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With the album The Carpenter, trio hammers out a niche in folk-rock arena

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/7/2013 (2461 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When the Avett Brothers wrote their masterful seventh studio album, 2012's Rick Rubin-produced, Grammy-nominated The Carpenter, they struck a wellspring of creativity.

As it turns out, the North Carolina indie-folk trio, led by biological brothers Scott and Seth Avett and rounded out by nominal brother Bob Crawford, already have a followup on their hands.

North Carolina threesome the Avett Brothers' star has been rising slowly and steadily.


North Carolina threesome the Avett Brothers' star has been rising slowly and steadily.

"Apparently we do," Scott says with a laugh, on the line from Boulder, Colo., just before making the trip to Winnipeg for their mainstage appearance tonight at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. "It's been gratifying to see it come to life. When we recorded The Carpenter, we had our sights set on something bigger."

Although he's tight-lipped about other details, the new record, which is due out as soon as this fall, is something like a Part 2. "It's definitely a continuation of The Carpenter I would say," Scott says. "If (Bob Dylan's) Desire and Blood on the Tracks are partners, these (albums) certainly are."

And if the new record is anything like its pair of predecessors, it'll do more great things for the Avett Brothers. After slowly and steadily building a following over the better part of a decade, the trio finally got its big break in 2009 with its debut for American Recordings, I and Love and You (also produced by Rubin) -- but it was really The Carpenter that announced the arrival of another major player in the folk-rock scene, on par with peers Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers. Like those acts, the Avetts' brand of bluegrass-tinged folk rock goes down as easy as ice-cold lemonade from a mason jar.

But The Carpenter's success isn't just owed to its shiny hooks, of which there are plenty -- such as the earworm single Live and Die, a song so catchy it netted the guys a Gap commercial.

In addition to being highly accessible, Scott and Seth have a knack for writing about big ideas -- mortality, growing old, parenthood, challenged love -- in a way that truthfully speaks to people. It's easy to recognize yourself in their songs.

"We wrote smaller songs with younger angles before," Scott says. "I don't think we could honestly write about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, because that's not what's happening. We try to write in the now. Fatherhood and love -- those are constant sources of inspiration. We work hard to find simple identities or truths, although I don't like to use that word because it undercuts us all the time. It's about cutting through the fog and confusion and finding that simplicity. Complexity becomes wool over our eyes."

That's not to say the Avett Brothers have got this whole life thing figured out, however. "We're just battling through," Scott says with a laugh. "I'd love to say we had it all figured out, but the truth is, we're all lost."

When it comes to success, the band seems to have it all figured out. Not ones to lean on accolades, the Avetts know hard work and consistently demanding better of themselves is what's required to keep growing as players and performers.

"We're guys who want to make work," Scott says simply. "We know we're capable of great things. We've got a good number of guys who are interested in making great things. There's no room for mediocre songs."

To that end, he's grateful for the band's slow, but sure, rise to fame.

"I'm very thankful for that," he says. "It could be no other way than the way it is. If the early work had been more visible, I'd have to live with that on a bigger level. I'm happy we made a lot of embarrassing mistakes in front of fewer people.

"At 24, I wouldn't have known how to be on a bigger stage. I would have abused the opportunity. I'm very fortunate that I went through what other people would consider a failure of a situation.

"You know how people stand on the stage at the Grammys and ask, 'How did I get here?' We never wonder how we got here. We know how we got here."


The Avett Brothers play the mainstage tonight at Birds Hill Park at 8:05 p.m.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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FORTY YEARS OF FOLK FEST — Performers on stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on July 6, 1983. (DAVE LANDRY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Forty Years of Folk Fest
A sea of people came to watch and listen at the Main Stage on a Friday evening, July 14, 1980. 30,000 people were expected to attend the festival that weekend. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
A square dancing workshop at the Folk Festival on August 15, 1979. (PAUL DELESKE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Artis the Spoon Man blows bubbles at the audience from the Main Stage of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Artis, of Seattle, Wash., is one of many performers who travelled to Winnipeg to take part in the 10th annual festival on July 10, 1983. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Berne Thury from Minneapolis, Minnesota relaxes at the Main Stage on July 9, 1983. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Al Simmons, in usual sedate attire, gives a child a lift on his horse bike on July 17, 1984. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Heat failed to deter faithful festival-goers on July 10, 1976. (DAVE JOHNSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
This aerial view shows some of the thousands of folk music fans who flocked to Birds Hill Provincial Park to attend the fourth annual Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1977. More than 24,000 people attended the festival. Organizers said the three-day event had become the largest folk festival in North America. (DAVE BONNER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Nicholas Laporte, 4, gives his mother Mette a hand with a foot wash during the Winnipeg Folk Festival on Saturday afternoon, July 9, 1983. (STU PHILLIPS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
A member of Lights in a Fat City plays a drum at the festival on July 8, 1989. The group was known for playing on instruments from all over the world, alongside custom built devices made from recycled scrap metals and bamboo. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Festival-goers find refuge from the heat during the Folk Festival on July 9, 1983. (STU PHILLIPS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Aerial view of the Winnipeg Folk Festival grounds on July 11, 1977. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Folks (left to right) Sandy Anderson and husband Gene, from Frazee, Minnesota, keep dry beneath a canvas during a downpour at the 1984 Winnipeg Folk Festival, while son Mitch sits on the ground at centre. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
A festival goer sits on the Winnipeg Folk Festival grounds on July 14, 1980. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
The Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1983. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
David Essig performs at a workshop at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on July 11, 1986. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Scott Johnson, 27, of Oregon and Ruth Dixon, 32, of Minnesota were married on July 12, 1982 in a tent before 300 spectators at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The couple, assisted in their vows by Kent Militzer and his wife Jan, met at the festival several years before. They've been promised a festival pass on their 50th anniversary.  (JIM WILEY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Joel Bailey, 10, finds he has to fight the forces of gravity to complete his world tour of continents marked on the earth ball at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. John Radcliffe monitors the young traveller's progress. July 12, 1986. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
A family attempts to beat the heat on July 12, 1982. (JIM WILEY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Kevin Muir blows giant bubbles while sister Carolyn watches on July 8, 1988. (DAVE JOHNSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Eight year old Ariana Histed plays in the crowds with a twirling ribbon at the Folk Festival on July 9, 2004. (RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Festival volunteers Kim Flynn and Sam Owens take a break from the heat during the Winnipeg Folk Festival on a Friday afternoon at Birds Hill Park on July 7, 2005. (RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Twin eight-year-old brothers Ethan and Kieran Wiebe practice their hand stands prior to Beth Orton performing at the Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Park on Friday, July 6, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Two women dance in the mud at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on a Sunday evening, July 10, 2005. (BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Angus Grant of Shooglenifty from Scotland jams with groups Tabache and Wild Mountain Time on a Sunday afternoon at the Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Park. July 09, 2000. (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
The crowd cheers on Feist as she performs on the Main Stage at the 39th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Park Wednesday, July 04, 2012. (RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
A festival-goer plays with devil sticks as the sun sets on the second last day of the 2012 Winnipeg Folk Festival on Saturday, July 07, 2012. (MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) (Melissa Tait)
The sun sets on the last day of the Winnipeg Folk Festival on Sunday, July 8, 2012. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) (Winnipeg Free Press)

Updated on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 6:17 AM CDT: adds photo, changes headline

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