Emotionalism: Lessons Learned From the Avett Brothers, Songwriting or Otherwise

Without it being too cheesey, I think it is kind of rare these days to take some great life lessons away from music.  Most of the new music out now is either about shaking your ass at the club or it is so riddled with run of the mill poetic cliches that you can’t really extract the real meaning anyways.

I think this is the reason why the Alt. Country/Americana/Folk genres have exploded in the last few years.  Not because of some of the clever marketing ploys like labeling the music “Punkabilly” or “Trash Grass.”  Sure, that’s cool and all…but what makes it all stand out are the stories and the way they are told by the songwriters.

For me, right now, the Avett Brothers are the kings of this.  Instead of using some overworked cliche linking “sunshine” to “happiness” or “rain” to “loneliness”, they’ll just flat out tell you they are lonely and not only the story behind it, but a couple of helpful hints to avoid a similar path.

So, with that said, here is a list of things I’ve taken away from listening to their last couple of albums.

1.  If you’re a songwriter:  Stop beating around the bush.  It’s ok not to write those ambiguously poetic lyrics about that girl who left you.  Instead, write the lyrics like you were recounting the story to a friend.  I’m not saying to throw poetry out the window entirely.  Only that it’s ok to say exactly what you mean.  In fact, it helps break up the dullness of those aforementioned overworked cliches.

2.  If you’re a Dad:  Cherish your family.  I speak from experience when I say that us Dads oftentimes get caught up in what we want to achieve in our lives, overlooking our wife and children.  Stop every once in awhile and pay attention to them.  Especially your wife.  You’ve probably been too stubborn to realize it, but she’s the one that holds it all together.  I promise you, without her the ass end would fall out of everything.  Pay homage to that as much as you can.

3.  If you’re a singer:  Use your real voice.  No, not that one that sounds like an injured Tom Waits.  And no, not that one that sounds like a beat up Howie Day.  Sure, you can develop some raspy qualities, but stop trying so hard to do so.  Now I’m no singing coach.  I’ve just played a few hundred shows and have sort of experienced some things first hand.  People love it when it sounds like their best friend just came over and spilled their guts to them.  Ok, that actually sounds gross, but I think you know what I mean.

4.  If you’re a sibling:  Cover your brother or sister’s back and don’t take them for granted.  Blood really is thicker than water, but it can be thinned by lies.  You’ll meet some super great friends in your life, but nothing touches family.  Be true to them.  I actually could have summed this up with a line from the Avett’s:  “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name…”

5.  If you’re none of these:  Then you’re shit out of luck if you’re reading this blog.  I’ve got nothing fo’ ya.  Sorry.

I could go on and on, but I’m afraid I’ll start to sound like a cheesy blow hard.  Plus, I can’t take too much seriousness in one day.  I need a laugh or two.  And a joke or two about farts and poop.

Actually, maybe you have a lesson or two you’d like to share?

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Dave on Youtube:  http://www.youtube.com/jakobfreely

Dave on Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/jakobfreely

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One Comment on “Emotionalism: Lessons Learned From the Avett Brothers, Songwriting or Otherwise”

  1. Suzy Says:

    I like what you’re sayin Dave. ( Especially the part about the wife holding it all together…. well put )

    Here’s my story… if you’re trying you’re not really doing anything… just do it and it will be done. Be yourself, listen to your inner voice, don’t mimic, and let it flow.


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