Generally I feel comfortable away from home. I’ve lived in New York for 12 years and I don’t ever think I will feel like a New Yorker. I don’t think I ever want to. When I say “home” I am referring to Ohio. It’s a place I have barely lived as an adult, but it is still where I feel like I fit best into the world. There’s some sort of Midwestern draw that comes back to me very quickly when I am there. My business partner and I are both from Ohio and I think we both like to hire people from the Midwest because we all seem to think about the world in similar ways. We just make sense to each other. It’s also the reason we love to work with Red Wing. Part of it is the spirit of the company, and part of it is the people. Nothing is forced and nothing is insincere. If something doesn’t make sense, they don’t do it.
A few months ago I flew to Minneapolis to see Red Wing, but we didn’t drive down to its headquarters on the Mississippi, we got in a car and drove a few hours straight into the Wisconsin countryside to Eau Claire. With the talented director Andrew David Watson, we set out to make a film about the supremely talented musician Justin Vernon. We knew that he had an affinity for Red Wing and that he has been wearing the boots for years, having learned of the brand the same way I did, from his dad. More than make a marketing video, Red Wing really just wanted to tell Justin’s story because it is honest and real.
We noticed that Justin was wearing Red Wing boots when he won the Grammy for best new artist. We learned a little more about Justin, and the more Red Wing and I (we work with the brand on marketing and P.R.) learned the more we liked him. Not just because he is a great musician, but also because of his character. He’s humble and hard-working, he’s got talent, patience and a quiet confidence. He grew up in the Wisconsin farmland surrounded by dairy farms, wheat and seemingly endless fields of maize. He became a rock star and didn’t need to decamp for Nashville, New York or L.A.
In the middle of touring with Volcano Choir Justin spent one of his rare days off with us. He talked about his journey so far and the commitment he has to his craft and especially to his hometown of Eau Claire. All of the preconceived notions people might have about famous musicians goes out the door the minute you meet Justin. Gracious, friendly and beaming with talent, he couldn’t have been more inviting. We sat in his studio April base and the morning turned into afternoon and Justin spoke to us about things with longevity and permanence. Justin’s success partially goes back to these qualities, his perseverance to succeed and of course his huge talent. I like to also think his Midwestern roots have a lot to do with it.