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Avett Brothers live it up

By Dan MacIntosh, October 2010

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When it comes to writing songs, The Avett Brothers come up with new songs in nearly every conceivable combination possible.

"We write less together than we used to," Avett explains, "but that's not because we like to do that; it's because we don't have the time that we once did at home. We write a lot separate and then come together in the studio. There's no rule. We take it however we can. If something comes to one of us, we bring it to the table and it becomes all of ours."

The Avett Brothers are known to perform songs like Where Have All the Average People Gone, a song closely associated with Roger Miller, in concert. Although these guys may not play what some (read: music snobs) would consider traditional country music, they obviously appreciate great country music, nonetheless.

"We love Roger Miller," Avett says. "Right along with Roger Miller is the Tom T. Hall thing. I think they both come from the same canvass. I've had a conversation with Tom T. a couple times. In one of the conversations, he gave me great advice. And the second conversation, he was very complimentary in the fact that in the ‘60s what Nashville was was something that's different than it is now. He complimented us in the way of saying that we may indirectly have fit in back then. It's just so different now. And he referenced Roger Miller as he was talking about the guys he ran with. The guys that he was friends with and writing with in Nashville."

Avett was a fan of traditional country music long before he was so kindly complimented by Tom T. Hall. He had a great musical mentor at home.

"I didn't have to speak with him to start loving that stuff, though," Avett explains. "My dad took us see Tom T. Hall when we were very young at very small agricultural center-type theater in Stanley County, N.C. That really is the well of inspiration, and the lessons to be learned from that songwriting is just so deep."

Ironically, many folks associate The Avett Brothers with a sort of contemporary take on bluegrass music. Yet bluegrass is almost like a second language they really haven't learned to speak quite yet.

"We so oftentimes get lumped into bluegrass and folk, and that's such a new thing for us," Avett says. "We didn't grow up with it. There were hints of it here and there, but we grew up with John Conlee and Tom T. Hall and Roger Miller. You know, Merle Haggard; these kind of guys. It wasn't folk and bluegrass, really, until later."

In the end, however, Scott Avett isn't really big on dicing and slicing American music into various categories. The Avett Brothers play the music that moves them emotionally, so they're not all that concerned with how others choose to label it.

"Really, all this talk gets to be pretty non-sensical, if that's a word," Avett says. "The point is it's a little ridiculous to talk all these genres. The idea of bluegrass, folk, country, etc… it's all kind of this state of mind. It isn't really important, the sound. And if you do put a band together and say, ‘We're gonna be a bluegrass band,' 9 times out of 10, it could be just a lot of guys that really do it well, but I don't know if they deliver it with a genuine nature that promotes real bluegrass music or real old time music or real blues music or real country. Who cares? It just doesn't matter. I think it was just natural to play like we did, and it turns out it sounds like what people say is bluegrass. I think that's great. It's fine. They can call it whatever they want."

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