The Avett Brothers

When manager/label owner Dolph Ramseur first saw The Avett Brothers, the band was doing about half covers, half originals.

“What really struck me was their own songs,” Ramseur told Pollstar.

He told the band he saw something special in their music and offered to help spread the word. He was soon on board, releasing Carolina Jubilee, a full-length collection of the brothers’ tunes, on his own Ramseur Records in 2003.

It’s no surprise that Ramseur is from the same town as Scott and Seth Avett – Concord, N.C.

“Everybody we’ve gotten help from has come to us,” Scott Avett told Pollstar. “We just told ourselves, hey, we’ve got a lot of work to do on our own, and before that’s done there’s no need in going out and seeking out anybody.”

The Avett Brothers got their start as a previous band was winding down. Scott and Seth played in a rock outfit called Nemo, but found themselves gravitating toward a more folk/country-oriented sound – though still infused with a passionate punk-rock energy.

As Nemo ground to a halt, the brothers packed up Scott’s banjo and Seth’s acoustic guitar for a summer tour across the country. The 2002 trek was self-booked – that is, when it was booked at all.

“We didn’t know anything,” Avett said. “It was lots of fun.”

Avett said he and Seth were often “sort of panhandling,” camping in their car and setting up impromptu outdoor sessions, focused simply on gathering enough gas money to move on.

The brothers even stopped at the Grand Canyon for a couple days, attracting crowds of pleasantly surprised tourists for a few hour-long sets.

“I don’t know how we didn’t get kicked out,” Avett said.

It wasn’t all scenic backdrops and tourist dollars, though: Avett said they “got beat up a little bit” in towns like San Francisco and Seattle, where local buskers didn’t take kindly to strangers moving in on their territory.

When the brothers rolled through Charlotte, N.C., they met New Jersey native Bob Crawford, who soon became the band’s bassist.

After hooking up with Ramseur and gigging relentlessly in “the places everybody says you’ve got to hit” — Nashville, New York, Atlanta, etc. – the trio caught the attention of Paul Lohr of Frontier Artists.

The Avett Brothers

Like Ramseur, Lohr convinced The Avett Brothers he believed in what they were doing, and has been working with them ever since.

“It was just cool to hear we had a booking agent, period, because before we were doing it all on our own,” Avett said.

The band is currently on its biggest tour yet, a co-headlining bill with BR5-49 in support of the full-length disc Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions.

The album comes out February 7th on Ramseur Records with distribution through Sony/RED — an arrangement that reflects The Avett Brothers’ commitment to doing as much as possible on an independent level while carefully working out bigger deals.

“I always think of it as, like, building a house,” Avett said. “We just get the help and contract it out job by job.

“We’re not going to go asking for help that may force us to compromise beyond what we’re willing to compromise.

“That being said, we know you’ve got to compromise no matter what if you want to succeed in anything. You don’t know that when you’re 16 years old, but you learn that as you go.”

The Avett Brothers still operate on a handshake basis with Ramseur Records, although their lawyer “doesn’t get so excited about that,” Avett said.

“We don’t have any literal contracts with anybody that are going to bind us to trouble. Not yet, we don’t.”

The band’s DIY sensibilities extend all the way to the album packaging. Scott did the layout and fine ink artwork on the Four Thieves Gone sleeve, and Seth drew the art on the disc itself.

Between Scott’s art career and Seth and Bob’s recording activities, all three members have plenty to keep them busy when they’re not out with the band.

“That’s it man, it’ll occupy the rest of my life,” Avett said. “Seth and I both have enough projects that I’m scared because there’s not enough time for all of them. It’s really amazing, man.”

For now, the band itself is likely to take up most of everyone’s time. A number of festivals are planned for the summer, and Ramseur said they hope to make it across the U.S. twice before year’s end.

“Pound for pound, they’re one of the best live acts in the U.S.,” Ramseur said. “You cannot go see them without being affected by it … I’ve seen them 250 times and it never gets old. They’ve just got it, man.”