Artist Interview: Avett Brothers

There’s something you should know about celebrities. No matter what kind of persona they might show on stage or on TV or on the playing field, you’ll never know with 100% certainty who that person really is until you actually get some time to sit down and have a conversation with them. You’d be surprised how many celebrities would disappoint you, no matter how big a fan you’ve been over the years. But on the flipside of that, there are some people you might not have cared anything about previously, but when you meet them for the first time you’re instantly a huge fan.

Bob Crawford, bassist of the Avett Brothers, is somebody you probably don’t know anything about. But he’s somebody you’re going to love.

bobcrawford2While Seth and Scott Avett are the heart and soul of the Avett Brothers—a country/bluegrass/pop/rock fusion group making loads of waves in the last year with their first major label album, “I and Love And You”—Crawford has proven to be an integral part of the band for the better part of eight years. Now that they’re seeing some serious success, Crawford explains what the major-label process has been like.

“We didn’t know what to expect going into it,” he said, “and I know sometimes there can be negative connotations associated with major labels. But it has probably exceeded what we thought it could be… We’ve always worked with a small team, and what Columbia and American have done is they’ve added to that team with another really small group of people that we work with on the other side. Everybody’s really enthusiastic about what we’re doing, and everybody wants us to succeed.”

And so far, succeed they have. Rolling Stone Magazine named them “The Artist to Watch” for 2009, obviously helping them garner a lot of momentum.

“That’s always exciting, but in a way it was like it came kind of late,” Crawford chuckled about the honor. “We had been around for eight years when that happened. We’d been trying to get in front of [Rolling Stone] for years, and they kept denying it. Then all of a sudden they like it.”

He laughed about the entire process of what it means to reach success in the fickle music business, and in the end he’s really just thankful. “In reality, though, you just can’t deny what a thrill it is to see that happen.”

It wasn’t always this easy for the Avett Brothers, though. Because of their hard-to-classify musical genre, there weren’t many major labels willing to take a risk on them due to fears that they wouldn’t appeal to a broad enough audience.

“It was a hurdle for the labels and for the industry,” Crawford explained. “In fact, we were told that many years ago when we were invited to play for RCA in Nashville. We were in a little board room with three executives watching us, and the woman told us, ‘The way demographics go, we just need to put you in this little box. Would you be willing to do other people’s material?’ And we were like, ‘Well, we’d rather not,’ and that was it. So I guess it was a hurdle for the labels, but it was never a hurdle for us musically because we’ve always just done what we do.”

Now, Crawford and the Avett Brothers are starting perhaps their biggest tour yet, running all over America and part of Europe between now and mid-summer, culminating in their third appearance at the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee. They’ll be one of several artists rocking several stages that weekend—stages that will see Jay-Z, Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, Weezer, Zac Brown Band, and damn near every other significant musical artist in the business. It’s like the NBA All-Star Weekend for musicians.

But as the 2010 tour gets underway, Crawford is forced to leave his wife and four-month-old daughter behind—making this the hardest work trip he’s ever had to make.

“I didn’t even look at the schedule, so I have no idea what’s coming up,” Crawford said in response to a question about what he was looking forward to on the upcoming tour. “I know we’re playing at some point with Gov’t Mule, and that’s really exciting—but I have been absolutely blind to what was coming because I’ve been so focused on being at home and being at home with [my daughter].”

And here comes the part where you fall in love with a guy you never even knew you cared about. Family and music are this man’s two passions, but when asked how the two compare, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I’m so thankful for all the great things that have happened (with the Avett Brothers) and all the hard work we’ve put in, but this is your family. It can’t even compare,” Crawford explained, adding, “This could all go to crap in a heartbeat—I mean, I hope it doesn’t, and I’m counting on it not—but there’s nothing that can compare to holding my daughter… I knew that when she came into the world, that was the greatest moment of my life, no matter what we ever do with the Avett Brothers.”

Fans of Crawford and his group get to root for a genuinely good guy, and from what we understand the actual Avett brothers are the same way. Yes, they’re on the up-and-up in the music industry, writing critically acclaimed music and playing for increasingly huge audiences, but they’re also really good people. There’s no pretension, no sense of entitlement—just three guys who love making music and absolutely have their priorities straight. If you weren’t a fan before reading this, you should be now. And if you still aren’t a fan, maybe picking up their album or going to see their show would change your mind.

As if it needs any changing.


The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You

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About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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