Bonny Light Horseman
About Bonny Light Horseman
Performing contemporary folk music that shows a deep reverence for the past as well as a willingness to play with traditions, Bonny Light Horseman is a collaboration between three talented friends who also happen to be respected artists in their own right. Featuring playwright, songwriter, and musician Anaïs Mitchell, songwriter, producer, and composer Eric D. Johnson, and producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, the trio had just begun an informal collaboration when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver urged them to perform on-stage, which was the first step in a journey that led to the release of their self-titled debut album in early 2020.
Eric D. Johnson, best known for his indie folk project Fruit Bats, had been longtime friends with Josh Kaufman, a producer and instrumentalist whose résumé includes work with the National, Craig Finn, and Josh Ritter. Through social media, Johnson struck up an acquaintance with Anaïs Mitchell, an indie folksinger and songwriter who had enjoyed success on Broadway as the author, composer, and lyricist of the musical Hadestown, which won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Johnson and Kaufman had been working together on a project rooted in traditional folk songs, and when Johnson invited Mitchell to join in, the collaboration clicked, with the three adapting ancient folk ballads to arrangements that respected their origins but gave them a more contemporary sound. The three were enjoying working together when Vernon, better known as Bon Iver, got wind of what they were doing and asked them to appear at the 2018 Eaux Claires Festival, founded by Vernon and his creative partner Aaron Dessner.
The musicians and the audience both reacted favorably to their debut, and Vernon and Dessner invited them to perform a week-long residency in Berlin as part of their 37d03d artists' collective. (Flip 37d03d upside down and it reads as "People.") The musicians settled into a performance space in Berlin called the Funkhaus, and over the week created musical arrangements and vocal harmonies for ten songs. They recorded as they went along, with other 37d03d participants joining in, and by the time they returned home, they had completed enough music for a full-length album. After mixing and overdubbing sessions in the New York cities of Woodstock and Hurley, Johnson, Kaufman, and Mitchell had completed their debut album. Dubbing the group Bonny Light Horseman, after a British ballad of the 16th century, they issued their self-titled LP through the 37d03d record label in January 2020.