The Avett Brothers: Together Through Life

seth avett

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Asked if he would characterize Magpie as a breakup record, Seth pauses for a moment.

“Hmm … that’s an interesting question for me to hear,” he answers. “I haven’t considered it in that way. Possibly, yeah. I don’t think, necessarily, that would mean specifically a romantic breakup. Breakups can be from all kinds of things. It can be from a lifestyle, or a place, or a town or a person. And there’s definitely the theme of departure and of breaking away … I don’t think that a romantic breakup or anything like that was on our minds.”

Scott’s assessment is more direct.

“Yeah, I think we’ve been breaking up with ourselves – breaking up with our old selves,” he says. “It seems like we’ve been doing that ever since we’ve been writing … ultimately, the reason it would be that is because there is a release and let-go that any thinking person, I think, goes through. That’s what we do out loud.”

Magpie’s 11 tracks also contain reflections on recurring themes of growth, maturation and the changing perspectives they bring.

“Of course,” Scott observes, “goodbye and hello are always constant. I think overall, goodbye and hello, up and down, pretty much sums up all songs. Some are up, up, up, some are down, down, down, and some are both.”

And there we have it – one of The Avetts exhibiting their uncanny ability to distill life’s complexities into their simplest elements – which is exactly what gives their lyrics such sucker-punch intensity; they’re so starkly riveting at times, they really do take your breath away.

“Apart From Me” contains the lines, “Your touch was nothing more than a child’s goodbye and hello/ But it always left me feeling worse when it was time to go.” “Skin And Bones” offers the realization, “It’s the tin and boards that keep me going home/ But it’s who I am that won’t let me alone.”

“There’s moments on the record that are almost hard to listen to because they hit so hard,” Seth says. “To me, to my personal life, what Bob’s life has been like, what Scott’s life has been like, it’s just hard … And it’s crazy to hear that coming back to you from your own voice from a different time – which was, relatively speaking, really very recent. But not nearly as poignant as it is now.

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“It’s a bizarre relationship that you have with your songs,” Seth says. “You write a heartbreaking song, it was a terrible time, you really hit that moment, you just really encapsulated that really lonely feeling, or whatever. And then maybe it’s two years later and things have changed, and you’ve got a lot of joy in your life. And then you get onstage and you play this really sad song and you’re just not that person. That’s a weird thing because, in effect, you have somehow put yourself logistically into a situation where you have torn one page out of 150 of your journal from 2002 and shared it, and so now you just keep sharing that one page of your journal over and over and over again.

“That’s, to me, a very unreasonable thing to do. But I do it all the time, and I’ve come to terms with it. I don’t really believe that a songwriter has to be in it all the way to be able to present it as part of their story … But sometimes you need to take a break from a song and get some perspective … And then when you come back to it, you’re bringing a more three-dimensional understanding of the song. I haven’t played ‘January Wedding’ a whole lot recently. But I will, I will. And it will be a lot of fun.”

Seth says he and Scott are quite aware they’re inviting strangers to peek inside their journals with nearly every song.

“We have … been rewarded for that by finding out that the strangers are not strangers,” he adds. “They’re like us, and we’re like them, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

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