Seated behind the wheel of an antique Ford truck in a red rhinestone suit, Scott Avett stretches his arms across the cab and out the window, singing high and proud about being a “high steppin’, high bettin’, love givin’, love gettin’” kind of man.
It’s not long, though, before he realizes that Death — played by Seth Avett, his brother and co-founder of folk-rock band the Avett Brothers — is riding shotgun. As it turns out, that wide-open road of possibility is a narrower lane than it seemed, and fate is waiting to take him in some unexpected directions.
In the new video for “High Steppin,” the first song released from the Avett Brothers’ upcoming studio album, Closer Than Together (October 4th on American/Republic), the band plays off the small risks and gambles people take in life every day, and where they can lead.
“Choices are limited as you get older,” Scott Avett tells Rolling Stone Country. “Maybe limited by what you’ve learned. Maybe limited because you know that you’ve committed to things, and with that comes limitations.
“Each year that goes by, if you’re really longing to observe and be aware, which I am, you just start observing how fleeting [life] is. That darkness that’s sort of right there all the time that’s waiting to take over … adds to the riskiness of it.”
But in true Avetts fashion, there’s hardly a stitch of darkness in that Nudie suit. The piano-driven song bounces on an addictive, galloping synth underneath the group’s signature uplifting harmonies. By the end of the clip, he and Death sing in duet, arm in arm, line dancing in the middle of the road as fiddle plays out over the beat.
“High Steppin’” was originally written as a straight-ahead country song, Avett says, before the band began deconstructing it and experimenting, a process they also used on True Sadness cuts like “Ain’t No Man.” To his surprise, the more they moved away from that traditional sound, the weightier the theme sounded to him.
“I’ve always loved a contrast, if it’s colors or if it’s themes, if it’s sound. Something that is sort of fatal, or critical, or just massively stressful contrasted with … more of a playful sound.”
Throughout Closer Than Together, the band wraps heady themes into their personal narratives, according to a mission statement about the album penned by Seth Avett.
“We didn’t make a record that was meant to comment on the sociopolitical landscape that we live in,” he writes. “We did, however, make an album that is obviously informed by what is happening now on a grander scale all around us … because we are a part of it and it is a part of us.”
Adds Scott Avett, “These songs very much work off of each other and probably say more socially and politically than we’ve ever attempted to say. I wouldn’t call it a social-political record, but it touches on some of our own personal experiences, with things like our love and respect for the women in our lives.”
Ahead of the album’s release, the Avett Brothers have a stacked touring schedule set for the summer, including three sold-out shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, and a performance at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, on June 14th.
Meanwhile, Scott Avett, who studied visual arts in college and has amassed a sizeable body of work (that’s his painting on the cover of their 2009 release I and Love and You), will show a collection of large-scale portraits and paintings at the North Carolina Museum of Art, October 12th through February 2nd, 2020.
“I have to work a little hard to be musical,” he laughs. “I can be lyrical — I love words and I love to say things — but for me to be musical, it takes a lot more work than for me to be visual. So I consider painting really at the top of my priorities.”
The Avett Brothers tour dates:
June 14 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
June 16 – Bethel, NY @ Mountain Jam Festival
June 18 – Essex Junction, VT @ Midway Lawn at Champlain Valley Exposition w/Jill Andrews
June 19 – Hyannis, MA @ Cape Cod Melody Tent w/Jill Andrews
June 21 – Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage, Outlaw Music Festival
June 22 – Burgettstown, PA @ KeyBank Pavilion, Outlaw Music Festival
June 23 – Columbus, OH @ Nationwide Arena, Outlaw Music Festival
June 27 – Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest, Outlaw Music Festival
June 28 – Chicago, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Outlaw Music Festival
July 3 – Bonner Springs, KS @ Providence Medical Center Amphitheater w/Lake Street Dive
July 5 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards
July 6 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/Nicole Atkins
July 7 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/Lake Street Dive
July 9 – West Valley City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre w/Lake Street Dive
July 10 – Jackson, WY @ The Center Theater
July 12 – St. Louis, MO @ The Fabulous Fox
July 13 – St. Louis, MO @ The Fabulous Fox
July 14 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
August 9 – Sandpoint, ID @ Festival at Sandpoint w/Che Apalache
August 10 – George, WA @ Gorge Amphitheatre w/Lake Street Dive & Trampled by Turtles
August 11 – Salem, OR @ LB Day Amphitheatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 13 – Bend, OR @ Les Schwab Amphitheater w/Lake Street Dive
August 16 – Berkeley, CA @ The Greek Theatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 17 – Berkeley, CA @ The Greek Theatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 18 – Paso Robles, CA @ Vina Robles Amphitheatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 22 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Greek Theatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 23 – San Diego, CA @ San Diego Civic Theatre w/Lake Street Dive
August 24 – Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl w/Lake Street Dive
September 6 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena
September 8 – Cleveland, OH @ Wolstein Center
September 10 – Morgantown, WV @ WVU Coliseum
September 13 – Baltimore, MD @ UMBC Event Center
September 14 – Virginia Beach, VA @ Veterans United Home Loans Amp, Outlaw Music Festival
September 19 – Detroit, MI @ Masonic Temple Theatre w/Trampled By Turtles
September 20 – Chicago, IL @ Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island w/Trampled by Turtles
September 21 – Welch, MN @ Treasure Island Resort & Casino w/Trampled by Turtles
November 21 – Atlanta, GA @ The Fox Theatre
November 22 – Atlanta, GA @ The Fox Theatre
December 31 – Greensboro, NC @ Greensboro Coliseum Complex