4 Takeaways From Justin Vernon’s First ‘Song Chest Radio Hour’

Justin Vernon’s new show is more than just music.

BON IVER’S Justin Vernon recently announced he is hosting a monthly radio show, called “Song Chest Radio Hour,” which airs on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. The first episode was released on Sunday, Sept. 4. Vernon played 11 songs with interludes of discussion and analysis in between.

Here’s some insight we gleaned from the first installment: 

1. He’s a Fan of Filmmaker Harmony Korine

Vernon starts each new song with an introduction and background story. In the middle of the show, he introduced the audience to Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down The Line” – a song that was in the soundtrack of one of his favorite movies. “One of the great films of the last decade is The Beach Bum by Harmony Korrine,” says Vernon. “This film is just a pure treat. It is heartwarming, funny and beautiful.” 


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2. His Friends Influence His Taste in Music

Throughout the show, Vernon mentioned several friends that have introduced him to certain artists, songs or music movements. Among them was English musician James Blake. Blake had seen the band Infinite Bisous perform live in England. After the show, he introduced Vernon to the song “The Past Tense,” which he played on the show. 

He also mentioned musician Phil Cook, who is one of his close friends and has taught him about music for decades. Vernon described Cook’s talent of bluegrass music and great knowledge of gospel music before introducing his song, “Belong.”

The band Marijuana Deathsquads was touring in Japan and one night after their show they went to a vinyl bar in Tokyo. “The bartenders are the DJs,” says Vernon. “ They know more about American music than anybody in America.” When the band returned from tour, they introduced Vernon to the Frankie Knuckles’ remix of “Womack & Womack,” which he described as “incredible and surprising.” 

3. He Has a Backstage Ritual

Vernon recalled the emotions of being backstage right before a live performance. He described that before going on stage, he and his bandmates have to get pumped up. For the last few years, they have played the song “Billy Jack” by Curtis Mayfield as a way to prepare for their performance and “start running around and beating your chest.” Vernon adds, “There are hardly any other songs I have heard in my life that can get me so hyped.” 

4. He Wants to Share More Than Music 

While Vernon will be sharing a lot of exciting music on his radio hour, he also wants to bring other forms of art to the airways. During the inaugural episode he read a selection of the poem One Heart, by Franz Wright. He also played a clip from the documentary Bayou Maharajah, about the late James Booker.  “We’ll do some chatting, do some reading and do some singing along as well,” says Vernon.

To check out “Song Chest Radio Hour,” tune into 88Nine Radio Milwaukee at 5 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month. You can also hear archived episodes on the “Song Chest Radio Hour” Mid Cloud. 



Carmella is a writer and journalist. When she's not typing behind the computer, you can catch her at a local show or thrift store.