Justin Vernon‘s Bon Iver are just days away from releasing new album 22, A Million. Often reclusive, he hasn’t been giving many interviews in the lead-up to the album. He did speak to The Guardian, though, and among many other interesting comments on fame, photography and Beyoncé, he highlighted the need to talk about anxiety.
Four years ago, after the release of his last album, he almost walked away from music entirely. “I had mental stuff, stuff I felt needed healing. And as morose or self-involved as it is, I felt that the only thing I could do was to go into myself a little bit.”
“I had this huge idea and I didn’t have the wherewithal to go through with it.” In an attempt to heal, he visited the Greek island of Santorini on an ill-fated vacation.
“I’m a horrible planner, so I went in off-season and there’s no restaurants open and there’s nobody there. And so I just feel pulverised: dealing with some unrequited love situation-slash-just knowing that that isn’t even the issue, I’m the issue, I need to get my shit straight.”
It was at this point where Vernon experienced his first panic attack. “It was like: ‘Oh my god, my chest is caving in, what the fuck is going on?’
“I don’t like talking about it, but I feel it’s important to talk about it, so that other people who experience it don’t feel it’s just happening to them.”
He began seeking treatment for depression upon his return home. But as any sufferer knows, you often get a lot worse before you get better. “It was bad, bad, bad and then really bad, for a long time. I’d say I was having very bad days for about a year and a half.”
While the self-explained “European horribleness” was traumatic and triggering, it also birthed the album we’re about to hear. “I kept moving hotels because I was, like: ‘Well, this is completely depressing, I’d better go to a different place.’” It was here that he began humming the line, “It might be over soon” the already familiar lead line from recent single, 22 (OVER S∞∞N).
Interestingly, one of Vernon’s biggest sources of inspiration as he began to heal and write, was the one and only Kanye West, in his promotion of self-love and confidence. “Kanye speaks of how you have to love yourself. And believe in yourself. I heard him say something recently: ‘I love myself so other people can love themselves.’ So they get up in the morning and put on a song and be like ‘FUCK YEAH’. And that is what it’s for.”
It’s incredible to see Vernon willing to take his own struggle with mental illness and not only turn it into something creatively brilliant (the album), but to help others. Indeed, it’s a pretty horrible and uncomfortable topic to discuss, but it’s tremendously important to bring a conversation about mental illness to the fore. Seeing well known figures like Vernon open up in this way can absolutely influence and encourage sufferers to not only acquaint themselves with, but to accept it, and themselves, and to understand that they are not – and never will be – alone in their struggle.
Read more: 22, A Million: A Preview
Read our extensive feature on For Emma, Forever Ago
Image: Cameron Wittig