Seth Avett offers the impression he might be the nicest guy you'd ever want to know. Even in the span of a 30-minute phone chat, there's the sense that an instant bond's been established. He shares sincere sentiment, a hearty laugh, and a folksy, unaffected down-home demeanor that's every bit as honest and embracing as the off-the-cuff and emotionally vulnerable melodies that he and his brother Scott deliver with their band, the Avett Brothers.
Over the course of the past dozen years or so, they've garnered a rabid following that's made them festival favorites and purveyors of populist appeal. They boast a rustic sound that emphasizes the basics -- acoustic guitars, kick drums, stringed instruments of all description, and the occasional keyboard. The quartet (which also includes bassist Bob Crawford and cello player Joe Kwon) makes music that is effusive and heartbreaking, detailing personal circumstance with humor, remorse, and reflection.
The irrepressible bond they create with their audiences is affirmed in Seth's thoughtful responses and sincere expressions of appreciation for all their fans have helped them to achieve. And in our conversation, that was all too evident.
Dang, I love this guy (in the most brotherly way of course)!
New Times: Has your sudden success taken you by surprise?
Seth Avett: I can tell you that it gets sort of overwhelming to get on the scale of what it's gotten to. If I look at it with my 21 year-old eyes, then yes, it's unbelievable in a way. You do something gradual every day, year in and year out, and you gain perspective for yourself as best as you can. But you also lose the perspective you had when you stepped into the room, and as you're walking through it, you lose the perspective that you had when you were walking through the door.
I think so much in terms of what's happening right now. We've stayed so busy, that I take precious little time to reminisce, precious little time to process, precious little time to bask in anything. I'm talking literally. I'm talking about stepping onstage with Willie Nelson and singing "On the Road Again" in Texas and being in the bus a few hours later and heading to wherever we were heading to next, and talking about the set list for the next day and whatever. Not sitting there drinking a beer and thinking, "Man, I just sang with Willie Nelson!" I've tried to appreciate that, but you keep moving so you don't get bogged down.
We've had more fortunate and exciting experiences than we deserve. (laughs) I'm excited about the lifestyle we've led and the opportunities we've had, and some of them do surprise me. But then again, we're just hardworking guys, and we don't take a lot of time to think it through. We're just on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.
In a way, your laidback, unpretentious sound has kind of paved the way for a new generation of acts with a similar no-nonsense style. I'm thinking of Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers in particular.
I agree. But that's something that I like to keep in check. I certainly don't want to take credit for something that's not mine and ours to take. Both of those bands are friends and colleagues. Both are, on average, ten years younger than us, and they have been vocal about our influence on them. So I'm trying to be okay with that and to accept that gratefully.
I appreciate very much that those bands have expressed that and have done good things and received attention for that. Commercially speaking, both of those bands are at a higher level than we've ever been, but they're doing it their way. They're doing their thing and it's being responded to. It's exciting in the landscape of music to see the music each of those bands are making, and the music we're making, and being rewarded with some kind of popularity and some kind of buzz.