The Avett Brothers wsg Brett Dennen
The Eddy at ArtPrize Seven, Grand Rapids
Oct. 3, $49.50, $150 VIP; Ages 21+
Bonded by music, the Avett Brothers have kept their art and their families, ahead of their rising fame.
Currently one of the biggest live acts in the country — with high-profile slots at major music festivals ranging from Bonnaroo to Telluride — the North Carolina band has built a massive, grassroots fan base over the last 15 years with their unique blend of folk, rock, bluegrass and other genres.
The band’s last two LPs, 2013’s Magpie and the Dandelion and 2012’s The Carpenter, both debuted in the top 5 on the Billboard albums chart, while their last tour stop here in West Michigan sold out Kalamazoo’s Wings Stadium this past spring.
“We’ve had a lot of success and we’ve seen a lot of growth but I think we’ve gotten to a good point where there’s a time to work and there’s a time to be home,” bassist Bob Crawford told Revue about how the group carefully selects their shows and their projects now. “[We’re] not the most aggressively touring band out there… We say no to a lot of things and I think part of that is to keep everything real.”
In 2011 Crawford’s daughter Hallie was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he missed a number of tour dates for the first time since helping launch the band with singer/songwriters Scott and Seth Avett back in 2002.
He’s since become an advocate for children’s cancer research during his daughter’s recovery and said he’s felt immensely grateful for the level of support he has received from the band’s extended family of loyal fans — including fans’ contributions to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and other organizations.
“They have seen what my family has gone through and what other families have gone through,” Crawford said. “They’ve taken the initiative to take that on, because our battle and our struggle has become their struggle.”
Extending their musical family onstage over the years, the band recently welcomed touring members drummer Mike Marsh, violinist Tania Elizabeth and pianist Paul DiFiglia into the fold full-time with the recording of their upcoming new album.
“I think one of the unique aspects was we went in with seven of us as opposed to going in with three or four of us,” Crawford said about recording the new album earlier this year. “We’d never done that before. So I think that in itself lends a more live feel to everything.”
Just about into the mixing and editing phase, the seven-piece band recorded the album together in North Carolina with legendary producer, and longtime collaborator, Rick Rubin.
“We’re kind of moving around turn three,” Crawford added. “I would expect it towards summer next year.”
The band plans to perform some of the new songs as part of their headlining performance at this year’s ArtPrize. Their concert will be the first of its kind in Grand Rapids, where the band will play inside “The Eddy” — a large, 4,000-person capacity tented venue set up near the Grand River.
They’ll help kick off an 11-day festival within ArtPrize that will feature other national, regional and local musicians, as well as additional art installations and vendors.
“Scott, perhaps he was put here on this earth to be a painter, and he’s been hijacked into music,” Crawford said of the band’s strong appreciation for the fine arts. “I mean he’s gifted in that way, but he wrestles with it. And Seth is quite an amazing illustrator.”
Later this fall the band will be featured on the PBS documentary American Epic. Presented by T. Bone Burnett, Robert Redford and Jack White, the series will chronicle some of America’s earliest recorded material from the 1920s, with contemporary artists, including the Avetts, contributing new performances.
“We’re going to put out this record and we’re going to promote it and we’re going to work hard to do that, but we’re going to be focused on the creation of the art as the goal,” Crawford said about the band’s immediate future. “That’s the victory, is to do that. So we’re just trying to remain focused on that and then everything else just kind of takes care of itself.”