That means more than releasing great music. The band also servers as something akin to ambassadors to bluegrass, bringing it to an array of audiences including during high-profile gigs such as when they teamed with Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons to rock the recent 53rd GRAMMY Awards.
“This is our 10th year, 2011,” says band member Bob Crawford. “Every year that passes, we get more comfortable. That’s not a bad thing. And the band plays better and better and we’re always more of a family. With all the years that pass, we get closer and closer. All that is new is old and we’re still doing it. That’s the breaking news. Ten years and still going.”
Modesty likely keeps Crawford from mentioning the other “breaking news” —the music from the band is more widely received than that of most other bluegrass bands, thus widening the musical playing field for other artists. You can confirm that just by watching how the Avett Brothers move easily around American root music. One week they may play at the annual DelFest in Cumberland, MD., with founder and headliner bluegrass legend Del McCoury. Not long after, they take the stage at the Los Angeles’ Staples Center for the GRAMMY Awards, melding their sound with artists in other corners of roots.
The secret, one suspects, is the musical backgrounds of each of the members.
Consider Avett Brothers’ founders Seth and Scott Avett. They were well schooled by their father Jim Avett, a noted songwriter and singer whose sound was born from the music and spirit of Bob Dylan, Tom T. Hall and Merle Haggard. That means love of the music comes first.
“I told the boys early on,” Jim Avett told “Country Music Pride,” “play it the way you play it, and if it’s good, if it’s entertaining, then folks will come to hear you. If not, then we’ll sit here on the front porch and entertain ourselves.”
Perhaps that’s one reason the Avett Brothers have left the album-a-year system. They’ve taken more control of their schedules to balance time with their growing families, tour commitments, special projects and writing and recording. The balance has certainly made their sound more deeply textured, said Crawford.
“Now we’re on a longer cycle and [write] more songs and that means more time with the songs to mature and grow,” he said. “For us this is just the next step, whatever that is.”
That means that Rick Rubin’s role as producer — on both the band’s past album “I and Love and You” — and their upcoming album is always shifting. His embrace of the fluid style the Avett Brothers embrace makes him a key player in the creative process, says Crawford.
“He listens to [our music] and gives us an opinon of someone not in the room,” said Crawford of the synergy the band has with the famed producer. “A common refrain from him is ‘Whatever you want to do, however much you want me or don’t want me, I’m on board and flexible.’”
That has given the group plenty of breathing room which they believe will even take their music to a new place.
“We hope this looks back and looks ahead at the same time,” said Crawford of the album for which no release date has been determined. “And that’s going to be a real subjective call for the listener. So far we haven’t strayed so far (from what we’ve done in the past)… but we’ll see.”
For more information about the Avett Brothers, including their tour schedule, go to their Web site.