Through the years, one thing has been a constant for the Avett Brothers.
From the days of slowly building a small audience in their North Carolina home to recording major-label albums with legendary producer Rick Rubin, the Avett Brothers have always put their main focus on performing.
"One thing throughout the years and throughout the development of what we do and the growth and change in what we do, one steady thing has been it still all rallies around touring and the live show," says Scott Avett, the older of the two multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriting brothers who first formed the eponymous band in 2000. "Just as an individual to another individual, it's an intimate exchange and that grows."
And in the moment, on stage, connecting with their fans, is where the Avetts formulate the next moves for the band.
"We try harder and harder every recording to make a better record and there will always be room for change and improvement. But watching from a bus or a van, as things change or grow, you can really trust the performing and allowing that to dictate what the next move is. You go and perform, people decide what they're interested," he says.
Combining bluegrass, country, punk, rock and pop—with a can't-be-beat live show that had the Rialto Theatre issuing a rare money-back guarantee for the Avett Brothers long before the band broke through to the mainstream—the band has followed a natural evolution from more rustic albums like "Emotionalism" (2007) through the elegance of "I and Love and You" (2009).
"It's follow your nose, improvisational in terms of what's next, where's next. We've really never known," Avett says. "We're presented with an artistic decision and we react to it."
The Avett Brothers' last two records—"The Carpenter" (2012) and "Magpie and the Dandelion" (2013)—came from the same recording session, with Rubin.
"We looked at it all as one big body," Avett says. "The first record, 'The Carpenter,' when that came together we decided to leave it as that. The other songs surfaced on their own and we started talking about how they could just disappear, but they'd disappear as a group. We thought it was relevant and we always wanted to get as much out to our fans as we could. Artistically it was a lateral progression, since it came out of the same session, so we knew it wasn't going to appear to us as artistic growth. We kind of bunkered down and all joined in for that ride. There's a big difference to what we're working on now."
Hesitant to talk too much about the band's in-progress record, Avett did say some songs are being previewed live.
"We used to be known, at least among ourselves, to do that and it was good for songs," he says. "It cut out some of that developmental time the studio and some of the songs have really benefited from that."
Though the next album doesn't have a title or release date yet, the Avett Brothers began recording in November, laying down the basic tracks in two weeks at Rubin's studio in Malibu, after demoing songs for about a year and a half, and are continuing to work at a studio back home.
"We've built the basics, the foundation of the songs and now we're adding some layers to them and letting them live for a while so we can figure out what can make them better," Avett says. "We're doing backup vocals this week, and some lead guitar and harmonica parts. There's a lot of thought being put into it and I'm excited about where it's going."