- CRAWFORD: On the far right.
In advance of the Avett Brothers' concert at Robinson Center on Saturday, contributor Jonelle Doughty spoke to bassist Bob Crawford, the longtime brother-from-a-different-mother in the band, about working with Rick Rubin, confessional lyrics and the band's ascent.
Q. The biggest news in the Avett Brothers' world right now is your new relationship with American and Columbia and legendary producer and record exec Rick Rubin. Can you talk about how you got hooked up with Rubin?
A. Apparently he found us. He seems to really have his finger on the pulse of what's going on in music in the country and perhaps around the world. He's very aware of a lot of bands, a lot of unsigned bands that we know. We were out West and a representative from Columbia invited us to come and meet him at his house. We did, and we had a meeting with him that lasted about an hour. We just discussed kind of philosophies on music and realized we were coming from the same place. Then the talks began. We went back to his house two more times and listened to some of the songs we were working on. All the while a deal was being negotiated between lawyers. It took a little over a year, and when it was finalized we went right into the studio and began to work on our record. All in all we put twice, if not three times, as much amount of time into making this record than we had into any of our previous efforts.
Q. What was it like working with him in the studio?
A. It was great. He was there in form and presence. He brought years of experience. That's the biggest thing. If you subtract his reputation and the critical acclaim that he's received, you've got a guy who's worked in the music business and has produced records since the early '80s. We had never really worked intensely with anyone with that kind of experience. We had only begun to really work with a producer on the album before that, “Emotionalism.”
Q. Your songs have, what at least come across as, very confessional lyrics, and you've got a rabid following. That seems like a potentially combustible pairing. Has that led to any weird interactions?
A. You know what? Surprisingly few. I'm sure if I really sit here for a couple of hours and try to go back in my mind I could pull one or two up. But up until this point, our fans and the people who have supported us have been very respectful of us, and towards us. They appreciate the fact that we can so easily reveal ourselves, or so comfortably and confidently reveal ourselves, even if it's being honest in a song or being honest in an interview or being honest when we're talking to them after a show like we do a lot. We respect them and they respect us, and we can only hope that will continue.
Q. Just two years ago you took home an Emerging Artist Award at the Americana Music Awards. Now you're doing a theater tour. From the outside looking in, that seems like a quick ascent. Does it from your perspective?
A. We've been doing it for eight years, so nothing has been quick for us. I think it's easier to see the growth from the outside than it is from the inside. It has been growing, there's no doubt. Two years ago we were traveling in a van still. Now we rent tour buses. Obviously we're playing bigger places, and we're playing for more people. But that has happened incrementally, day by day, a little bit at a time. Our booking agent told us years ago when he first took us on, in 2004 I believe it was, he said, “It's going to be a hot air balloon ride, not a rocket ship ride.” I think there's an element of comfort and confidence we have in what we do and who we are, and perspective on how far we've come because we've taken baby steps and because it's grown so slowly.
Q. What should fans expect on Friday at your concert?
A. We're going to play some of the new songs off the album. We're going to play songs that are new that aren't on the album, and we're going to all have a really good time.