There are few things in adulthood that make you positively giddy. Interviewing the Avett Brothers is one of them.
We talk with Scott Avett in anticipation of the Avett Brothers’ February 12th show in Charleston.
The 2012 tour that kicked off at the first of the year marks the release of the band’s newest album, currently untitled. Since they’re always putting touring in front of recording, a new album is a big deal. With several songs written over as long as an eight year period, Scott says, “the layers of time taken come through in the process.” He says this album has been heavily contemplated, more so than any of their other albums. Whereas they came to the “I and Love and You” album with everything in their arsenal, this time they came with a new, more instinctually structured approach to songwriting.
Which isn’t to say that’s how they approach their shows.
“We never wave a flag of perfection, it’s always a flag of improvement,” laughs Scott, regarding their “practicing in front of people” approach to shows. “We’ll become what we are becoming in front of people.”
This philosophy is in large part what makes them so fun to watch. Whether it’s at a large field at Bonnaroo or a more intimate setting, there’s something about the Avett Brothers that feels like you’re connected with them in a living room somewhere. They’re down to earth, relatable.
Scott, born and still based in North Carolina, loves that music in the South is so regional. NC has a different sound than TN. East Tennessee has a different sound than Nashville. “The South is really colorful,” he says, very proud of the way of life in the Carolinas. Never having thought about uprooting, he attributes a “Do It Yourself” attitude that has shaped him. “In North Carolina, you didn’t think about New York and LA…or at least I didn’t. I thought, ‘how do I do this myself? How do you come out of nowhere doing this?’”
Not like he never chased it. Early on, the band followed a few wild goose chases on the journey to “get discovered,” quickly learning to stop the madness. They instead learned to stop chasing and not count on being discovered; to just do what they loved, whether people were paying attention or not (in the beginning, they weren’t…one person even told them, “You make no sense on the radio”). Well you know how that goes…how they say you find love when you’re not looking for it? Guess the same goes for fame. “Our failure has been our fortune. Every time we lost, we had a necessity to redesign what success was for ourselves.”
We ask about Charleston memories and he laughs, “suuuurrre….,” reminiscing about a banjo incident. He had just started playing the banjo and had a handful of songs he could pull out like party tricks. He was downtown at the wedding reception of the father of the girl he was dating at the time. Daddio urges the banjo out. Scott starts showing off on his strings. A request comes for Rocky Top, which isn’t in his bag of party tricks. The father jokes, “What kind of banjo player doesn’t know Rocky Top?” Well, Scott says he was “much younger and more hot headed,” quickly getting defensive and combating with, “Well why don’t YOU come over here and play Rocky Top?!” He laughs thinking of the “chill out, kid…it’s a wedding reception” looks. He did ultimately learn to play it, although has since forgotten. “Maybe it’s in there somewhere,” he says.
When Scott’s not making music, he’s making art. He’s painting furiously right now, having just picked back up his paintbrush after seven months of touring. Literally and physically, he keeps his music and his visual art separate. “One can be a huge distraction for the other,” he says, explaining why he can’t listen to music with enticing lyrics while painting. Although the approach is the same: the subject matter always starts biographically, very specific to him…then the world shapes it and it transforms into something that is not his situation alone, more public, more accessible to all. We’ve got one of those multi-talented guys on our hands.
The music, the art, the Do-It-Yourself Homegrown success.
Here’s to the Avett Brothers.
We and Love and You.
Details on Charleston show
Buy tickets to Charleston show
Check out Scott Avett’s art