an appearance at the CMJ Music Marathon as well as label offers.
Vernon, together with his band decided to sign with indie label Jagjaguwar and released "For Emma" in February 2008. As an indie album, "For Emma" was showered with critical acclaims including receiving the title of Album of the Month from Mojo and Uncut magazines. Vernon was still having a hard time believing that people were listening to his songs. "Skinny Love" in particular was a digital hit in U.K., getting a live performance on "Late Show with David Letterman" in December 2008.
A lot of the tracks from "For Emma" ended up being used in TV series such as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy", NBC's "Chuck", and Showtime's "United States of Tara". Bon Iver spent 2009 touring extensively for the album, hitting big music scenes such as Lollapalooza while continuing to write for the next album and collaborative projects. The unlikely partnership with Kanye West came in 2010 on the track "Lost in the World" which eventually went to West's album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy".
"As a fan of Kanye West, working with him is insane. And working with Olson on Gayngs is insane too, because he's a hero of mine. But I have to say that the Sounds of the South [his project with his former band mates in Megafaun, Sharon Van Etten, and jazz big band Fight the Big Bull] weirdly became the most rewarding musical thing I've really ever done because I was playing with those boys again," he said about his favorite collaboration.
Come March 2011, Vernon struck a relationship with GOOD Music and signed to the label. A self-titled album was released in June that year as the band's sophomore effort. Composed of 10 songs, the album was led by "Calgary" but it was second single "Holocene" that created the buzz. The Recording Academy awarded four nominations for the band at the 54th Grammy Awards including Record of the Year for "Holocene".
Although they were criticized for being unfit of Best New Artist nomination, the band went home with the title in February 2012. They also won Best Alternative Album for "Bon Iver".