The Avett Brothers Discuss 'True Sadness' Of Divorce In Feature-Length Documentary

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The Avett Brothers in an image from the documentary "May It Last." (Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)
The Avett Brothers in an image from the documentary "May It Last." (Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd sits down with Seth and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers to talk about a new film about the making of the band's Grammy-nominated album, "True Sadness."

That film, "May It Last," was in theaters for one night only and now is available on HBO.

Interview Highlights

On finding inspiration in their grandfather's sermons, and the theme of familial love in their music

Seth: "He seemed to have a pretty good hold on love of humanity and on the complications of having a life, and the blessings and the demons that come along with the human condition. That's — you're touching on the nucleus of the entire thing, it seems like, you know, for the film and for the band, is that we have this very fortunate dynamic of having Scott and I and our brotherhood as the nucleus of the project."

On being a family based band that gets along well

Scott: "We take care of ourselves. We don't drink as we did as younger men, in the beginning. ... We have conflict, but we don't hate each other. We love each other very much, and we were told early on by our father that, 'You're gonna get out there, no matter what you do, and your brother and your sister and your neighbor, these are your advocates. They're gonna take care of you and you're gonna need 'em. And there are gonna be people that don't have that same loving feeling toward whoever, and it might be you, and take care of each other.' You know, that resonated with us, anyway."

(Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)
(Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

On Seth's divorce in his first marriage, an event which influenced "True Sadness"

Seth: "There wasn't anything easy about it. Every day it was like there was a new, very sharp, sort of, pain that went along with it. But, yeah, the public side of it and what some folks would say about it was hurtful. But, luckily for me, I kept a pretty good distance from that, as well as I could anyway."

On why the song "Divorce Separation Blues" sounds so upbeat

Seth: "Well, I'm not sure exactly why I did it that way. Sometimes there is just a small fraction of mystery that comes along with some of these ideas. When it kind of first hit me, I was driving up a gravel road up in Swannanoa, in the mountains of North Carolina, snow was everywhere. And I was listening to a lot of Doc Watson at the time, and I was just listening to a lot of his yodels. The form of the yodel was just — I mean, I was just feeling it so much. And divorce was the only thing I was thinking about, you know, that completely consumed me. So, that's a way to get things out."

On the emotional energy that goes into each song, and conflicted feelings about completing a song

Scott: "There is a relief, and the whole room should be lifted up because we just successfully solidified an expression that we were chasing, you know. And we did it, we got to it, and I — Seth and I have talked before about when a song is written and recorded, you can look at it two ways: like it just died or it just came to life. There was a dying feeling for me in that."

This article was originally published on September 12, 2017.

This segment aired on September 12, 2017.


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Peter O'Dowd Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.



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