Local Current Blog

All of the songs sampled on Bon Iver’s ’22, A Million’

Bon Iver publicity photo by Cameron Wittig and Crystal Quinn

Many aspects of Bon Iver’s new album 22, A Million were discussed in detail at a press conference in downtown Eau Claire on Friday night, but one thing that kept coming up again and again was how many different artists inspired Justin Vernon during the creation of this record. Evidence of those inspirations can literally be heard in snippets that he chopped up on his OP-1 sampler and slid between the beats, and the artists sampled range from gospel singers to ’60s girl groups to modern-day indie folk and rock artists.

Justin Vernon says he was eager to experiment more with sampling on the new album. “When hip-hop first started happening and people were using samples, people were like, ‘That’s not your music!’ ‘You have to make new same chords on the electric guitar!’ ‘These aren’t your drums, you didn’t play that!’ I’ve always wanted to be able to get more into it, because I think you might as well; if a piece of music sounds good and you want to use it in a new way, that’s absolutely 100% legal.”

Stevie Nicks, “Wild Heart”

Vernon revealed the story behind this sample at Friday night’s press conference.

“On track two, ’10 (Death Breast),’ there’s an uncredited sample in there. She requested that we not talk about it in the liner notes, but it’s a Stevie Nicks sample. And I respected her wishes to not put it in the credits. I think mostly she just didn’t want to get asked why we didn’t work together, and how was working together, I totally get that,” he said. “But it’s from my favorite YouTube video of all time, it’s her warming up in 1981 and getting her hair did, and singing her song ‘Wild Heart,’ which was never, in my opinion, properly recorded. There’s this beautiful, beautiful recording of her singing, and there’s somebody off stage singing harmony, and it’s just the best piece of music. That little bit ‘Wild heart, wild heart,’ that’s that sample.”

The Supreme Jubilees, “Standing in the Need of Prayer”

The line “in need of prayer” and a sped-up sample of the song can be heard on the track “666.”

Sharon Van Etten, “Dsharpg”

Some of Sharon Van Etten’s angelic vocals from this song are one of the many things Vernon sampled on “33 (God).”

Jim Ed Brown, “Morning”

Several lines are featured “33 (God),” including “When we leave this room, it’s gone,” and “I know so well that this is all there is.”

Paolo Nutini, “Iron Sky”

The line “We find God and religions” is prominently featured on “33 (God).” Vernon: “This song is about a very messy night in London, and I met this guy Paolo Nutini, and I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ A few days later after this very important happening, I was sitting in the hotel room in Spain when Volcano Choir was playing over at Primavera, and I just heard that, ‘Find god and religion,’ I kind of heard it amongst the lyrics of the song I was already working on for that, and I was like, ‘Great! More samples. Yeah!'”

Lonnie Holley, “All Rendered Truth”

The line “All my goodness to show” is sampled on the song “33 (God).”

Mahalia Jackson, “How I Got Over (Live)”

Mahalia is prominently featured on the first single from 22, A Million, “22 (Over Soon),” singing the line “Then I’m going to shout all my trouble over” (2:05 in the video). “If there’s anybody that’s ever sang for all of humanity, it’s probably her,” Vernon said. “I couldn’t have sang that. To hear her voice bookend a Michael Lewis saxophone solo just made me really happy.”

The Toys, “A Lover’s Concerto”

This familiar ’60s girl group tune is chopped up and rendered unrecognizable in the song “21 (Moon Water).”

Fionn Regan, “Abacus”

Fionn Regan’s line “the days have no numbers” is repeated several times in 22, A Million‘s closing track, “100000 (A Million).”