Spanning bluegrass to pop, the Avett Brothers sound like what Kris Kristofferson once labeled his friend Johnny Cash: a walking contradiction.
In the North Carolina band’s distinctive output, darkness gives way to light and hope is met with despair along the way — probably because the band’s co-leaders, brothers Seth and Scott Avett, grew up in a place that was replete with religious fervor as well as weird stories and omnipresent murder ballads.
“I love music and artistry that comes from people feeling the despair and yet somehow still being productive,” Seth Avett told the City Paper.
“If you’re going to tell the truth, then you’re going to have to face despair as well as joy, and you’re going to have to face loss as well as victory,” he said. “As an artist, it’s perfectly fair play and reasonable territory to fill up on despair and use the music to work your way through it and work your way out of it. And then if you have the good fortune of being able to share that with someone, maybe it helps them to feel less lonely.”
Avett said that even more than Appalachian heroes like Doc Watson and Nimrod Workman, it was artists like Townes Van Zandt, Kurt Cobain and specifically Elliott Smith who helped him understand the mechanics behind a sad yet beautiful song.
“What Elliott did has become part of my genetics in terms of making songs,” Seth Avett said. “Emotionally and technically, he was just such a master of chord progression. It’s a good thing to commit yourself to studying someone of his caliber because there’s so much in it to take from and to learn from. All those things he did are just part of my process now consciously and subconsciously.”
While following an assortment of minor chords and muses over the last two decades, Seth Avett and his bandmates have displayed integrity both onstage and in the studio.
“In the end, it means so much to me, it means so much to us,” Seth Avett said, “to make sure that we are upholding our end of the agreement for what people come to see. There’s a certain level of quality that I want people to know they can depend on from us.”
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show Nov. 20 are available through North Charleston Coliseum.