Music | The New Deal: After carving their own path, North Carolina’s Avett Brothers add muscle in Rick Rubin | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Music | The New Deal: After carving their own path, North Carolina’s Avett Brothers add muscle in Rick Rubin


Like four-leaf clovers, you can miss the Avett Brothers if you’re not looking closely. At first blush, they’re just another band mixing folk and indie pop—and there’s lots of those. But the Avetts are special, it’s just taken time to realize it. Though they’ve released 11 CDs since 2000, been on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and landed an album (2007’s Emotionalism) atop Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, they’ve remained the jewel music lovers hope to discover on their next crate-digging expedition.

Until now. The Avett Brothers (Seth and Scott, plus Bob Crawford) are finally hot property, discovered by enough music geeks to merit a major label deal—offered, incidentally, by King of Music Geeks, Rick Rubin. “[When that record comes out], we’ll be a brand new band,” says Crawford, calling during a studio break. “But we’ve been [around] for nine years … I will admit that in the past year, it’s snowballed, and intensified.”

With each new record, starting with The Avett Bros. EP in 2000, the Avetts have made incremental gains as fans glommed onto the band and their brilliant, haunting folk-rock tunes. At first, it was locally in their home state of North Carolina, where they recorded for local label Ramseur Records and played sold-out shows. Then in 2006 Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions and The Gleam EP garnered the Avett Brothers rave reviews around the country. Emotionalism in 2007 made them indie stars, and resulted in that Conan appearance and, eventually, their deal with Rubin’s storied American Recordings.

“We always grew very slowly,” says Crawford, “and that has always been very comfortable for us. And it’s been a lot of fun, and easy to grow in that environment.”

One of the best things about being self-owned-and-operated is, of course, that the Avetts retained control over “what we do and how we do it and when we do it.” The band endeavored to release an album per year (the latest being The Second Gleam on Ramseur), and more-or-less hit the mark, managing to support themselves. “[It] was up to us,” says Crawford, adding the Avetts did their own heavy lifting. “We built the fan base ourselves. We even put a record out by ourselves. We’ve been doin’ publicity by ourselves. [And] we didn’t have to put a whole lot of money into anything because we were doing it our own way.”

Naturally, going from Ramseur to American has been a “considerably different” experience “in every way.” Although they’d been offered major deals before, The Avetts demurred, preferring to continue their DIY existence. “Until we could find someone that could give us something that we couldn’t give ourselves, and was worth sacrificing a certain amount of control, we just kinda held our own.”

“Our attitude was we’ll get to the same place doing what we’re doing,” Crawford says. “It’ll just take a lot longer.” And the fact is, they’ve been doing over 200 shows a year for four years, and have started families. To accomplish their goals meant relentlessly pounding the pavement, working hard and touring harder. “You can’t do it forever like that.”

So over the past year, the idea of adding “a little muscle” to the Avett Brothers operation, someone to handle the PR, the distribution, and give the band “the power of access,” sounded pretty good. They couldn’t have found a stronger ally than Rubin, perhaps the only major-label cat that would listen to their music as reverently as their fans.

“When you start playin’ in a band,” says Crawford, “the goal from day one is to have as many people hear your music as possible. And I think that this really facilitates that goal.”

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