Rick Rubin: My Life in 21 Songs

From LL Cool J to Kanye West, Slayer to Tom Petty, Johnny Cash to Dixie Chicks, producer reflects on more than three decades of challenging music's status quo

Load Previous

Avett Brothers, "I and Love and You" (2009)

"I and Love and You" is the first song on the first album we worked on together. I found early on that the Avett Brothers wrote these great parts but then put them together into songs where the individual parts didn't sound the best where they were placed. So a lot of our work together was simplifying and distilling the songs down to the essence of them. Once the essence was established, we expanded on that instead of making a left turn. 

"I and Love and You" is a really beautiful example of a song that builds on a theme in a coherent way. We all worked on the arrangement together, and I would usually talk about it in a more architectural way, thinking, "OK, an event needs to happen at this point." Then they would say, "Oh, what about backup vocals?" And they would come up with a part to go there. Or I'd say, "This section needs to grow more and sound fuller." And they would say, "We could try strings, we could try piano." They would try different things to fill it out and make it build the way that it does.

I love the way that song works; it's a beautiful song. And every time I hear it, it hits me in an emotional way. It's the beauty of their lyrics that does that.

Back to Top