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Bob Crawford has been a member of The Avett family fold almost since the band began, and the support clearly has helped him weather many storms, including his young daughter’s health crises.
“Their parents kind of took me in and gave me help in our early days and in my time of need,” he explains. “They’re those kind of people who just take in people. Very loving and always there to be consoling when you need it and a hand when you need help or when you’re down on your luck.
“Not sharing the name is okay, because there’s another bond that doesn’t have a name, that is unspoken,” Crawford explains. “We’ve been through some serious ups and some serious downs. Things that go beyond business and beyond being in a band together … [From] being onstage with Bob Dylan [to] recording records, doing this or that – we’ve experienced it all, in every different facet of our relationship. I would say the things that happened offstage and outside of the band and the business have brought us together much more than the comfort we share of being onstage together.”
For better or worse, Bob also functions as the tie-breaker when it comes to band votes. Bob doesn’t particularly like the role – essentially having to choose between the two brothers – but it comes with the territory, according to Scott. They’ve learned not to take it personally.
“We’re just going to try to trust Bob to pick the option or the decision that’s better, not that’s mine or [Seth’s],” Scott says. “We think in those terms. And Rick Rubin has helped us in thinking in those terms.”
According to Seth, they get more done more quickly during recording sessions now because of Rubin’s guidance, though it’s also been a bit of a bootcamp experience, including tearing down and reconstructing song elements.
“It’s good for us that Rick himself is not a pronounced musician,” Seth says. “He speaks in terms of vibe and mood and spirit. He’s not gonna sit in the control room and say, ‘Hey, you should try a C minor there instead of an E major.’ He doesn’t care about that. He cares about what does it feel like when we get to this part of a song.”
Though Scott says Rubin is brilliant, he doesn’t possess mythic powers.
“He speaks in very plain terms; is very cordial and very kind,” Scott says. “And I try my best to return the demeanor. That’s just ‘Aspiring to Live Right 101,’ ‘Aspiring to Live Well 101.’”
Before recording with Rubin, the band had never considered working with an outside producer. “Scott and I felt that we had all the answers, me especially,” Seth admits. “I get in my mind a vision for what I want a song to be, what I want a record to be, and it’s just like, ‘Let’s just do it and be done with it and move on.’ Scott and I both, we’re very much like that. It was good for us that Rick came forward, because he is one of the few producers that I have so much respect for that I was willing to sit down and just listen, and I did, and it’s been great.”
Asked what made him reach out to the band initially, Rubin explains via email, “I loved their music and wanted to meet with them. Once I met them, I got very excited about working with them. They have a sincerity unusual in this age.
“From a structural standpoint, I thought if we worked together, I could help them develop as writers,” he adds. “I think this came into focus quickly and it can be heard on ‘I And Love And You’ to start.”
It also may have turned the brothers into better producers themselves; a few years ago, they were asked to work on G. Love’s album, Fixin’ To Die.
“When you’re produced by somebody, you choose them because you really respect them and you want them to take you in a certain direction. Sometimes you don’t know what their direction is gonna be. We felt The Avett Brothers were just a perfect choice,” says Love, née Garrett Dutton. “Their style of recording is just minimalistic; it’s a real heartfelt approach. We felt it was the perfect vibe and we felt they would be the perfect fellas to guide me through the process. For one thing, with Scott and Seth, they’re both multi-instrumentalists. Those guys really fit the bill as far as being some cats that could not only produce the record but play on the record, and I knew their harmonies are super-tight, so I knew all the vocals were gonna be amazing.”
Love says the ultimate goal was to make “just real simple, honest music.”
“The most important thing was capturing the vibe. And I thought we were really able to do that.”