South Sits Down with The Avett Bros. to Talk Savannah Music Festival

 In a world of way too many formulaic hit-maker songwriters limited to narrow confines of musical style, The Avett Brothers are a shining example of honest original songs that range widely along the musical scale. I spoke recently with Scott Avett about the band’s upcoming performances at the Savannah Music Festival and about their ninth and latest album, “True Sadness,” which was nominated for a 2017 Best Americana album Grammy, with another for Best American Roots Performance.

SOUTH MAGAZINE: First off, Scott, congratulations on the Grammy nominations.

Scott Avett: I appreciate that. It’s a real honor. To be nominated in that group of performers – it’s amazing. We’re a 15-year-old band and I don’t think the nomination was just given to us. I think we earned it. So, I’m real proud of that. 

SM: This is your third appearance at the Savannah Music Festival. Have you had a chance to actually experience Savannah, the city, much?

SA: Well, Savannah of course has such a deep history and there’s a lot of mojo, for lack of a better word, in the town. My experience, though, has mostly been with the people in the theater. We’re really fortunate to get a snapshot of the people, the place, the region when we play. I have that connection and I have fond memories of being there. 

SM: You’re once again playing a two-night run. What does the two-nighter mean for you, as opposed to a one-nighter? Does it change the dynamic?

SA: It does. You know, we don’t really feel an obligation to play certain songs, however, the reality is you’re tied to the moment and you’re closer sometimes to songs that were more recently written and a lot of times those get played. But with a two-night stand we definitely get into the catalogue further. Two nights is kind of perfect. I mean, 60 or 70 songs is ‘Wow!’ We feel like we’re presenting a more appropriate picture of us as a band. 

SM: I imagine you’ll play your Best American Roots Performance Grammy-nominated song “Ain’t No Man” from “True Sadness.” It’s a great song for the audience to clap and sing along with. 

SA: Yeah, I think when we made it we wanted to steer it toward a way that it would be a rhythm and a mood that has a fun vibe. We wanted that and we made it that. Because the song was originally much more mellow. 

SM: It’s a different vibe from some other songs on “True Sadness,” your latest album. Not surprising, I guess, given the album’s title. Words that come to mind for me about the album in general are “deep,” “dark” and “personal.” And yet, balanced by a grace note of hope and even joy. Tell me a little about the lyrics of True Sadness.

SA: Seth and I wrote every lyric on the album. We always take songwriting to the limit and then pull back to the simple things – night and day, dark and light, goodbye and hello. Ultimately, I think the language of living and dying is at the root of love when we talk about it, wellness when we talk about it. Living, of course, birth, but we can’t avoid the death part of it, the goodbye part, the surrendering. That being said, redemption comes in some form somehow. We always aspire to find that redemption. It always has to end with hope. 

SM: As we wrap it up, is there anything further you want to say?

SA: Let the people of Savannah know that we have a warm place in our hearts for the time we’ve had there. It’s been a great connection with the people in the Johnny Mercer Theatre and we’re looking forward to coming back and playing for them and being in their presence again. It’ll be a lot of fun. ~

Read the Nikki Lane: An Outlaw Comes to Town and the 11 Really Good Reasons Not To Miss The Savannah Music Festival. To read the full article, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine