From Taylor Swift to Bon Iver, Aaron Dessner Finds Meaning in Musical Community

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On August 27th Big Red Machine, the joint musical project of Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner - artists known for their work as Bon Iver and in the rock band The National, respectively - returned with new music. You’ve most definitely heard Dessner’s production work elsewhere, like on Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums evermore and folklore. The Big Red Machine album, titled How Long Do You Think it's Going to Last, celebrates the fruits of creative partnership and the importance of family and community. At least, that’s what we took from our conversation with Dessner. “A lot of my favorite music - usually there's something elusive about it, in that whatever is elusive is coming from this weird cocktail of different people's input. There's just this weird, swampy alchemy, and you can't easily put your finger on why it's so moving.”

Dessner told us he draws much of his creative inspiration from the kinetic energy generated by multiple musical brains working in tandem, which makes sense given the list of features on this album - everyone from Swift to Sharon van Etten to Anaïs Mitchell to The Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold. “I'm such a born collaborator. I'm definitely interested in this exchange where you make something and you send it out into the ether and then it comes back slightly changed or radically changed. Then you work on it and send it again. I like this handoff, this communal approach to music making.”

The musical collective fostered by Vernon and Dessner on How Long Do You Think It's Going to Last is a testament to the power of musical communities in a year of intense isolation. We’re so pleased to bring you Nate’s conversation with Aaron Dessner in this week’s episode.

Songs Discussed

  • Big Red Machine - Birch, feat. Taylor Swift
  • Big Red Machine - Phoenix, feat. Fleet Foxes & Anaïs Mitchell
  • Big Red Machine - Magnolia
  • Big Red Machine - Renegade, feat. Taylor Swift
  • Big Red Machine - Mimi, feat. Ilsey
  • Big Red Machine - The Ghost of Cincinnati

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