The Avett Brothers: Headed North

I don't see us going back to rock full on, just as I don't see us going back to just a banjo and a stand-up bass. We are kind of gathering our abilities and we're gathering different ways and finding new ways and avenues for the songs to come to fruition. Who knows what the next songs will ask for.

-Seth Avett


Photo by: Melissa Madison Fuller

"Bluegrass is actually something we have never truly delved deeply into. Our American roots influences would be more in the old time country and old traditional. Even bluegrass is a little more modern thing," Seth observes. "We are less from the bluegrass tradition and more from the American roots, more Jimmy Rogers, more Woody Guthrie; a little Doc Watson, but more Blind Boy Fuller and Charlie Poole."

The Avett Brothers by Crackerfarm
While some Avett Brothers fans may feel as though I and Love and You represents a change of pace, they get back to their roots more than leaving any bluegrass tendencies behind. After all, their first self-titled recording relied heavily on the piano. The fact is The Avett Brothers never really played bluegrass music as much as they play instruments associated with bluegrass.

"I don't see us going back to rock full on, just as I don't see us going back to just a banjo and a stand-up bass," Seth says. "We are kind of gathering our abilities and we're gathering different ways and finding new ways and avenues for the songs to come to fruition. Who knows what the next songs will ask for."

As with all bands, different phases of life often come across in the music. Now, with Scott, Seth, and bassist Bob Crawford all happily married, Scott with a daughter, and Bob with one on the way, the idiosyncrasies inevitably flow through into the songs.

"Being personal is almost impossible for us to detach. We know some songwriters are very talented at telling a story, writing something fictional, or being super obscure. Maybe we will do something like that in the future, but absolutely, for the most part, our writing is personal and relates to our lives," offer Seth. "It's not like 'January Wedding' is very obscure as to what the song's about [laughs]. It's pretty much right there in the song. We like it when people get something personal from the shows or the songs."

The Avett Brothers by Melissa Madison Fuller
As expected, juggling domestic life while managing a burgeoning career has become another hurdle to overcome. The details regarding the lengths of the tours, the geographic regions of tours, and the timelines for writing and recording albums; all take more coordination with growing families in the picture.

"It's a weird thing, because we kind of separate it into two types of existence. We are missing [home] more now though for sure. It is on the forefront of our minds," says Seth. "We're in a constant revision for ourselves of learning the balance. We've been doing this for many years and there's always a new challenge."

So, the question remains, does that mean the end of the "Pretty Girls" songs?

"Not yet, since the 'Pretty Girls' songs run a very wide range of meanings and they're not by any means about romantic love or even current love," responds Seth.

Another new obstacle comes in the form of the deal with Columbia. In one fell swoop, the size of The Avett Brothers team grew exponentially along with increased publicity requirements and promotional events.

The Avett Brothers
"It's been good so far and no complaints with it. There is, however, a learning curve involved for sure," says Seth. "Before Columbia, there were less people to get on board. Scott or I had an idea and we would just start knockin' it out. It is still like that in terms of artistic control. The final decision for everything comes down to us, but there are more people to get on board."

Having played a supporting role this past year for both Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews Band, the Avetts got their first taste of some really big rooms. While they are not quite yet at that level on their own, should it happen down the road, they are certainly up for it, but only as long as they still get to play smaller rooms, too.

"I loved it [the amphitheatres]. I liked it very much. I think that variety is the key. I don't think it would be healthy for us to do big amphitheatres or sheds every night, just like it wouldn't be perfect to do only bars, only theaters, or only festivals [laughs]. Festivals, now those have a very different energy," remarks Seth. "Different places have different energies and different benefits, and they all have benefits. And we have different things to offer different venues. For example, last week in Baton Rouge the crowd was very attentive. It was a very sweet kind of night. It was absolutely still. It was the kind of night where you can hear somebody order a drink or walking in and out of the rows. On a night like that maybe those new songs do translate a little more gently or a little more fragile."

Regardless of what the future holds, The Avett Brothers will continue to evolve. But no matter how they change, one gets the sense their honest, unique songs will remain in tact. Inside these dusty tales is the marrow of life, the sting of loss, the jolt of love and the bite of uncertainty. The Avetts are a rare talent, timeless yet current, and capable of singing straight to a single soul while broadcasting to the ever-increasing masses.

"You might write a song which to you is something very specific," says Seth, "but you find that someone else got something completely different out of it, and that, is a very awesome thing."

The Avett Brothers are on tour now; dates available here.

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[Published on: 10/29/09]

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