Avett Brothers find it easier this time around
BY MARY HOUlIHAN September 26, 2012 6:12PM
The Avett Brothers feature Scott Avett (from left), Bob Crawford and Seth Avett.
The Avett Brothers
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
♦ 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28
♦ Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S. Lynn White Dr.
♦ Tickets, $58.50
♦ (800) 745-3000;
The making of the Avett Brothers’ 2009 album, “I and Love and You,” was a learning process for Scott and Seth Avett, the North Carolina natives who brought in uber-producer Rick Rubin as guide.
“We were a little unfamiliar with the territory on that album,” Scott Avett says from New York where the band had just finished a soundcheck for a recent appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” “Rick helped us learn how to listen.”
Rubin again assisted on the Avett’s new disc, “The Carpenter,” but now “as more of an extension of the family,” Avett says. “He offered feedback and brought another layer of validation to our attempt at making great organic and masterful art.”
The new songs will be the centerpiece when the Avetts — Scott (vocals, guitar) and Seth (vocals, banjo and piano) — perform at Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island. They are joined by Bob Crawford (bass), Joe Kwon (cello) and Jacob Edwards (drums). Justin Townes Earle opens, making this a perfect evening of roots music.
The lyrically rich songs on “The Carpenter” felt like a natural progression for the brothers. Twenty were recorded, allowing for more variety than on the past few albums. “We could take the movement of the record different places and see a different dynamic come to the surface,” Avett says.
The actual songwriting process this time around felt “more like breathing,” Avett said. “It doesn’t come as painfully as it once did. We don’t sit down and try to control it, to rush it. It’s more of a natural occurrence and an integrated part of our fabric.”
Scott, 36, and Seth, 32, grew up on a farm near Charlotte, N.C. It was a simple upbringing but their parents also stressed education. They took piano lessons and had the bug to entertain and perform. While they always played in bands, they would pursue other interests in college — painting and radio broadcasting (Scott) and printmaking and illustration (Seth).
Their late grandfather, Clegg Avett, a Methodist minister, was a big influence on the budding artists’ aesthetic, Avett says. “He was a blue collar intellect; graceful, gentle, tender and open-minded and very much one with his country surroundings. He’s the reason we grew up with self-assurance and confidence.”
And while it’s a given that country music was ever present in the Avett household, the brothers also were drawn to pop — Prince, Hall and Oates, Duran Duran, as well as Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Nowadays their music channels Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and Doc Watson. And there are also moments of Brill Building pop spliced with rock on several of the songs on “The Carpenter.”
It was Scott Avett’s interest in the banjo that eventually gives the music a certain flavor: “I took to it I think because it has a lot of diversity. It’s abrasive and annoying but also a pretty instrument. I wanted to explore all of that.”
The banjo also brought with it an exploration of the old-time mountain music sound that you’d expect from brothers out of North Carolina.
“There’s so much of that musical history where we grew up,” Avett says. “Those roots are very mystical and we feel very much a part of that spirit. Maybe we are mountain music but today’s version of it.”
As for working so closely with his brother, Avett admits not every moment is smooth sailing but they’ve grown accustomed to making it work.
“Seth and I are very different people and over the years we’ve begun to understand that,” Avett said. “We need to celebrate those differences. Hopefully, when the differences are placed between us, we stir them together and make it a positive thing. Or, if not, we take a little space and that can be good, too.”
Mary Houlihan is a local free-lance writer.