Jason Anderson Interview




Jason Anderson is a producer and event organizer for music festivals in the Chippewa Valley. In this Oral History he discusses organizing the Eaux Claires music festival as well as working with the band Bon Iver to get the festival off the ground.


Interviewers Esther Theisen and Alejandra Estrada


April 6, 2017


ET: This is Esther Theisen and Alejandra Estrada interviewing Jason Jon Anderson on
Thursday, April 6, 2017 for the Sounds of Eau Claire Oral History Project. The
narrator, Jason Jon Anderson, is the Assistant Director of Conferences and Event
Production at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, the Production Manager for
the indie folk band Bon Iver, as well as the Production Director for the Eaux
Claires Music Festival.
Alright, so what can you tell us about personal background, just to provide some
context for our interview here?

JA: Absolutely. Grew up on a large farm next to the Lake Wissota State Park, so I'm
from the area, grew up in the Chippewa Valley, was born at Luther Hospital in
1979 right here in Eau Claire. Mom was a school teacher, dad was an engineer,
but growing up in a farm family. Went to Jim Falls elementary school in the
Chippewa system, which was the smallest rural elementary school in that school
district. Went to Chippewa Falls Middle School, Chippewa Falls High School- was
involved in band the entire time- so highly involved in Marching band, Jazz band,
Harmonics, orchestra, pit orchestra, and then sort of went on to undergrad at
Stevens Point originally for Music Education, before I switched to Tech Theatre
and Design, would leave Stevens Point in 2002 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in
Technical Theatre and Design with an emphasis in Lighting and Sound, and had
a full ride offered in Northern Illinois University for my Masters in Fine Arts and
Lighting Design, which I completed in '05. And while I was there I worked as
Associate Designer to Benny Gilhams who is an Emmy award winning TV
designer for the Olympics.
So I spent a lot of time in the Caribbean- St. Lucia, Trinidad, Tobago- doing huge
shows throughout my graduate career. And then went right to Upstage Lighting
Design and Transport, whose the third largest lighting design company for Rock
and Roll Lighting, US-based in Chicago. They're the largest entertainment
trucking company in the United States, and so followed them. Did them for a
year and a half where I was on the think tank, and so my job was to solve
technical tour challenges or invent new lighting technologies. Worked on very
large tours and that I got to know Bombardier Recreational Products. They do Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo, Can-Am ATVs, and they were a commercial client, and so we
do their trade shows booths all over the United States throughout North America
and they recruited me to be a marketing coordinator for them and oversee all of
the North America brands throughout Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and the US
and I did that for a year and oversaw all four brands and all the marketing of
those before I came here [UWEC] in 2007 because I was teaching masters
classes at a variety of UW system schools and I really wanted to get back into
higher education and Bombardier gave me a year of leave absence to explore
higher ed. and I came here in '07 and I haven't really left so it was a chance to
come back home after being gone for 10 years, and now I'm still here.

ET: I was going to say, so obviously you've been all over the place. Compared to all
those places you've worked and those huge cities and different countries even,
can you tell us about anything that you find unique about the Chippewa Valley?

JA: Oh, there's no place like home. Yeah, I've been everywhere. I think you can
always- sort of this reference, right- take the boy out of the country, but you
can't take the country out of the boy- it's applicable in a variety of ways but I'm
a rural kid who's rather humbled and whose parents still don't understand
exactly what he does, and they're just like 'I don't know, he does this stuff with
trucks', like they don't- and that's okay, but it's very humbling in that I'm not
growing up in a metropolitan, arts-driven community. People don't understand
what my field or emphasis is or how what I do is highly unique. So I never
expected that I'd have an opportunity to live here and still practice my dream. I
thought I would have to be in a major metropolitan area, so there's this huge
relief as I watch Eau Claire and Chippewa kind of go through their artistic
renaissance and sort of focus on our creative economy here that I can stay
home, cause I never thought I'd get to be somewhere where you don't have to
worry 'did I lock my car, or did I lock the house?', like it occasionally enters my
mind but not like the urban environments I've lived in that are like, 'I've locked
six locks and the windows are sealed'. And the cost of living is much lower here.
I remember the first time coming back and stopping by and getting a beverage
and you get your tab and you're like 'no, no, no- I bought a round!' and they're
like 'no that's right' and you're like 'oh! interesting, okay!' It's a relief to live here
and it feels like home, it is home, and I like it, and I don't know, I'm sort of
rambling about the quaintness and how nice it is.
Urban is attainable- you can drive to Minneapolis and I can find whatever I need
in an hour and a half, or I can drive to Madison or Milwaukee if I need to, I can
fly to Chicago in 30 minutes if I hop on the United flight and I can be anywhere
in the world 13 hours after that, and it means I can come home to the type of environment I want to live in, and that's calm and comforting.

ET: So do you think the accessibility of Eau Claire to all of these big cities plays a
pretty good part in how successful some of the music festivals have been in the

JA: I think you have to be accessible- in the global world that we live in, we have to
be accessible. And so my huge concern is, as we look at the transportation
grants ending potentially under this current administration, what would happen if
the Eau Claire airport does not have direct jet service to O'Hare. We benefit that
Minneapolis has direct jet service, and it's a Delta Hub, so if you fly Delta, you
can get, really, anywhere in the world, usually with one connection. If you're
flying out of Eau Claire, and that flight actually happens one connection
anywhere in the world through Chicago, if you fly United, which is awesome, but
they're looking at if that transportation grant ends the early morning flight, which
is your connecting flight, and your late evening flight, which is your return
connection flight, which means you're an overnight stay in Chicago, which really
takes United out of the way. And I've always been a United flyer, even though
Justin [Vernon] and us all fly Delta so when we fly Bon Iver, we fly Delta. But
every other business trip for me is a United flight, and it changes my
perspective, like 'oh man, I'm losing my primary airport'. But I think, what, we're
right on a main US Interstate, we're just off 94, we're on a main thoroughfare
for artistic transportation as people are driving up, it's not that far to take a
detour from La Crosse and be like, hey, we're headed this way' as they're coming
cross-country, and I think that's super important for us to stay connected to
major artists. I think if the artist who comes to the studio to record here, who
come to the city, it means a lot that they can fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul within
a 90 minute drive and they're at the venue.

ET: Just taking a step back again, can you tell us about how your education starting
at the middle school and high school levels maybe led into your future career, or
maybe it didn't?

JA: Oh it completely did. It 100%- I can tell you exactly how it did. It's going to be
in a tangential, like everything in life, sort of is. I was really involved in 4-H,
being in a rural community, my folks felt like 'hey, you should be involved in
some sort of community service organization'. I was in 4-H, which led to being in
drama in the wintertime, so I had an early acting career. If you were to put me
on stage now, you'd know that I absolutely hate speaking in front of people,
even though I love instructing, I hate large groups of people and having to give
formal presentations. What that led to was a passion for theatre, and when I got
to the high school, Doug Greenhall was still the band instructor, as we called him
'G', and he was a pretty pivotal person in my life and shaped my early artistic
career. And I remember walking in his director's band room in my sophomore year, early, and the graduating senior, Matt Hoy, who's the Chief Information
Officer here at Mayo, had then been the technician that oversaw the Chippewa
stage at the high school, and he was like, 'hey, I'm graduating, we gotta find
somebody who's gonna do lights and sound', and I walked through the door at
that moment, and they're like, 'how about you?!' and I was like, 'sure'.
It was completely self-taught, learned everything, but it meant that for prom and
other stuff I was always setting up lights or sound for whatever was happeningended up doing the Battle of Bands for Mt. Vernon, which was with Brad and Phil
Cook, who I was in band with, and Justin. There's all these unique connections
then that I would have no idea, fast forward 20 years, and these are the same
people I work with today on a much more professional career that me turning
knobs that I had no idea would I was turning would turn into a passion. So I did
that through high school, but really informally- self-taught, just figuring it outand when I went to college, there was Program Services, which is the equivalent
to the Event Production Crew here on campus that I've built over the last 10
years, at Stevens Point, and they were hiring technicians. I remember seeing a
poster on the wall that was 'Technicians Wanted- We'll teach you how to run
lights and sound', and I just went into an interview and sat down and they hired
me, and I have no idea why because most of the questions they asked, I said 'I
don't know- I call it this, but I don't know what it's actually called' and they were
like, 'oh, you're teachable, we'll teach you', and I learned how to professionally
run lights and sound at that point. That's when I got sick my freshman year of
college with mono so I couldn't play sax anymore, I had to take a semester off,
and I had to pick up credits, and there was a lighting design and sound design
course, so I went into the theatre department, which Stevens Point has the
number 4 theatre department in the country, so there was this advantage
unknown to me.
I went in and saw the lighting advisor, who is now the chair of the department,
Gary Olson, and said, 'Gary I'm really intrigued by lighting, can I pick up some
courses?' and he said, 'yeah, take the lighting and sound course' and I did, and
switched majors and the rest really is history after that. That led me into a field
that was like, 'I actually know this stuff, this is fun!' And I'm still doing it today.
So that would be the tangential path for you.

ET: Can you tell me about the opportunity in a field like that? Is it pretty competitive,
or were you a little scared at any point about the availability of opportunity in a
field like that?

JA: I don't know- so that's sort of like 'you're naive and stupid', and I'm saying me as
an individual, just so naive, I was. I didn't think about will this equate to a job? There was level of 'I like this, it comes to me naturally, I super love doing it, it
doesn't feel like work, and I'm getting great grades'. There was just this 'ah, it
works! It's me, it's what I do!' There was sort of this idea that it's hands-on,
technical, but at the same time, high science. And they will say that lighting
designers are very center-brained, because we draw both from our creative side
and our analytical side, and for me, it was the perfect blend of physics. My minor
is in physics, so there's a level of it blended all the right things for me that made
me giddy.
But I never- there was a parent's day, my junior year of college that my folks
came to Point, and my dad was super nervous, like, 'you're in theatre, what kind
of job are you gonna get?' and all the design faculty met with the parents
without us, the students, in the room, and I had no idea what they said, but my
dad came out and was like, 'I'm totally not worried about you, you're gonna be
fine'. But it was the first time I was like, 'wait a minute, am I employable?' I
never thought, what happens after college? I was getting paid while I was at
school, that seemed like I'll get paid when I'm done, but I never thought about
where I'd live or where I'd work. The panic of that in my senior year, literally the
result was, the chair of the department then said, 'hey, you should maybe think
about going to grad school' and I was like, 'well, why would I do that?' and he
was like, 'well, first of all, in the technical field you'll get a full ride offered, you
won't have to pay, you'll get your Masters of Fine Arts, and then you can work in
higher education, or you'll make connections in the industry that will take you
somewhere', and I was like, 'oh so I can skip this adult thing of figuring out lifeI can just go on to school'.
URTAs, which is University Resident Theatre Auditions were then held in New
York, Chicago, and LA- they're now held in New York, Chicago, and Vegas, and
we've sent several students from here since I've been here, to them- but I had
23 different full ride offers for grad schools around the country. I was not
prepared, and the good thing that Point does is they don't guide you through
that process, so they basically say, 'hey, if you wanna go to URTAs, here's your
application, you should apply, we'll sign it, but the rest of it is on you, you have
to be an adult now.' And I didn't know what it meant to pick a school, a good
school, and I drove around schools. I remember taking time off of school and
going around looking at campuses, and I didn't know what I wanted in a
graduate school, and just picked Northern Illinois, mainly because I just was like,
'oh it's close to Chicago, and I'm gonna have a bunch of friends'- there was two
pockets of graduating performers- a group went to New York and a group went
to Chicago. Northern Illinois was close and they promised me that I would work
internationally throughout my design career. So I was like, 'ah, well that's why
I'm gonna go- I'm gonna go there because I wanna see international world,
that's what I wanna do'.
I don't know that I ever- it wasn't until I was in grad school that the lightbulb went on that, 'what I'm doing now will lead to employment'. Grad school was
more about, who am I gonna connect with and know. And that's what led to
Williamstown Theatre Company. I had an offer to work for the American Dance
Festival in Durham, North Carolina on Duke's campus, or I had the ability to go
to Williamstown Theatre Company in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts,
at Williams College. Two great schools, two great, phenomenal programs- one
was gonna pay, so the ADA would've paid, and I'm a huge dance lighting
designer- that was my background, and so I was like, 'oh, this is my field, this is
the people I wanna work for, this is what I wanna do'. This was my second year
of grad school, so going into my third year, so the summer going into your final
year- cause an MFA is a terminal degree, so it's the equivalent of a PhD, but it's
an applied art, so you can't get a PhD. Anyway, it's a three year program, and so
that second summer, you're making your industry connections. So I was like,
'where do I wanna go', and my advisor in grad school was like, 'you're going to
Williamstown', and I was like, 'I'm an adult, I wanna go do this dance thing that
will pay, I don't wanna go to an unpaid internship', and he said, 'you're gonna
go, you don't know what it is, but you're gonna love it'.
I was fortunate enough to get an interview, went, and I will tell you that
everyone I met in the lighting design group- we worked with Broadway- what
makes Williamstown great is that they had a 52 million dollar budget. They
brought all of New York's actors, performers, and designers into the Berkshire
mountains, and they'd be there for a couple of weeks, and then they'd rotate
out, so you were working with all the Tony-winners, every single day, and you're
like, 'oh, this is about who I get to work with and the connections I make'. But
Ben Crawl, who was a fellow, paid intern, is now the head of video for Bon Inver,
and works underneath me, Michael Brown, who was the head of all the lighting
interns, is the creative director for the Eaux Claires Fest, and is Justin's creative
designer. Zach Sturmberg who's an ESOS lighting guy is a Williamstown person,
Shane Mongar, he's now the head of Albanaylee, and was just recently here with
Pilobolus Dance Company this past year for the artists' series. So there's just this
interesting circle that's been created of people, and Karl, who used to be one of
Bon Iver's lighting guys is now on Bruce Springsteen as a lighting person, but
comes out every summer- and was my roommate during Williamstown.
I remember when Bon picked me up as the Production Manager, and I flew to
Red Rock to do the first show in 2012 with them, I didn't know that Ben and Karl
were with them, and they were like, 'hey, the only people you don't know on the
crew, are Ben and Karl, and you're probably not gonna know them'. I never got
last names, so we flew to dinner, and were standing in the hotel lobby, and Ben
and Karl walk through the door, and I'm like, 'Ben and Karl! What are you guys
doing here?' and they were like, 'oh well- what are you doing here? We're here to meet the new Production Manager', and I'm like, 'oh, well it's me!' We had this
completely surreal moment, and this whole interwoven thread happened, and
now you're just a family. And so that one summer of choice has driven my entire
professional career. And ever since that moment, I don't think I ever doubted
like, yeah, I'm highly employable.

ET: Alright so following your passions clearly paid off for you there. Can you tell us
more about what music production and lighting design and stage design adds to a

JA: Yeah, you know, you can take Shakespeare, you can take traditional Greek
theatre- let's just start with traditional Greek theatre, which is still phenomenal
theatre, and just happened in direct sunlight in the acropolis, or an outdoor
amphitheater, and then we think of what a modern theatre is today, and I think
of the number of times you guys are on your mobile phones looking at stuff as I
walk through the building, everyone's in digital/social media. Imagine watching a
TV show without active video onstage, or watch a show where there's no
lighting, that moves or changes color or creates texture or atmosphere. It just
removes the experience.

AE: Did you do a presentation for Blugold Beginnings?

JA: Yeah!

AE: I was there! I was never so mindblown. So he did this thing where he would just
change the light, and the cloth would change color, but it was the same cloth.
And then another one, where you could see a pattern, and then you couldn't see
a pattern, and then he explained how colors interact and how we perceive them
from the audience. But I remember at first, when we started we just wanted the
kids to pay attention, because they were elementary/middle schoolers, and then
they were all like, 'Whaaat?' and it turned into this huge guessing game and we
found out the science behind it. It was so cool!

JA: So there's this connection of physics, right, and the idea of what do we do with
the human brain, and the eyes have rods and cones, and then we get into color
theory, which is my graduate specialty.
So in thinking about stage and production design- the way I view my job, at
least with Justin, is that every audience gets the same show every single night,
regardless of space constraints. What we can fit- like do all the trucks fit in the
venue, do all four semis fit, or do only two? But how does the audience get the
same show as the audience who paid the night before get? What does it add or
what doesn't it add? Just sort of think- like I could turn on the industrial lights in
here where you'd just be under fluorescent and you'd probably be really hideous-fied, or I can always have the warm, incandescent glowing lamp on and
always keep downlight. It just changes atmosphere and it changes the total
experience of the band and of the audience and of the crew.
I don't know, I can't envision not doing it well, and I think that's one of the
things that drew me. When I came here, I thought I'd try it for a year- what kept
me here was that the campus felt so mediocre in the way it produced events.
They had projectors that are older than I was. They called them video-data
projectors, instead of just projectors- they didn't understand how back-dated we
really were and how we were a campus based on excellence. So we threw away
a lot of things and started investing and producing events the right way. And
actually the greatest challenge we have now is how do we actually produce
every event at the level we're capable of, at least here within the building. That's
how we're partnered with the festival and a variety of other things.

ET: This is kind of an abstract question here, but what would you say are the best
possible conditions and surroundings to transform a concert, or a live

JA: Woah. Okay, the best...That is contingent on so many factors that
it...hmmm....intriguing. It's the balance, right? There's an artistic triangle which
is art versus time versus money, and you can have any two at the cost of the
third. If you have infinite time, I can make it really high-art, for not a lot of
money. If I have a lot of money, I do a lot in a little time and still have high-art.
If I want a lot of art, it's either gonna take a lot of time and no money, or it's
gonna cost no money and a ton of time. I call that the creative triangle. If you
think of production, or best case scenario in that way, there's audience
experience, band's desire for what they want to present, and then what's the
location that fits that. And one of the three becomes the first initial driver, but
they all, the idea is that the dot or level stays center in that triangle. So the idea
is that one of the first is the driver, like somebody says, 'I want the audience to
have this experience', and you say, 'okay, band, what do you want your show to
be?' And ultimately we have to figure out: what is the space in which that's
presented? Another option might be that the band says, 'we wanna do a show in
this space', and this is who the band is, what's the audience's experience gonna
be? And we center the bubble.
So I don't know that I have an answer that says, 'hey, this is the perfect place to
do a show'. What I would say is that there's a formula, and the formula is that
you balance the three so that the level stays center in the middle. What I think
of is the Pioneer Works shows that Justin just did for the first time in an 1800s
foundry in Brooklyn, and we were there for five nights, and it was the first time a concert was ever done there. We spent two months solving the production
challenges of 'how are we gonna produce a show that is our show, that's here?
What's the audience experience gonna be, and what does Justin want to present
as a band and show? And how do we get the level center, so that every single
night, everyone thinks this is incredible?' I'd've never thought- the first time we
walked through the space, I knew what we had to do, but there were levels of:
'man, this is going to be huge to overcome', and we did.
I think it's the same when we're around the festival grounds, and each year
we're like, 'our idea to present at the festival this year will be this, or the band
wants to try that', and it's the same. I run that equation probably 20 times a day,
whether you're a client walking in saying you wanna have a meeting here in the
building, or it's Justin saying, 'hey, for Coachella weekend, too, I wanna do a
totally different show with guest artists'. You instantly start running that triangle
in your mind, of how do I get the bubble center? And my job is to challenge, or
all of us on the creative team, is to challenge each other to be like, 'yeah, that's
really great for the band, but it stinks for the audience, or that's really great for
the venue, but it stinks for the band and the audience, and how do we keep the
bubble center. I think artists who don't have people around them that do that, it
stinks for you, the audience, and it probably stinks for them as people.

ET: So would you say that since coming here to UWEC, are the capabilities here
better that we can center it for the events at the university?

JA: I think since we've built the new Davies center, we've created really an unlimited
box, that's only limited by our imagination, that didn't exist before. I think that
fueled the city in a very strong way, that's helped motivate the Confluence
Project. So I want to be clear- I'm not stating that building Davies center said,
'hey we should build a performance arts center'. What I am going to say is that
people who came to Davies saw how the new students' center allows us to
present events, major events- that its technical abilities were far surpassing that
of the State Theatre, led people to say, 'wait a minute, why should a students'
center be the best performance venue in the city?' It shouldn't. Its job is
primarily to deliver a product to students, and help students have a great place
to call home. It should not be the primary community building, which it currently
is. We need a performing arts center in the city. And it led people to say, 'wait a
minute, we've been living in mediocrity'. This building is state of the art, circa
2012, now, so we're almost five years old, and we will not be state of the art
unless we keep investing in it, so there's a level of, 'we should have a building
that represents the creative economy that we have', and that led Confluence to
come online, and likely will drive the needs of having Menominee St. Arena open
as well, as we start construction hopefully in 2020 of that project. ET: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Confluence project and how it came

JA: In 2009, the foundation and the students and myself led a renovation of the
Schofield Auditorium on campus. And you guys are thankfully blessed that you
get to now see it in school colors and really nice seats, but there was a time
where it was battleship gray, and the seats had been there since 1946, and were
red velvet. And at that time, there were 32 working seats out of 660, that
actually functioned, and we did a huge renovation. We put the first video wall in
that anyone had ever seen, and we spent just under a million dollars total on
that room. That's the most money that campus has ever invested in one room.
And this building is substantially more expensive than that, but there was a
sense of, 'wait a minute, this space is that's really an auditorium, not a
functioning theatre, is phenomenal- we need better performance spaces'. And
this building came online, and it's highly flexible and multi-use. You're like, 'oh,
we need a performing arts center that matches that', and you had strong artists
like Justin and Michael Perry, who were saying that we need a performing arts
center, and you had civic-minded people who'd been working behind the scenes
to actually drive Confluence coming online. And when the project launched, you
had the right people saying, 'hey, this is gonna happen'. And I was actually one
of the stronger opponents of it. I was very angry, and didn't want to see the
project happen, and I was very vocal about it. And they're like, 'great, if you
don't like it, be on the board and solve it', and I was like, 'alright! I'll be on the
board and I'll fix it!' and have been on the board ever since. What I didn't want
was a building that took money out of taxpayer dollars. We have a really high
poverty rate between Chippewa and Eau Claire Counties- I didn't want to see
taxpayer dollars going away from people being fed, and going towards feeding
the arts. I firmly believe in the arts, I'm a high supporter of the arts, at the end
of the day though you have to have pavlovian needs, and people have to have
basic needs before they can experience and appreciate art. And I didn't want the
arts to be only for the fortunate, I wanted it to serve everyone and to do that,
we need everybody healthy in this city. I was really shocked by our homeless
levels and the amount of students who were on reduced lunch in our school
systems. My strongest position was that the Confluence has to make money, and
be entrepreneurial, and that continues to be my focus on the board, is that it has
to generate revenue, and we have to think of an operating model that does that,
and that's where we really are between the combination of ECRAC [Eau Claire
Regional Arts Center] dissolving and becoming the Confluence Arts, Visit Eau
Claire moving into the building, and the campus having its theatre department
there. It is the right amalgamation of how do we do this and do it well?

AE: And so your dedication, does that come from being from the area? Like how you
said when you came to the university it was mediocre, and you had to invest- is that where your motivation comes from? That there's this potential, and it's so
nice that it's in your hometown?

JA: That's a really great question. I think the drive for not being mediocre, actually
came from my graduate advisor, Ben Gohms, who just absolutely would not
accept mediocrity. I remember the number of times that he would just rip up a
project that you had just spent- like right in front of you, and he would say to
me, 'this is a complete abortion- you can do better' and just rip it up and throw it
in the garbage. It took an entire year to be like, 'how about this?' and get, 'yes,
that's acceptable'. And that became the level of the standard of work that
mattered no matter where you are, and what's odd is that I've just started to
consider myself a Blugold, and I've been here a really long time. There was like,
'no, I'm a Pointer, I'm a Pointer who's at UW-Eau Claire' and I've finally been
here long enough that I feel passion for this campus, but the passion for the
work has always just come before the location. Alejandra, I think that's a really
great question, like what's the motivation- is it your passion for the region
because it's home? And what I would say is there's a bridge project I've been
working on, Phoenix Park Bridge- that is the most daunting and overwhelming
project I've ever touched and that is because it is in my hometown. There's a
level of, 'wait a minute, people can drive and see this thing, my parents have
bought lights, they've sponsored lights for the family, and they're gonna come
see'- that's a complete panic for me, there is an emotional shutdown of, 'no, this
bridge should really be far, far away, where no one can ever see it but me, and
it's totally fine'. I think you're right that there are times that the motivator is this
is home, but what's unique is that I identify more with Chippewa than I do Eau
Claire. Chippewa Falls is home and my house is in Chippewa, the farm is in
Chippewa, so there's a level of, 'no, I'm from Chippewa, I'm the Chippewa boy
who drives to Eau Claire every day. Justin identifies with Eau Claire, that's why
Eaux Claires Festival is here, but there's also a reason that there's Chippewa
passes that are the VIP passes, and it's like, 'HA, yeah!', there's little tributes of
the 'yeah, Chippewa's better than...no I'm kidding [laughing].
What's weird is that, in Chippewa, I've just started to make it into the arts scene
there, where people are involving me- they actually associate me with with, 'no,
Jason's an Eau Claire artist' and you're like, 'well that's odd, because I live in
Chippewa...' So I don't know that the level of...I just don't accept mediocrity,
period, is sort of a personal driving passion, and there's times where your art
versus time versus money distinguishes your outcome, but regardless of where I
am, I would fight for that. I think there is a level of, 'this means a ton to me',
and as I've been involved in Leadership Eau Claire and now have connections in
this community, and all my close-knit friends are now here, there's a driver of
everything we do is about changing the future of this region, not today, but 20 years from now, when we're sitting on a porch, and no one knows who we are,
we'll sit back and we'll be like, 'yeah, we did Lismore Hotel and saw that happen,
and yeah we did the Oxbow, and yeah we created a music festival, and yeah we
changed the Randall Park District, and yeah we watched the North Hill be
revitalized into single-family homes- these are all things we did and invested in,
and we're completely broke now, and have no money, and no one knows who
were are, but the fact is that our children and our grandkids, or for me, my niece
and nephews are gonna have a completely different home to come back to.
That's the driver now- what's the legacy, what will people think of you 20, 30
years from now, and did you make it better, or did you miss the one opportunity
you had to make it right? When we built this building, I said, this is the new
student union building for the next 50 years, and people kept laughing, and I
was like, 'no, seriously, we're gonna build a building- the last building stood for
60 years, and we're gonna build this one, 50 years from now- it's gonna take 30
years just for students to pay back the building, it's gonna stand for another 20,
and then you'll build another one'. And when we built Confluence, there's a level
of, 'guys, you get a chance in a lifetime to build this center- don't tell me we
can't or we won't- there's a right way and there's a wrong way, and these
decisions should be driven by 50 years. Do you want this to work 50 years?'

ET: I know you were kinda joking about it, with being a Chippewa boy, but when I
think about music in the area, I think of music in the Chippewa Valley as a
whole. Is there a division between Chippewa artists and Eau Claire artists you
think? Or is that just your joke?

JA: I think it's a fair question, here's what I would say: I think as artists, we're all
from the region, and we want to see the region better. I would say that I think
there are occasional tug-of-wars, only as jokes, between us, like, 'oh, we're team
Chip, and you're team EC'. I think of Brad and Phil Cook, Brad and Phil are really
close with Justin and have been for years. Brad and Phil grew up in Chippewa,
they still have family in Chippewa Falls, and I don't know that when they come
back, they're like, 'oh, we're Chip!'. When I think about it, I think I'm the one
person who really drives a stake in 'no! Chippewa!', and I live the furthest north
of anybody, and it sort of bums me sometimes, like, 'ugh, I'm the one guy in
I don't know that where I live any longer defines- it's just for me, I wanna seeI've always felt that Chippewa's lived in Eau Claire's shadow, and there's a level
of, 'wait a minute, Chippewa has a lot going on', but as a high school, they're
really unique because they have a hall of fame for all students, but if you go and
look, it's only athletes. And their athletic hall of fame- you could've played sports in college, and you make it on the hall of fame as a freshman in college, like, 'oh,
you're in the hall of fame!', but there is not one musician, one artist, one
anybody, and it drives me absolutely batty that I'm like, 'wait a minute, for this
school district, their hall of fame is about what sport you played, it has nothing to
do with their highly rich musical scene that they have a huge background in. And
people who've gone on to do amazing things, that far exceed their athletic
counterparts, and if you look at Eau Claire, I think there's a huge embracement
of the arts here that has always existed in an equal- I don't believe that
Memorial would not say that Justin is on the hall of fame. But you have Brad and
Phil who are in multiple bands and, they may not have a Grammy, but they're
just as talented as what Vern is, but they don't get on the hall of fame in
Chippewa. I don't quite get that, but I also see Chippewa also changing now to
keep up with Eau Claire, and that's what's fun, and I see Altoona, trying to
match what's happening, and everybody's trying to do it together. I equally work
with the city of Altoona, and the city of Chippewa, and the city of Eau Claire on
projects and outdoor parks and outdoor amphitheater designs, and whoever
calls, I help, and it's not about the region, but there's still a level of, 'I wanna see
Chippewa win every once in a while' [laughing].

ET: Would you say that competition, almost, with growing music and talents from
each area, would you say that that almost forces more growth in the culture of
music in the area, or is it just a natural progression of that?

JA: It's sort of like chicken or egg, right? I think, that to have a creative economy,
and Eau Claire likes to say we have a creative economy, and I don't think we
fully comprehend yet what that means. So, if Eau Claire says, 'we're the Music
Capital of the North', and I'm getting that that's a Visit Eau Claire,
self-proclaimed title that came out of a published magazine that Nick Meyer did
at Volume One, and will quickly say, 'no, I did not mean to name the region that,
that was just the title of an issue', and then Visit Eau Claire was like, 'no, we are
the Music Capital of the North! We're the next Nashville.' To say that, the
outcome would need to be, if you were in a band, that, as a city, our business
leaders are like, 'hey, if you're in a band, I'm gonna let you out of work to go do
this music thing because we're the Music Capital of the North and we get that
we're generating artists and musicians, and you should have off from work to be
able to do that'. And I don't think that we've quite tied that one up yet because I
think if you went to any business and said, 'hey, I wanna leave early because I'm
in a band', they'd be like, 'great, you're on till 5:00- you don't get to leave'.
The challenge you have any time you're trying to build a creative culture, is a
culture in which people go to see music. If we say music is our thing. So that
would mean that even as students, part of your weekly routine is, 'what am I
gonna go watch for live music this week?', that's part of living in Eau Claire. And
I don't know that we've passed that threshold yet, and then there's the level of how much will you pay to see live music? Because I think a lot of people will go
see free music, at least within this northwest Wisconsin culture, getting people to
like, 'you want me to pay $5 to see a band, they better be pretty good, I'm not
gonna pay $5 to see any...' And you're just sort of like, 'well, wait a minute, no,
you're paying $5 to experience something'.
Now, that also means that where you're seeing it needs to deliver an experience
for you, and that's where we lack- cause most of our venues are pretty outdated
and are ugly, and I think Pizza Plus and the newer venues that have come online
are much better, but if you think of House of Rock, there are some venues that
are pretty rough around the edges, and I don't know that I wanna go- just the
overall vibe and experience isn't there to really watch music. And if we're saying
that that's what we're about, then in answer to your question, my thought is, we
have to create a culture where people experience the art, and in so doing, it
doesn't matter where they do that. If people are willing to drive to Eau Claire
from Chippewa, or vice versa, or from rural communities anywhere, to help grow
that culture, then as artists, we should just keep presenting great experiences.
And people should keep coming, and keep paying, and then the idea is, you
don't care where you go, it's part of your culture- 'what are we doing Thursday
or Friday night? We're gonna go see music, awesome. Or we're gonna go walk
the sculpture tour, or we're going to go see an art installation'. And once that
becomes part of what you do and where you live, then you're set. And then
we've turned the tide. And we're not there yet. We're getting there, we're getting
closer to where people, through social media, are like, 'okay, I'm gonna go see
something this weekend'. I hope that the lexicon just becomes the default of
'one night this week, I need to see- it's part of what I need to do, it's part of my
lifely experience'.

ET: Along with that, what can you say about the role that UWEC plays in cultivating a
culture like that? Because a lot of the students here are also parts of pretty solid
bands. We just have a lot of student bands and people in the area who are
associated with UWEC. Is that because of a higher standard of music education
here or production, and how does that play into our culture here?

JA: Hmmm. You guys have really great questions by the way- just want you to know
that. I think we have one of the best music education programs and music
programs in the state. We know that. We know that it's one of our signature
programs, or if we were to say programs of distinction, even though the provos
doesn't wanna use those terms- our program of distinction would be music. At
the same time, it's one of the most expensive programs on campus. If you think
about the specialized training that's required- that you need a physical oboe
instructor, and a clarinet instructor, and a trumpet instructor, and a trombone instructor, and a french horn instructor, and I keep going down the list- think of
the amount of professors you need to have to teach a high degree of music, as
opposed to, 'hey, we need four physics professors, just to teach physics,
astronomy...'. You need four people who know physics as opposed to, 'I need a
person who can do all these things', and pretty soon you have a really heavy
faculty. And so you look at the school of music and the arts- super high faculty,
and if you were to balance out the number of faculty to student level, there's a
super high student to faculty ratio, but it's also super high expense- the amount
of students don't offset that. But as a campus, we've said that's important.
And it clearly is important that then people are making bands. And there's this
heritage of the Cabin, right? I mean, can you imagine Justin Vernon as a college
student here, playing in the Cabin on the acoustic guitar? Because it happened.
All the time. That's where he started, and now look at where he is today. And so
my question is: well who's the next Cabin artist that's gonna have a Grammy?
And what do we do to pay homage to that and ensure- like do you as students,
is it part of your culture? Are we connecting you to the music culture that we
have? Is Gantner [Concert Hall, UWEC] sold out every time that the Singing
Statesmen sing, or perform, or the a cappella groups, or out of 10,000 students,
do only 500 show up? And I would argue that, more times than not, it's 500 or
far less, out of 10,000, that make music a part of their routine. And if we were to
remove the music majors that are required to go, how many actually show up?
And if we can't sell out Zorn [Arena, UWEC] when Jesse McCartney shows up,
and we actually book a concert, then has it become part of the campus culture,
or is it the community's culture that's driving it? And how do we get the campus
culture to follow suit with the amazing things that we do have going on? And I
think the festival is becoming a thread and a connecter, because we're now
seeing students start to choose Eau Claire because there's cool things here, like,
'hey there's this huge music festival that's hip- we don't know about it, but we
wanna go there, and I'm going because I love music'. And what we're finding is
that music-lovers are coming to the campus, they're exploring other majors- not
music- like they're coming because of business, but because we do cool things.
That becomes a creative economy. You're coming here because it's an
environment, and part of that environment are people who wanna see live
music, and we're seeing Cabin attendance increase, and the films attendance
increase, and that's gonna mean that we have to, over time, change the way we
program, to match students' desires.

ET: Can you talk more about the Eaux Claires festival and or even the other major festivals
that we have in the area and specifically how the Eaux Claires became so successful just
in its first two years?

JA: It’s intriguing right? Like is it successful or is it not? It’s still a fledgling little bird. I
think you know Eaux Claires was a concept that Justin and Aaron Dessner had. Aaron's
helped produce and artistically curate the Boston Calling festival which is now in its 8th
year and it’s moved to Harvard this year for the first time. The producers of that are
Crashline Productions who's heard of Justin and reached out to him and said yes we
should do a festival in Eau Claire and I think the first year, it had a significance to it in
that Bon Iver had not played since 2012 as a band. In 2012 for our final tour we told
Dublin, we're done and the band no longer exists and then suddenly Justin was like "AH I
want to start a festival so I'm going to put the band back together." And sort of a "Hey the
band's back together" story there but I'll let it go. But a ton of people showed up because
they thought this was going to be a once and done only time we get to see Bon Iver ever
again. And he's creating an entire festival was unique and it’s the first time that an arts
and music festival had ever happened in Wisconsin. The two had never been merged if
you think about it. And if your experience had been country music festivals, which we
seem to be rather good at, or a rock festival and it had not had a high level of
sophistication and I would say that, the Eaux Claires festival, is a highly sophisticated
audience that tends to attend. Very artistic minded people who like museums and I'm not
saying that this is not an unattainable festival by anyone, right? That it does not need the
person who just wants the Pabst Blue Ribbon, I'm trying to say that it naturally attracted a
very different audience than what the region had seen before; a sophisticated audience
that who wanted to go out for coffee in the morning at a nice restaurant, they wanted to
have an amazing breakfast, they wanted to have a great dinner when they were done and
they wanted to leave with a great experience that was like "what is Eau Claire?" right? I
want to see this city that there's something magic here and we don't know what it is and
instantly businesses start to see applications from both coasts and internationally of
people trying to move to Eau Claire because this things going on. So I think that Eaux
Claires in its first year was something that none of us really expected but it was the like
"can we do it?" and we did. Then in year two, it was the "how do we do it again?" but we
have a date issue and now we've moved to August and now in year three, we're like "hey, yeah August didn't work but our only other date was June so now we're in June and I
keep feeling like we're leap frogging and we haven't found our home yet. We're losing
audience every time we move our date because people plan a vacation in June because
Eaux Claire will be in August and now I move to June and they're like "But I already
planned my vacation!" So I think once we find and I think along with that I think you
think of a recipe right? Any good event has a pretty similar recipe and I'm not going to
share it but I'm just going to say that there's a recipe to success and once you know how
to do that for an event, you can make any event, any good event successful. This festival
has all the right ingredients but we keep altering major parts of that, a date is part of it,
weather is part of it, time of year, band line up, and what other festivals, I mean all the
festivals are competing with each other, I mean the summer festival series has become
how bands make the vast majority of their money in appearances so I don't know that
Eaux Claires is more successful or less successful than Country Jam, Blue Ox, Country
Fest or Rock Fest. I think it offers a different experience just like Blue Ox offers a very
different experience than what Country Jam does, I think Country Jam is different than
Country Fest. I think Country and Rock fest are two very different animals for two very
different audiences of people. I think it’s about finding the experience that you want and
giving people a home and an experience they feel safe, comfortable and willing to invest
their time, resources and energy into. In Eaux Claires has its own vibe and attraction for

AE: Also I just wanted to ask, how or when did you chose to reach out to Chance the Rapper?
Because like I follow him and he's like amazing right? And then I was seeing his list it’s
like Atlanta, all these cities and then EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin and I thought, "I go to
school there!" I was thinking about this, it with the whole indie, he's an independent
artist, he's not signed to a label, is that kind of the attraction to the mix of the two?

JA: So we sort of talked very briefly at the start of this that the Eaux Claires scene is all about
relationships right? And how we all bump into each other and know each other and I
would say that our artists from outside the region have connections to Justin or others
here. In Eaux Claires last year, Chance joined Francis and the Lights and Justin on stage
in a guest appearance at the end of the festival. Did so because he was like "hey Justin
really does support Chance in being a completely independent artist" and I'm not
speaking for Justin here, I'm just sort of describing and they have a friendship. Chance
was like "Hey, I'm passing through, do you guys mind if I get on stage?" and like no,
come on! That's part of what this festival is unique for is that all these unique
independent things pop up and happen. So Chance feels like "Hey, these guys let me on
stage when nobody knew who I was right? That I hadn't been huge and now you just have
seven Grammy nominations. He's huge but he remembers the people who remembered
him. There's a level where you look at the Crashline stable for the year, I mean he's
headlining in Boston Calling, so headlining in Eaux Claires there’s a level of, if you look
at the business side of it, there’s a level of like "hey we're giving you a double offer
you're going to get two festivals for format but there's also the yeah but I like Eau Claire.
You guys, I played for your audience last year and people love me and I watched what my downloads did after I sang a song, I want to come play Eau Claire again. It was just
more of a, that's the relationship. Cheering on an artist who we believe in and believes in
us. Does that make sense?

AE: Yeah!

JA: So it's just about those relationships and the ability to pick up the phone and call. I am so
not on that level right? That's an artist curator, that’s Justin making a phone call and
saying "Hey I really want to come do this with you and what do you need from us? And
if you create a music festival are we going to play there?

ET: That's very cool, can you tell us more about your specific role as a production for Eaux
Claires? What does that entail? Your job for that.

JA: Yeah! You want production manager for Bon Iver or production director for Eaux

ET: We can do both if you want

AE: Yeah!

ET: Or whatever you think.

JA: Whelp, so you just keep me on topic and if I start to ramble be like "dude we're like, it’s
like 4:29PM can we like keep it going?" Alright.

AE: No, you're fine!

JA: Am I? Are we doing good question wise? Okay. SO production manager is generally the head of production so overseeing lights, sounds, videos, stage placement for a touring band or group of bands. I've production managed for the festival as well for the last two years and will now production direct. SO we'll spend just a second on production managing for Justin. Generally my job, as I sort of said earlier is to make sure that the creative and overall experience is identical. The only thing I don't control is the artist performance at the show but all other technical elements fall into my job to advance with the venue which means from the minute we know were going to know we're going to do a show somewhere it starting to figure out all the logistics to make that happen. I'm responsible for every piece of equipment, all the crew members and all the trucks that transport it to and from, cargo ships that ship it to and from across the Atlantic or the pacific or airplanes that physically fly the equipment to and from when we go international. And then how its gets moved all around and all the passports, because the equipment has passports. They're called cares, everything that tracks that equipment and how’s it moves around countries and then how we deal with different power and voltages in different, cause there’s very different trade terminology in the UK and Europe than there is in Australia or in Asia or pan pacific area or South America. Tracking all of "what is the term?" and what is a widget called somewhere else? Is it a thingamabob? Also realizing that in some countries the stagehands are usually migrant labor where English is their 5th or 6th language. You work with the culture that you're in and its ensuring that regardless of the technical challenges that day that you have the exact same show you presented the day before and you just worked through it and some days are egregiously long and hand and other days are easy and you're really thankful for the easy days because they don't come that often and that's what you do. As the production director it goes from everything from starting with green grass for the festivals, if you think like the Friday of the week before the festival, so this year June 9th, this is what we call Flag Day. We go around with colored flags and we literally start flagging and every flag goes in the ground and serves to mark out where everything goes and you start with a green grass field and by the time you're done you have lots of flags and in the course of the next nine days you build 36 semis worth of equipment that presents a show for two nights and then 36 semis go away in two days and you pull out all the flags and everything drives away. Part of that is advancing physically with all the bands and talking with them and ensuring that your headliners are happy so when you have a headlining artist like Chance or Sylvan Esso or Paul Simon or Bon Iver that they exactly what they need to be able to present or will co "when we're done I've got a phone call with will co tonight to be like hey okay, how's your lighting plot coming? Is what you want to put on the stage physically possible? Or can we handle that with ten other artists that need to perform during the day? because if you think of it like, I don't have the ability to make the stage go away or change it over like we're in a festival situation where I have like 30 minutes to 60 minutes to get the next artist on stage but you the audience need to have the best experience and there are production managers who are yelling at me because they are worried about, as we talked about that triangle before of, of keeping it centered, they're trying to keep the bubble centered for all of their artists and they have a job to do and then they go on to the next festival
So I have a huge appreciating and they know I understand it because I production manage that I can respect that yeah I do this all the time of being the guy who shows up on stage and needs to make this happen, that I know what they need before they get there. So it makes it easier to be the production director because then I've walked in their shoes and you're sort of like "yeah, you're going to lose today," today your bubble is going to be a little to the right but I can tell them that from the very first time we're on the phone. I can be like I know where you want to be, I can get to you to here, I can't get it past there and I'm just going to be honest so how do we recenter the triangle around that location and because its festivals, people also sort of roll with it but there’s also creative input of managing the budgets, tracking all the staff, and ensuring that we stay on budget and are profitable.

ET: So for Eaux Claires, what's your labor force for that? How many people are involved
with putting together such a big festival?

JA: Just from the production perspective, we have 55 students from the UW system, we've
got 33 professional stage hands that come out of clearwing productions in Milwaukee who come with the production equipment and that’s divided over seven stages and if you
do a quick math on that, that's less than five professional guys per stage. And then if you
think about, we've got three heavy equipment drivers and four riggers so seven people
that come out of Minneapolis that come and physically drive our all-terrain forklifts or
that are dealing with the actual attachment of things to the roof and then there’s 12 what
we call spectrum guys, spectrum is our semi staging because our stages are giant semis
that pull in and sort of transform, there called semi stages and they just hydraulic and turn
into a stage and if you sort of add those, that group of people, we sort of get people
together, we usually get about 120-130 people that are responsible for just the production
aspect and we haven't even begun to touch the over 325 positions before we get to
volunteers that are paid to work in operations or work in box office or working in artist
relations, behind the scenes, because my snapshot is really production and then we've got
the festival director favor, that oversees everything else. We work really closely together.

ET: So economically, is all of that effort and the time that goes into it generally pays off or
how can it continue to contribute to Eau Claire's culture and economic situation?

JA: Anytime that you move a mass of people, to a location, they start investing dollars and
that location right? If they're staying at the camp groups or not, they still need to buy gas, still need to buy food, if they're staying in the hotels, they're buying hotel rooms. Those are dollars over the course of three to four days that would normally not be spent in this economy that spent here so the more that number of people can grow and the better job we can do producing it, the more we can minimize our cost and stay profitable as a physical business, the more successful we are. The more successful, the most we can
present, the more people we can attract, the more we can attract, the more dollars that get spent in this economy and so it’s very cyclical right? Festivals ends because it’s not
making money or isn't recruiting people and you suddenly remove 10,00 people per day
out of the economy that are spending money in it, that money goes away and everyone
hurts. So there's everyone wins and there's everyone hurts syndrome and once you've
started to create something, its revenue that we the campus count on and we look forward to and we work as a partner to make sure we are attaining for folks but you're.. I don't know, did I answer it?

ET: Mhmh

JA: I think I did. Okay.

ET: So that was for the festivals, back to the confluence project, we kind of already talked
about that that could economically effect the area what can you say more about how/who
specifically is involved with it, the businesses that will benefit, just downtown in general
that will benefit?

JA: Okay, so you're going to get it right from the brain a little bit on this. Summer festivals in a northern climate, are just that. Summer festivals, shorts and sandals, that’s what comes to mind. While we have weather that supports that maybe three months out of the year or if we're lucky a month of really great weather, which is July, we're baking and then you sort of have the other nine months out of the year and what do we do? If you think of the confluence, it's the other nine months out of the year where we have performing arts and they keep people coming into the economy and spending money to see shows. The keep going, the circle can't be just Eau Claire spending money on Eau Claire shows, to be successful, it has to be people from Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, La Crosse, driving to see shows that are produced here and bringing money outside because if you're just spending your own money, it's just cyclical right? Like I just gave $20 to the confluence and now I don't have $20 to do something else whereas if someone travels here and spends $20, that $20 we gained and yes, that people still spent $20 but hopefully there's more where that person came from. You're going to come here and have great experience.
The businesses, this is a whole different model. So this is part of the maker’s space model
of what confluence is evolving to be. It would be, I think we're changing the paradigm of
if Kurt manufacturing, who creates trailer hitches, but they also create trailer wiring
diagrams and they're always having a hard time finding electrical folks to build their
wiring harnesses, what if, on the non-busy times of the year for confluence, what if we
turn it into a complete training center where we take the rehearsal rooms and they're able to do a job fair over the course of a week, where they train people on electrical and they hire the best three people in the jobs? What if that becomes how using a performing arts center for job training becomes how we think creatively and invest. What if Ashley Furniture in Arcadia needs upholsterers, they do an upholstery clinic, everybody gets to learn upholstery but they're able to employ the best people in the class. Then we start to be an on the job creative training incubator and then that's really where I see confluence blossoming and then people like JAMF and RCU and all of our other businesses here in town, is they try to recruit millennial generation people who will move and are not motivated just by cash, cash is generally a motivator for about six months, someone is given a raise, that motivation from a raise in their salary lasts about six months and then the satisfaction wears off. It's about the experience they're able to attain. So if you can move somewhere and have great experiences every weekend, if you're able to see high art or the band you want to watch and you don't have to leave and you can just shuttle home, that's pretty phenomenal and that's where the growth is going to be, is in people who decide to stay here and graduate from UW- Eau Claire or from tech and they decide to form their own businesses and as they're looking to recruit people they can recruit the best and as JAMF loses people because they're looking to move away and they're able to re-recruit even better people, these business will be able to grow and stay, they will be the anchor of what our artistic community is. Does that make sense?

ET: Mhmh, you pretty much answered my next question because I was going to talk about
how with the confluence project and just the music culture in general, how companies
and industries and potential career opportunities will be brought into the area through that
so even if it’s not involved with music, it can still be benefited by the confluence project. JJA: Absolutely and I think that's where business leaders are finally starting to grasp and
there's been more, like the chancellor has hosted several symposiums here where we're
starting to talk about the creative economy and that is the creative economy right? That
having a creative culture is about the experience that you give to your students and their
desire to find that, meaning that they don't have to live, as we talked about earlier today
about super urban environments where I don't feel at home in. I'm a country boy, I want
five minutes and I’m in a corn field and I can have that in Eau Claire. I can have my corn
field but I can also have my high art and I am totally content. But if I didn't have my
artistic outlets I would not be living here and how many other people like that would we
lose from this city? And businesses that want the best talent who aren't just artistically
driven but want people to have an artistic experience or find a pleasing lifestyle, need a
variety of outlets.
ET: For music particularly, how will the success rate of musicians from an area be affected by the confluence project?

JA: I think that's yet to be determined, I'm just going to be fair that I don't know that I have the crystal ball, I think that the hope is between the variety of size performance halls that you could have a young aspiring artist much like who starts in The Cabin, who starts in one of the smaller spaces and grows to someday selling out one of the large halls multiple times as they grow both in audience and talent and skill. For artists that are returning to the region who already have a good following, there will be the right size facility with the right technical accompaniment for them to perform and not be in a mediocre 1920's Mandeville house that hasn't had any major renovations or dollars spent in it, in a very long time.

ET: Do you think that the Chippewa Falls fosters, because you've talked about the
connections we've had in this area and how we do have a unique scene here, do you think it’s harder or easier to succeed in this area? Versus the cities or Chicago?

JA: It's a blessing and a curse. The blessing is you have a better chance of bumping into
other people who do what you do, and that you can create a network and that you can
share an ideas and concepts and you can create jam sessions. We still have the challenge
that we don't have a culture that music is part of what everybody does so now what you
have is you have a huge amount of supply but the same amount of demand so as an artist
whereas you could go to a huge metropolitan area and when the right person hears you
and you're career explodes, there is not a way to explode a person’s career here, yet. So
we're on the cusp and tipping point of the pendulum whereas we move the fulcrum, it
becomes faster for peoples careers to have that noticement and what we're seeing, is more and more creative folks coming here to see what's going on in the Eau Claire scene. As that continues, then much like Nashville or much like the blues scene like St. Louis or thinking of New Orleans, Memphis, we're going to start having our own musicology and it will just evolve. I mean we are now at five recording studios where a few years ago we had one. It's evolving and quickly.

ET: How would you say that Justin Vernon, is that the exception? Because he is from Eau
Claire and he was able to stand out or is he not as much as a stand out as he would've
been if he had possibly started in a bigger area?

JA: I don't know, we have the type of culture here where we don't gaff or ogle over people. I don't want to, I wish we could just put him on speaker phone right? And just ask. I don't want to speak for him but there are places in Eau Claire where he can feel completely at home and still have a normal social life and not be gaffed over or "oh my goodness!" or fan chased or paparazzied right? In an urban environment, it happens all the time. He can't really hide. I've been there where you sit down to eat and you notice the person who does an Instagram and you're like yeah we've gone 20 minutes and then we need to go and within 20 minutes the place is packed cause everybody showed up to see Justin and I think in a metropolitan area maybe that would happen but here in Eau Claire, okay well even if everybody did show up who got the Instagram, it’s still only ten people and its okay because no one is going to say anything because we're all Midwestern nice and its super "okay like I saw him oh my goodness aw" so I think that it’s a big deal because it’s a smaller community but at the same time not everything is about Justin. I think he's done a phenomenal job, he's involved in projects when they need the kick in the pants to get there. He's not involved in them 24/7. He knows when to get involved to help push it when it needs it but also knows that the community has to do this whether I’m involved or not. So I think I have a tremendous amount of respect for him knowing how to help us get to the right outcome for ourselves and us figuring it out. there's sort of the nudge when you need it but the "yeah I got my own thing going on" and he splits his time between Minneapolis and here so there's a level of this is still his home and he still wants to see the best for this community and knows what we need is what he's trying to do but if we don't want it as a community then it will die undo itself.

ET: Right, so he still tries to retain his small town, country kid mentality in a way?

JA: I would say, and that's true I would think of everybody whose involved if you see the
Bon Iver camp, all of us, we are all very similar in our personalities that we've never
gotten too big for our britches, if we did we wouldn't still be a part of the group, there’s a
level of "we're just good people trying to do the right thing" even if it doesn't mean that
we get it right but we try and have the best of intentions. We're still figuring it out.

ET: That's kind of a seg way into our conclusion here, as we're figuring out the music sense in the Chippewa Valley, where do you see it going?

JA: I keep saying that we're a city, I've used the falcon analogy where we're at a tipping point. We've come so far and now we're at the point where it is no longer the no's outweigh the yeses right? The yeses now outweigh the no's but theres also theres an energy of people who are believing, we are something. Yeah Uniroyal did close 20 years ago but we're becoming something now. We're changing as a community, what could we be? People are starting to dream and re-envision the city and think about ourselves differently but if the momentum stops, we stop. We freeze in time, do we become the city Then that everyone moves away and we become like every other Midwestern city but I think there is a general energy right now of possible? That we believe in ourselves and we can do this, the campus is no longer an ivory tower, we've torn down the walls at the campus in both physically and mentally. We're engaged in the community and we're
actively trying to help and so is CVTC and I think everyone from business leaders to
vernal citizens think we can do this. I have no idea what the outcome will be and how
music will or will not be a part of that. What Id o believe that as a region, we are starting
to believe in ourselves again and make the right choices for future generations.
Whereas if you look at the rest of America, referendums are being voted down all the
time and the older generations are saying "hey I got mine, you younger generations figure it out for yourselves, you're ungrateful" and here we're actually saying wait a minute, we need to invest to see a change and we're starting to do that. It's come a long way and we're not there and I feel like if we freeze in the next five years, we're done. It's the time will tell, if we're successful in the confluence, if we're successful in the Menominee street and those are successful operations that are generating revenue and bringing in outsiders into the community everyone will benefit and you will come back and hopefully interview me ten years from now or students ten years your junior will come and interview me and we'll have a chat about "yeah, we are there" or we'll be like "no, we had this great shot like five years ago" and I don't know that I’ll still be here if that happens right, there's a level of we're all connected to this success.

ET: Alright, are there any other topics that you feel are important to what we've discusses today that we didn’t get to quite cover as much as you wanted?
JA: I would just like to say that I recently haven't had a good friend who gave me a
paradigm shift and I would just share because you asking what I wish I would've shared it while we were talking about production managing, production directing because it’s one of those jobs where you're always in the dark right? In the sense of like nobody really knows who you are or what you do because there’s no stage presence to it and it's easy to be like "ugh my job super hard, super high stress and what's the pay check?" and this person's just said "have you ever just watched the audience and realized that to some person that the show is changing their life in that moment?" and I was like I’ve never thought of it and they challenged me to like watch the audience and find those people and I will tell you that my perspective on what a production person does changes entirely as you're watching the audience, not for like super intoxicated person or super stoned or maybe the couple whose there being lovey dovey but that one person you're watching having a complete emotional connection to what's transpiring and you realize that whatever's going in their life, you've just changed it, like you have changed the course of history for them in that moment and that their life will forever be different. When you realize how many of those are happening on one given night but across a giant room, that's what keeps me doing production now. There's mental gymnastics and the like I figured out how to do this or I solved this problem that everybody else couldn't solve but the truth tangible is watching people's lives get changed for the better in those moments. That would be the last fleeting thought that I give you.

ET: Alright, well you have some very valuable contributions to our project so we thank you very much.

AE: Thank you so much!

JA: You're so welcome you guys

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