Love Letter To A Record: Dustin Tebbutt On Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, For Ever Ago’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this new series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Dustin Tebbutt: Bon Iver – ‘For Emma, For Ever Ago’

Dear ‘For Emma, For Ever Ago’,

How are you? It’s been an age, and though many things have changed, I wanted to let you know what you did for me. I still remember finding you there in that record store on Brunswick Street, the listening booth, with the flaky worn headphones, and how time slowed for a while as your words and images entered my head. Walking back to my girlfriend’s hatchback through an autumn felted Fitzroy, and playing you on repeat for the weeks to come.

From that moment you felt like home, and I think through many travels and for a long while you immediately brought that feeling to the foreign and distant places I ended up in. From the long drives and plane trips, to long winters and slow bedroom mornings.

From the first scratchings of nails on the strings in ‘Flume’, a world begins to form…and each track has a handful of lines worthy of mantra…and they are arguably your strongest element. Lines like: “Come on skinny love, what happened here” and my favourite: “This is not the sound of a new man, or a crispy realisation. It’s the sound of me unlocking and you lift away” taught me so much about how far to push the abstract in metaphor, and pushed me to search for stronger images.

I’d been listing to music for years, and would find a track or two by an artist that would really resonate, Laura Veirs had a few for me, Jeff Buckley, Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, Elbow, Max Richter, Travis and Jose Gonzalez were others that I’d say defined my sonic palette and were on constant rotation, but none of those felt as close to the bone.

I didn’t know how something that was made so far from me, could become such a part of me. Although I didn’t think to seek it out, I felt for a while that my life was running in parallel to the stories that you told.

Somewhere in those raw choruses and honest lines, there was a friend. You became a mentor in many ways, pushing me to start singing along, singing out loud, well beyond my comfort zone, and from a place deep within, a place beyond my limited technique or understanding. A powerful place inside I didn’t know I had. You were a champion for a DIY approach to creativity that I was already beginning to explore and an example of the power of honesty and vulnerability in art and music that I had always respected. You were real and raw and unashamedly human.

Becoming an artist and producer in my own right over the last few years has been an incredible journey and, early on, many comparisons were drawn between what I was creating and the sound and world you had created. I welcomed these and found comfort in the fact that, to me at least, it feels like where I started from wasn’t less about a derivative and more about walking some kinda similar path out there. There are many moments, people and pieces of music that have, and continue to inform and guide me creatively. You are most definitely one of them. So, Thank you.

Dustin Tebbutt and Lisa Mitchell will be heading out on a joint national tour this June and July. See dates and details, here.

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