In their nearly 16-year history, the Avett Brothers have evolved from the rustic sounds bred in their tiny hometown of Mount Pleasant, N.C., to the mainstream rootsiness influenced by producer Rick Rubin to near pop crossovers on their most recent release, “True Sadness.”
But brothers Scott (banjo/vocals) and Seth (guitar/vocals) Avett, along with Bob Crawford on double bass and violin and Joe Kwon on cello, ooze authenticity, even as they’ve lost and won fans with their kaleidoscopic sound.
Lately, the band’s popularity has soared. The quartet earned a pair of 2017 Grammy nominations, and this week, the Avetts, along with touring members Mike Marsh (drums), Tania Elizabeth (violin) and Paul Defiglia (keyboards), will stake out the Fox Theatre for a trio of concerts — a heady assignment for any band.
But this isn’t a band that panics — just one that cares deeply about its fans.
Calling recently from a tour bus — “a place of comfort,” Seth Avett said without a trace of irony — rolling through Florida, the warm and soulful musician talked about the band’s strategy for filling three nights of music, plans for new material and their well-chosen cover songs.
Q: The band is playing three nights at the Fox (Thursday-Saturday), the first time you’ve been there since 2010. Why go indoors this year? And were you surprised at the number of shows?
A: I hope it’s not inappropriate or egotistical that I’m not surprised. Our relationship with Atlanta is very strong. It’s a very great love. Atlanta was always the closest big city to us growing up. We were Braves fans from the early days of touring, and that was the closest cosmopolitan metropolis we could frequent. But I think we went (to the Fox) for variety. Outdoor venues have their own energy and magic, but there’s such an intimacy at the Fox and the legendary history there. There’s also the opportunity to be there multiple nights and really stretch. Even though an “evening with” show is going to be 27-30 songs, it’s still just one night. But this way, we can really just settle in and dig into the catalog and get fun and wild.
Q: So if fans are coming to multiple shows, they can expect to experience a different set list each night?
A: The first time we looked at that challenge, it was, can we do three nights and not repeat any songs? Now that we’ve done that, we don’t have to prove it to ourselves. We have nine records and are coming up on 16 years of this band. There’s a great level of camaraderie between us, and we’re finally at a place where three nights, instead of sounding scary, is just exciting. At this point, on any night, or on all three, we are capable of giving folks something they would enjoy and fulfilling out artistic leanings and doing things that scare us and things we don’t know how to do (laughs). We’re going to play some of the songs more well-known and God willing, maybe some of the songs we’re more scared about. A triumph or failure together!
Q: You always throw a few covers into the set. What’s the process for choosing what to do and if you’re going to go with a traditional song or something by Pink Floyd or Dylan?
A: We went for almost a decade without doing a set list and just called it onstage and that was really fun, but we started doing set lists five or six years ago. We work on them three to four hours before we go on stage — that’s usually just enough time to make the band really nervous and give them time to brush up. We don’t want to commit! It would be much more professional if we figured it out a week in advance, but you can’t possibly figure out the energy of a place until you’re there. We try to keep it pretty loose, we want to have fun. Part of the fun is not establishing something.
Q: “True Sadness” came out just about a year ago. Are you guys always working on new music?
A: Because the family life has gotten much more segmented for Scott and I, we have to be much more purposeful about time because our days are so full with our families. (Creating new music) is going on for sure — we’re a few sessions in. I don’t know if the recording process will be for a next record or just getting on the same page, but the answer is absolutely, we are well into it and just getting to the point where we’re getting pretty fired up. It’s just a question of logistics. The songs will not leave us alone.
Q: Your version of George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” on Stephen Colbert’s show the night of the inauguration was really special. How did that performance come about?
A: (Colbert) came to us with that song in mind. I have to thank him because he felt that we were the band to communicate it, and that was a great honor and compliment. I was only vaguely aware of it, so it was a brand-new consideration. We said absolutely 100 percent, we’ll be there. There was such disappointment and sadness over the ugliness of the political world; spiritually and philosophically, we really believe in getting behind things you really care about rather than striking back at things you have problems with, and I thought it was a good time to give a message of love and positivity. That song is a musical embodiment of that hope and it really spoke to us. That’s a message that never should die.
The Avett Brothers
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. $39.50-$59.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, http://www.foxtheatre.org.