Kim and I watched the Grammys for the first time ever as we had to see if Justin Vernon, once our next door neighbor and the producer of both my CD's, would indeed, win a Grammy as Best New Artist of the Year.
We both cheered and applauded when the announcement came.
My personal history with Justin goes all the way back to the year 2000. Having just gotten out of the hospital from a quadruple bypass, I was unable to do the things necessary to implement upkeep on my little bungalow office.
So down the road (Justin's parents Gil and Justine lived scarcely a fourth of a mile from me on Highway I), armed with snow shovels, come both Gil and son Justin, to clear my roof of the huge snow fall recently received.
As I recall, Justin is a senior in high school at the time and just getting started as a guitarist and singer/songwriter. I show him my prize guitars and we talk music for a while before I thank them profusely and before they leave, I promise them pizza somewhere down the road .
For the next few years I follow Justin's guitar playing and am astounded at how he passes me in ability at light speed. It is truely uncanny how quickly the boy picks up the instrument! And not just guitar!
When I finally decide to record two CD's worth of my original songs, Justin and I discuss whether he would be interested in being my project manager and overall recording engineer, song arranger, and buddy.
Although our age difference chronologically is pretty astronomical, we are totally unaware of age when we are together working as a team and we spend glorious afternoons in the basement of his parents home, arranging and recording my "stuff".
I cook up large batches of ham and bean soup which I bring with me to recording sessions and by 3PM the recording session is joined by Mother Nature's Horn Section.
Throughout the recording session, Justin instinctively knows what I want and when I am not certain, he nails it with creative input of his own.
On a song I wrote for my wife, Kim, Justin plays everything but the rhythm guitar track that I lay down first. He lays some really tasty fills in on Gibson electric guitar, puts down a tasty bass line, and adds the exact drum line I was looking for.
His sabbatical to Ireland upon high school graduation pays off when we record a salute to my lost friend Gerald FitzGerald entitled "Irish Heart" and Justin plays Irish whistle with a depth of emotion that still brings me to the edge of tears when I listen to the track.
Justin is at my side for my CD release party, along with 16 other musicians who contributed to the CD's and that evening marks an all-time high for me as a musician.
To have someone as talented and grounded as Justin tell me after the show that he is so proud of me has me walking on air for months.
At this point, Justin, who has at times "house sat" my little office while I was away on vacation, start to lose track of one another as he has moved to Carolina with several of his band mates from DeYarmond Edison.
Kim and I do catch them in concert at the Mabel Tainter while they are home.
That band eventually breaks up, Justin comes home broken hearted in romance, and quite ill physically. But it is these two elements, coupled with lots of time alone at his dad's cabin in the woods, that brings out his first Bon Iver album - "For Emma - Forever Ago" and as it is said: "the rest is history".
The flurry that Bon Iver causes in the world of Tweet, to me, is both comical and pitiful. Who are these angry, angry fans who feel they must lash out because their favorite didn't win? Haters. There will always be haters. But I know Justin Vernon pretty well.
The fact that he told the academy to "stuff it" if his band would not be included in the spot they wanted him to do tells me that the Justin that I knew is still with us. Honest. Grounded. Making music for the right reasons. And you can bet that if Bon Iver garners no further awards, it will not stop Justin from making really good, honest music from today forward.
On your own terms, Justin -- on your own terms!
One of the saddest days of my life is the afternoon when we end up with the final mix and I give him a big hug and tell him that this is the best time I have ever had!