First of all, here is a sad truth I didn’t have to disclose but will: My lucky assistant Dana did this interview, so I didn’t get to talk directly with Seth, of the Avett Brothers. But maybe that’s a good thing. I would have just started screaming hysterically into the phone. Dana didn’t quite know to whom she was speaking, so she held it together (and called Seth “dreamy” afterwards). Me, well, I would have had a hard time holding it together, so it’s probably better that I am just writing this introduction (DANG!):
I’ve written about the Avett Brothers before, so y’all know I love them (not like I want to marry them or anything—musical love). I first read about them in Garden and Gun. Then last summer I saw an ad in the paper for a concert they were giving in Bethlehem, PA, at Lehigh University. You know you’ve got it bad when an ad announcing a concert makes you cry. Yes, it made me cry. And then I saw them. They are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Energetic. Powerful. Fun!
I love so many of their songs—and they all have special meanings to me. I will start listing my favorites and see how far I get: “Laundry Room,” “Souls Like the Wheels,” “The Perfect Space,” “January Wedding,” “November Blue,” “I and Love and You,” “Kick Drum Heart,” “Paranoia in B Major, Black, Blue”—well, ALL of them.
I am so honored that Seth made time to speak to us. The other day I was reading a book by Jaron Lanier called You Are Not a Gadget. It’s a good book and I’m going to blog about it. HOWEVER, he made the fatal “old white guy mistake” of saying that no good new music (no new musical genre, for that matter) has been made since the invention of the Internet. HA! To me, the Avett Brothers lead a whole new genre that is not country, not folk, not any mash-up of anything else. What have I heard they called it…punkgrass? Well, that’s a mash-up kind of name, but the Avett Brothers are true originals.
P.S. Please sign me up for the love revolution.
What was your favorite comfort food growing up?
My mom’s spaghetti. In retrospect, I bet it was generic—it wasn’t like she made the noodles from scratch—but I always remember feeling pretty happy when I had it.
What is it now?
A homemade milkshake. The ones I make for myself, just ice cream and milk. It’s a nice, simple comfort food for me at the end of the day for a bedtime snack. I’m pretty boring; I like vanilla bean ice cream and whole milk.
What’s your must-have food when on the road?
I’m not making too many milkshakes on the road! Breakfast is the most important thing to me, as far as making sure I’ve got it prepared right. You have to be willing to adapt on the road.
I’ll take a container of Greek strained yogurt and a mix of granola and goji berries. Every morning, I like to have a good—not from concentrate—orange juice. That, and also I like my wife to travel with me, if it’s a short tour. She’s really strong in the kitchen. Sometimes she cooks up veggie chili or soup for me to take with me.
What’s your viewpoint on organic food?
My viewpoint on food all around is that we should really employ our common sense with what we put into our bodies. It’s important to treat yourself and your body with respect. I’m on board with organic food, but I’m not on board with just buying organic food because it has the label, and not knowing where that food comes from. I’m guilty, too, sometimes, of not spending enough time researching what I buy. It’s important to pay attention to what you’re eating and to skip out on the man-made chemical garbage.
Do you do anything in your life organically?
I write and develop songs organically. Songwriting is not something I rush, or am lazy about; I just try to let it happen at a natural pace. Even when performing, songs change as we play them; they never reach the end of a journey, they’re always evolving. I’m trying to increasingly let life around me follow its natural course—with music, relationships, and everyday life.
Who was your biggest musical influence growing up?
Jimmy Page would be very high on the list. My ears were very open when I was growing up. I was enamored with him; his sensibility as far as producing and writing heavy rock, blues, and folk acoustic is amazing…
Who is it now?
At the moment, it would be Tom T. Hall. He’s a country singer-songwriter known primarily as a country storyteller, widely known as the greatest storyteller in country music. We were familiar with his music growing up. He writes incredible songs and is able to keep it simple, and to hit on complex and deep topics doing so.
If you could write a theme song for any revolution or movement, what would it be?
I think that a revolution of love is always needed. I think there’s always hatred to focus on and to be opposed to. I’d say the ongoing revolution of love is one I’d like to take a part in. That could be in so many different forms. Food is certainly one of them, but it could go on in a lot of different forms. There’s a lot of ways to spread love, and I hope to be a part of that revolution from here on.
Where’s your favorite place to play music?
I really love playing music at fairs. We play at a great variety of places, which I really love, but the atmosphere of the small festival or the small fairground is particularly great. There’s something very American, celebratory, and sweet to me about the spirit at outdoor small festivals.
As you travel and tour, what’s one insight about humanity that you’ve gained from your adventures?
Towns can have sort of an overall personality, but you never have a town figured out. Every single town has compassion and a hard-nosed feeling, great hospitality and coldness. It really depends on your experience person-to-person. I have learned it’s unfair to categorize a region, town, or neighborhood. It’s an ongoing balance among all cities, all towns, so it’s a good lesson to learn to withhold judgment, let each visit stand on its own, and have a victory of its own.