“Emma, Forever ago” holds a few of my favorite tracks. I like this short clip of Justin Vernon interviewed on the the late Beatles’ producer George Martin’s Soundbreaker. It highlights his use of the Mac’s ProTools to build an environment for him to step into and sing songs as he wrote the album:

According to Wikipedia:

The album’s title comes from the middle name of Jensen [an ex girlfriend of his], though he refrained from confirming that she was the central inspiration behind the album. He felt the titular “Emma” was evocative of “a statement, a sentiment and a closing of my own history.” He went more in-depth in a later remark: “Emma isn’t a person. Emma is a place that you get stuck in. Emma’s a pain that you can’t erase.”

I didn’t actually know the specifics of this when I used the name Emma to anonymize one of my ex-girlfriends in a story I wrote about breakups. I do remember her once getting mildly annoyed with me as I tried to sing one of the album’s tracks to her, while failing miserably at the lyrics. My regard for her in the moment, lost.

“Emma isn’t a person. Emma is a place that you get stuck in. Emma’s a pain that you can’t erase.” — Wikipedia

I also just learned the definition of titular is “denoting a person or thing from whom or which the name of an artistic work or similar is taken.”

The story of Vernon’s ascent from depression and grief into the wintery woods of Wisconsin which led to “Emma, Forever Ago” is fascinating and a notable tale of art emerging from our lowest lows and our wounds.

Skinny Love is probably the most listened to track from Emma. I’m not sure which song of the album is my favorite. You can listen to it here on Spotify and decide for yourself.

Some years back, I went on a few dates with a woman who was friends with Vernon and it felt like being close to a very special universe, an unusual experience for me. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was exposed to famous people enough not to see them as anything special. This felt kind of different.

The documentary series Soundbreaker looks fascinating. I can’t wait to catch up with it.



Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.

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