POSTED ON APRIL 11, 2012:
Day by Day
Avett Brothers take things a step at a time to let their new album evolve naturally
When Avett Brothers last arrived in Tulsa, touring behind I and Love and You, the group was following up on a very prolific period in which the band released nine CD's within a seven year span. Since that last studio release in 2009, the group has released a live CD/DVD entitled Live Volume 3, but no additional studio recordings. It's not that the group hasn't been recording, however. In fact, the group reportedly entered the studio with producer Rick Rubin again in early 2011 and Scott Avett was quoted in the June 2011 issue of Rolling Stone, stating "We've recorded 24 songs and there's plenty more where that came from."
Nevertheless, as April 2012 arrives, the album that fans have been anticipating still hasn't arrived. Granted, the group has been busy, touring consistently in short spurts of dates while continuing to prepare the record. With a new album yet to be announced, however, the group is gearing up for the summer touring season and appearances at festivals like Wakarusa a Bonnaroo, with a spring tour bringing the band to Tulsa's Brady Theater for a special "An evening with" concert this weekend.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with guitarist Seth Avett before the band headed out for its latest stretch of shows to discuss the current touring and impending album release. When asked about the perceived delays with the band's forthcoming record, he commented, "There are just a lot of elements involved to getting this record out. Some of it is professional stuff and some of it is creative."
"Previously, we pretty much did it all on our own," Avett explained. "Even Dolphus (Ramseur, current band manager and owner of Ramseur Records, the band's previous label) is like another part of the band, so we were used to doing everything on our own."
While moving to American Recordings and dealing with the business aspects of a major label have changed some of the dynamics and process of getting a new record out, Avett shared, "When we got the opportunity to work with Rick Rubin, we felt very fortunate and couldn't pass it up. It was an opportunity to work with someone on the same level both artistically and creatively."
"I would say our writing hasn't slowed down any," Avett said. "The reason this record has taken a longer is more maturity on our part. Before, we would go in and record an album in a week and just pick a release date arbitrarily. We'd let Dolphus know and he'd say 'OK, we'll release in on Tuesday, April 24' and pick the date because albums are released on Tuesdays."
"We didn't have to worry about who else was putting out records that day," he continued. "We didn't have anyone to notify, we could just put it out. Over time, though, our team has grown and there are more moving pieces and things to consider.
"I think we've also got a more refined vision of what we want our record to be and sound like," Avett said. "And there's also just life: we're married now and have children. Our priorities have changed."
Even with all the changes that have come with growing families and label changes, Avett stressed again that the group has never slowed down in the writing process, stating, "It's really been more a matter of finding time to do the songs justice."
"In fact, this is the first interview I've done that I can say the new record is finished," Avett said. "The artwork is almost done and we've still got the mastering to do, so it's still in the final stages, but we're done with our part."
"The last record, to me, was clearly the first chapter in a new era for us," Avett said. "There were a few things that we probably could have changed, but I think with this record we've got our sea legs a little more and it's a really good representation of us and where we're at."
When asking about the band's future and what lies ahead, Avett shared that he and the band are more focused on what lies directly ahead of them than worrying about the future.
"For me -- and for everyone, whether you're a musician or not -- I think it's really about working to find a balance between family and work," he said. "Our focus as a band is just to take small sections to focus on at the time. We don't worry about winning awards or having a number one record or anything like that."
"Right now, I'm more concerned with being where I'm supposed to be and being there on time, being on the bus when it's ready to leave," he said, laughing.
"It's been the same thing with the record," he said. "We take it in small amounts and when it gets done, it gets done. When we're working on the record, we give our all to it -- and when we're on stage, we give 100% to that. So we're big on the day by day right now."
On a broader spectrum, Avett also revealed that bassist Bob Crawford's daughter was diagnosed with cancer following the last tour. "She's only 2 years old and that changes everything," he said.
"We've tried to figure out how to continue on with that as part of his life and ours. Family and your kids are more important than this, so it has the potential to change our schedule," Avett shared. "For us, it's been more about how do we make this work? How many days can we go out? How much can we give?"
"We're full grown men with families and responsibilities now. We're not twenty-year-olds anymore, ready to go out and sleep under the bus if we have to just to be out on the road," he laughed.
"We want to put everything we have into each show, so there may be less shows, but each one is so exciting," he explained, putting it into perspective. "There's a feeling of reckless abandon with each show, where we realize this could be the last show we ever play together."
"That's not to be depressing or fatalistic," he said. "It's just that we've learned to take it day by day and for us, it's about doing this as well as we can each day."
That's not to say that the band doesn't have an eye on the future. Avett was quick to comment that "I'm really excited about the new record and anxious to get it out -- hopefully within the next three months."
As for now, however, the Avett Brothers are headed back out on the road with a summer full of concert dates planned out. The spring tour kicks off this week and stops at Brady Theater on Friday night, April 13, for a show that will not only dig deep into the band's back catalog, but also offer a few previews of what the new album will contain.
When discussing the tour, Avett said, "I do want to proclaim my excitement to be back in Tulsa. It's kind of a weird thing, because when you first start touring, you only have one home town. Then you start playing a little further out and little further out. Now, we've been there enough that playing in Tulsa is not so different from playing in my own hometown."
"Don't get me wrong," he said, "there's a fun and excitement to playing somewhere for the first time, but there's a comfort in coming back to someplace you've become familiar with and I'm looking forward to being back in Tulsa."
That excitement is echoed by the group's fans as Friday night's show is currently sold out, even though the band has moved from Cain's Ballroom to the larger Brady Theater. Those who have tickets are in for a special night as the spring tour starts to find its footing and the audience gets a full evening with The Avett Brothers, beginning at 8pm.
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