JPG: Your answer brought up several things. First off, I’m usually fascinated with band projects versus someone putting out a solo album. I always wonder, as a prolific songwriter, how do they come up with what is for what project. That applies here, too. I’m sure you and Scott are constantly, consistently writing songs. Do you put something aside for when you do another Gleam release while another song will be for the band or it always just the newest things you have on hand?

SA: I don’t know, John. It’s a little bit of both those things. We often will have a lot of confidence thinking, “I just know it.” This song, it doesn’t have it and nothing can be done to it. And a lot of times we’re wrong. The lesson that we’re always learning is that each song has to be treated as if — How can I say this because I’m kind of realizing it as I’m trying to articulate it. Basically, when we set up rules for a song, it generally ends up being a mistake. When we set up rules for how we operate as songwriters, a lot of times it’s a mistake.
So, there’s always kind of a push and pull between agenda and being honest with what your heart is saying. Sometimes, I feel like, “It sure would be cool if I brought this up during soundcheck and started hearing whatever Mike Marsh started playing behind it on the drum kit.” But something in me might be wanting to hold onto it more for myself or some silly…I’ll get in my mind, “I know this is for my solo record or this is a Gleam song.” That mysterious thing is just pulling me towards messing with it, just on that Tuesday in Idaho or wherever I am. I find that it’s a mistake if I don’t follow that because generally if you’re a little more relaxed about it and do share them, the song will be benefited.

And that’s the point. It’s not about yourself getting benefited, it’s about the song getting benefited. For the Gleam, a song might speak to us in a way and say, “The lyrics here, the narrative here is really the only star.” I view the Gleam songs as songs where the lyrics are so dense or the narrative is so rich that there doesn’t happen to be a lot of space for anything else. That’s what drives it with the Gleam, but, otherwise, the answer to that is I really don’t even know. It just goes song-by-song.

JPG: That’s valid. One of the articles I read before doing this Scott mentioned how he embraces the unknown and to hear you, you embrace your instinct and wherever it takes you, which I think is great as a songwriter. At the same time, it’s interesting to hear the artists that you mentioned — Pink Floyd and System of a Down – because it always makes me laugh in a good way to hear artists you and Scott listen to throughout your lives because they are so far from the Americana vision of what people may have of Avett Brothers. I’m curious about that contrast. What does that wide listening spectrum do for you and your songwriting and your approach?

SA: Oh man. I don’t know, John. Does something ever strike you and you get washed over with so much appreciation for even getting to exist that you’re like, “Man, I’m just not going to have enough time?” Do you ever feel like that?

JPG: Oh, yeah. All the time.

SA: That’s the thing, Sometimes, it just breaks my heart because I can’t resolve the time that I have here in this world and I’m overwhelmed by even, sometimes, the most mundane thing, just how wonderful it all fits together. I’m not sure how I can connect that but basically that is why I listen to so much music and I listen to so many kinds of music because I get so much from all of it. The idea of limiting that is to me like the idea of limiting those moments because there’s just so much beauty. I feel like it’s kinda more or less happenstance where a great artist comes from.

This morning, I’ve been listening to Homeboy Sandman. He’s a rapper from Queens. I don’t know how long he’s been out there doing it but at least 10, 15 years maybe. He’s just blowing my mind. I’ve been listening to him pretty actively for about five years. Just this morning, I had to turn the song off to ‘cause the interview is coming in and as soon as we get off, I’m going to go right back and listen to it. The point I’m trying to make here is that Homeboy Sandman being from Queens that just happens to be. His soul found his way into that body that got born there.

For some people hearing that’s who he is, someone that has already decided that they don’t like hip-hop would say, “Well, I’m not going to like that. I don’t relate to a person that was born in 1980 in Queens that performs hip hop music.” I find inspiration in every genre and I mean every genre. I find it everywhere and it just overwhelms me.

It just so happens that I’m most comfortable with an acoustic guitar in my hand, trying to write songs like Tom T. Hall. The interesting thing to me about that is if you’re trying to write a song like Tom T. Hall but you’re listening to Homeboy Sandman, what might happen then? And I am what happens then.

JPG: Songwriting on Third Gleam, the material gets philosophical with “Prison to Heaven” where the prisoner talks of escaping in the most complete manner possible or “Victory” where you and Scott sing “And from victory I accept defeat.” Also, I was listening to your contribution, “The Fire,” and noticed that it’s almost Dylan-esque in how every verse moves from one novel-like scenario to the next. Was that an influence or just how it flowed?

SA: Yeah. All of that’s in there. One of those interesting universal coincidences that seemed to have happened with the release of this record and the timing of it, “The Fire,” anyway, the thing it keeps reminding me of the importance of acknowledgement that there are more valid points of views than we can fathom. In each of those points of view that are in that song came from an actual experience in my life where I came across these characters. So, they’re coming from real places and they’re just six or seven of however many people there are on earth.

And I think this is a great time to be checking back into that for people to be realizing that all of these points of views are fair to have for the experiences that these people have gone through.

JPG: I meant to bring this up earlier when we’re talking about our lives being put on hold. The musical, Swept Away: Inspired By & Featuring The Music of The Avett Brothers, was supposed to open in June. Did you get to see any rehearsals and what are your thoughts on a musical inspired by your music?

SA: I was living in Manhattan, so I was able to be present for a little more of it than Scott was. I was actually able to be there to put my two cents on some of the casting. It blew my mind. Even in its early stages, it was blowing my mind because what happens when you have a body of work, nearly 20 years worth of songs, examples from that 20-year period brought into a new story that influenced by an old real piece of nonfiction inevitably new meanings arrive because of the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the context that the lyrics are set in.

I literally had maybe two or three moments on the first read-through where I was speechless because of something that happened lyrically that had a new concrete meaning because of the locale, because of the setting that the characters were in, and it just blew my mind that that can happen. It’s almost like taking a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and taking it all apart and putting it all back together and creating a new image. It’s like, “How could that be?”

So, it’s awesome. Whenever it can be released, I think it’s really going to blow people’s minds. What we think of when we think of musicals and Broadway type theater, we all think a lot of different things I guess, but there is an excitement and a brashness in a way. This is a good deal darker. Musically, it’s awesome but it’s very sparse, very dark. It’s gonna be beautiful.

JPG: It’s nice to hear you sounding upbeat and in a good mood. When I was doing my research I saw your video announcement for Third Gleam and I was like, “Wow! Seth and Scott look really troubled.” [Seth laughs] Then, when you announced the August concert, you and Scott were smiling and fishing.

SA: We have our moments like everybody else. This morning, it’s very beautiful in North Carolina. Maybe, if you call in an hour, I might be just as down as a person can be but…you gotta ride the wave, right John?

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