In a small town in rural North Carolina, down a half-mile dirt road, Scott Avett lived with his family, some chickens, a few cows and no cable.
“All we wanted to do was get a hold of the things that were all the way across the country, the things that were coming out of the West Coast or New York City, so we ran from … (the) local vibe,” Avett said. “But then, when we full circled and started discovering, it definitely was central in our interest in roots music.”
Musician Scott Avett is the lead singer of the folk rock band The Avett Brothers, which includes his brother, singer and guitarist Seth Avett, along with bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon. Scott and Seth Avett released their first album in 2000, titled The Avett Bros, along with guitarist John Twomey, who had been with them in a previous band.
The band went on, with a mix of new members, to release 10 studio albums and be nominated for three Grammy Awards.
At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, Scott Avett takes the stage of the Amphitheater to further Week Nine’s discussion on “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”
What shapes Avett’s approach to music is his upbringing in Concord, North Carolina. These days, he sees folk music as spanning many genres from hip-hop, punk rock, country and rock ‘n’ roll.
“Folk is an attempt to push back and revolt against that need for marketing labels,” Avett said. “It’s funny, because it doesn’t completely rid us of labels, … but I feel like folk music being for the people is a way to step in the opposite direction of the commodities.”
For Avett, folk brings music away from marketing and back to its poetic roots. Growing up, he interacted with folk music through his father and the music he played, both on the record player and on his guitar.
His dad frequently played classic American folk and country music such as Peter, Paul and Mary, Merle Haggard and Charlie Daniels.
“Dad comes home in a denim shirt and jeans burned from welding,” Avett said. “He would talk to us, he would tell us stories, he would occasionally pick up an acoustic guitar. That was a real hands-on exchange with folk music.”
Avett’s father introduced him to the visual arts as a kid, too. His dad would have him and his siblings sit at a table and would draw a shape before passing it along to someone else to continue the drawing.
“I remember it as a very engaging and instigating — it really moved me. It really moved me,” he said. “I loved doing it. It ignited my imagination.”
Avett now holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and is a well-recognized visual artist. His current work depicts and explores people, family relationships and spirituality.
Living in the country provided Avett with enough disconnection, allowing him to play with his creativity more than if he and his siblings got their childhood wish of cable TV.
“It helped keep us, I dare to say, bored a little bit, and alone,” Avett said. “And I think that was nice, like alone in our heads and alone with time to do what we might do. You find yourself drawing and you find yourself imagining and you find yourself thinking.”