Psychic Hotline, the label founded by Sylvan Esso, has released the the first collaboration from Ethan Gruska and Bon Iver, with the track “So Unimportant.” Written long distance during the pandemic, Gruska and Justin Vernon, who are mutual admirers of one another, passed the song back and forth from other sides of the country, eventually arriving at it’s intricately-layered conclusion. The track also features strings from Rob Moose and percussion from Blake Mills and Matt Chamberlain, and was engineered by Will McClellan.
Ethan Gruska, a Los Angeles-based musician, released his sophomore solo album En Garde in 2020. He is also a prolific collaborator; he produced both Stranger in the Alps and Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers, and has also worked with Paul McCartney, Manchester Orchestra, Remi Wolf, Kimbra, King Princess, John Legend, Christian Lee Hutson, and more over the years.
Justin Vernon has been releasing music as Bon Iver since 2007 when their debut For Emma, Forever Ago came out. The project’s most recent album, i,i, was released in 2019. Later this month the project will share the 10th anniversary reissue of the band’s Grammy-winning sophomore album Bon Iver, Bon Iver.
Today’s single follows singles from Psychic Hotline: Flock of Dimes’ “Pure Love” b/w “Time;” Uwade’s “Do You See the Light Around Me?”; Bartees Strange, Ohmme, and Eric Slick’s “Province”; Anjimile’s “Ever New”; and “Neon Blue,” by Amelia Meath and Blake Mills, paired with an instrumental cover of the same song by Sam Gendel.
From Ethan Gruska, on “So Unimportant” –
“Around March 10th of 2020 Justin was supposed to come to LA and we were going to spend a few days making some stuff. Obviously, that didn’t happen… We all went into lockdown shortly after. About two weeks into deep quarantine Justin and I connected and decided it would still be fun to send each other files and try something remotely. So Unimportant was the first thing that came to fruition. Justin and I passed this song and session leisurely back and forth for a while to get it where it is now.
The fact that I now have a song with Justin just completely blows my mind. He’s been my pie in the sky // I’d do anything to collaborate with artist for a really long time and having this song together is one of the most special things that has ever happened to me in my musical life. Life in general!
Justin is my favorite pen pal, person and artist, and I’m so grateful to have made this together!”
From Justin Vernon, on “So Unimportant” –
“My dear friend and great drummer, JT Bates, showed me the music of Ethan Gruska a number of years ago. It’s not often that something IMMEDIATELY grasps you where you stand like his music did. It only happens a few times in one’s life. Ethan’s musicality and touch has magic in it. We have not yet met in person, but have exchanged the longest, flirtiest texts in history. I hope to be near the mine of his mind for as long as possible. This song is just the first thing I threw at the wall. He scraped it off that wall, and turned it into a song I’ll appreciate forever.”