Just a little over a year after they last performed for a sellout crowd, the Avett Brothers returned to Charlottesville's nTelos Wireless Pavilion on a perfect fall night, Friday the 19th of October. Photographer Milo Farineau brought his camera– and his teenage daughter, Isabelle, to capture the magic.
Isabelle conducted this pre-concert interview– available online only– with the brothers:
Izzy: Cello, drums, and electric bass aren’t bluegrass instruments, but you draw a lot of fans from the bluegrass world. What are your bluegrass influences?
Seth: We love The Dillards.
Scott: Earl Scruggs was a huge influence– that was the template for how I learned how to play banjo.
Seth: And Doc [Watson], you know, he dipped into that quite a bit. He played a lot of different kinds of music but he dipped well into bluegrass and Don Reno, he’s a fellow that I really admire his banjo picking. You never want to say to a group or artist that people don’t identify with bluegrass because bluegrass is a very pure, or at least we see it as a very pure kind of thing.
Scott: Old and In the Way, you know, actually that was one of those records that we took the version of Mule Skinner blues, going down the road... We got a lot of the versions of those songs that we played early on from Old and in the Way recordings which you would wonder if that is kind of second... or fourth generation bluegrass music, coming from guys in San Francisco or coming from one of the Dead…
Seth: We love Del McCoury. We love his music, but we really mainly just love him as a person, he’s been so good to us. So nice and welcoming.
Scott: We played at his festival, every time we sing in Nashville, we get where we are going–
Seth: When we played at the Ryman, maybe it was our first time selling out, and he knew that was going to happen and he had this welcoming gift waiting there for us as kind of a “Congratulations– you sold out the Ryman!” He’s just such a gentleman.
Izzy: What are your biggest non bluegrass influences?
Scott: It’s all the way across the board…. Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Louis Armstrong, Tom Waits, Coltrane, Beethoven…
Seth: We make it a point to find the good in every genre, and there’s not a genre that doesn’t have something beautiful to offer.
Scott: I think we’ve always loved the extremes of things, and if it was going to be bluegrass then we would find the most extreme version, the best version of it. We would try to find the point (in any genre) where it was being pushed the furthest and take from that.
Izzy: What bands are you listening to right now?
Seth: I’m listening to the Band of Horses record, I’m liking that a lot, and Michael Kiwanuka, he’s out of England– very beautiful voice. Kind of a folk singer, with production that is kind of 70s soul. Also listening to Brandi Carlisle’s new record a lot.
Scott: I’ve been listening nonstop of Randy Travis lately, relearning all of his great songs that he performed.
Izzy: Scott, do you paint while you are out on the road?
Scott: No, I carve on tour. When I’m on the road, it’s a good way for me to learn songs. It is hard for me to just sit and listen and focus on a song. I can learn a song, and there’s no end of songs I need to learn and explore, and if I’m carving, I can learn as well as doing this mindless physical thing and at the same time I can be advancing this visual journey I may be on. At home, I have a printing and painting studio, but the carving is something I can do on the road with a table and a chair and a knife.
Izzy: I understand that both your father and grandfather played music. How have your families affected particularly the music you put on The Carpenter?
Seth: We can’t separate ourselves from our backgrounds. There is some connection throughout all of our music from the men and women we come from, our parents and grandparents. We never knew our grandfathers, they passed before we were born, but our dad’s dad was a preacher, our mom’s dad was a one-star general in the Army. We are definitely in a large part who we are because of our parents and because of the values and the example they showed us.
Scott: The work effort is more important than the music, the style or the direction of the music... that was going to happen regardless, that was just the medium we chose to work in. Our father and mother mainly were leading by example, showing us. Dad gets up at 4:30 and is home when the job is done. This thing that looks impossible to do, watch him move this trailer that he just welded together by himself, watch him move it around, a two-ton apparatus, by himself and he would just say and If you just do it slow, you won’t hurt yourself and you’ll get it moved. Just, that kind of thing, we apply to what we do.
Seth: The aesthetic of a record like The Carpenter, or anything we’ve done before is less important, less worthy of mention than the fact that we are trying to do a lot and do it as well as we can.