Michael Perry's Advice for Bon Iver

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The Scavengers
(Michael Perry)

In town to talk to Michael Feldman about his newest venture - the young adult novel Scavengers (HarperCollins) - New York Times best-selling Wisconsin author Michael Perry shared the secret of transcending the youthful target audience.

“The best ones always have a little something in there for the grownups,” Perry says.

So Perry added in a homage to his friends from Eau Claire (and indie superstars) Bon Iver.  A father of a character in the novel wears a much beloved “Bon Hiver” T-shirt.  It’s not too hard to trace the real life inspiration for that. 

“I feel like – that whole group, Sean (Carey) and Justin (Vernon) - that whole crew; I’m like the clunky uncle.  I’m the old bald guy who kind of hung around and watched them do this.”

Perry explains the story behind the alteration of his fictionalized wardrobe.

“(Vernon) told me one time that it’s French for good winter, but the true spelling is B-O-N, H-I-V-ER and Justin told me once he took the H off because he thought it would be too confusing.  I don’t think he fixed the problem.”

But, Perry’s past with Bon Iver front man Justin Vernon runs a little bit deeper.

“He used to be in my band, tell you the truth,” Perry said, speaking of his musical project Michael Perry and the Long Beds.

“He played my wedding.  He was a Long Bed…At the time, Justin was just this kid living in a basement and he and I recorded my first album together.”

Perry also joked that he doesn’t think the collaboration was finished.

“He’ll come crawling back.”

He went on to share how Justin gave him a crucial bit of musical advice.  During a heavily attended show in Grand Marais, Perry was channeling his inner Waylon Jennings as he walked on stage and began strumming the opening chord to the first number.  Vernon had to remind Perry to plug in his guitar.  Perry decided to return the favor with some advice of his own.

“Anyone who knows him, he’s got a beautiful, deep, resonant voice and he can sing like a seventy year old Delta Blues man.  And then he went into the woods to do this For Emma album, deep into the Wisconsin woods – nine miles to the nearest Kwik Trip – and he emerges with this album and he gives it to me and says ‘would you please listen to it and tell me what you think?’.  And so I listen to it and then I went back and musically I said ‘I think it’s terrific.  I think this is what you needed to do.  Congratulations.’  But I said, ‘this whole singing in falsetto thing, seems like a pretty bad idea.’  He ignored me and is doing just fine.” 

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