This story may be familiar to you: A few years ago, after some health problems and the breakups of both his band and his relationship, Justin Vernon spent a winter holed up in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin, writing the songs that would become the Bon Iver CD For Emma, Forever Ago. When it was released in summer 2007, the collection of quiet, intimate songs won rave reviews and became a cult favorite — a classic album in an age when, we are told, the public doesn’t care about albums anymore.
And if you’re a Bon Iver fan, you may know the story of how Vernon met Sean Carey, his drummer. Carey, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s music program, heard For Emma online and fell in love with it. When Vernon played a solo show, Carey approached him and told him he had learned every song on the album. Vernon asked Carey to join his band that night.
After touring with Bon Iver, Carey felt it was time to tell his own story. Under the name S. Carey, he recorded a batch of his own songs and released them late last summer. The resulting All We Grow has the same warmth and melancholy as For Emma. Play them back-to-back on a quiet night, and you may have trouble keeping track of which is which. The most significant difference is Carey’s voice, which is a gentle coo — only slightly louder than a whisper. He multi-tracks his vocals to create lovely, almost Brian Wilson–like harmonies, but it never sounds like he’s stepping out in front of the song or the mood.
S. CAREY: Soda Bar, Thursday, May 19, 8 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8, $10.