Legendary Giveback: A Conversation With Seth Avett, Plus Chats with Duran Duran's Roger Taylor and Mary Frisbie Wood and More

Photo by Mike Beyer

A Conversation with The Avett Brothers' Seth Avett

Mike Ragogna: Seth Avett, we've got some Legendary Giveback to talk about, but first, howdy!

Seth Avett: Hey hey hey Mike, how are you doing?

MR: Doing okay, hope you're doing well, too.

SA: I'm doing great.

MR: Will you go into the Cheerwine arrangement with The Avett Brothers and this Legendary Giveback?

SA: Yeah. We're sort of joining forces for a concert in Charlottesville, Virginia. The proceeds from the ticket sales are going to three different places: One is the University of Virginia Children's Hospital, another is Operation Homefront, which helps out soldiers' families, and also the Big Brother/Big Sister mentors for children. So the ticket sales are going towards that and then also, there's an opportunity online to view the concert by volunteering your time in your community for whatever falls in your own choice.

MR: For those who can't attend there will be live streaming, how will they be able to access the concert?

SA: I think there's a link through our website as well as through the Cheerwine website. It shouldn't be difficult to find between the two of them. There's a really obvious little spot where you can just fill out a little form and it's just on the honor system but you donate your time. You just say, "Hey, I'm going to donate my time to this community charity and I'm going to donate this many hours to it and we'll just take your word for it, and if you do that, then you'll get a code and you can watch the concert online.

MR: Can you identify with some of the causes that this is going to be benefitting, for instance, Big Brothers/Big Sisters?

SA: Yeah, it's the leading mentoring program in the country. It gives the opportunity for young folks that may not have a really obvious choice for a role model in their lives someone who can pick up some of the slack if it's a single-parent situation or they don't always have a parent or an older sibling to be around or be a good influence on them. That program is set in place for folks to volunteer and step up and to be an active role model in a young person's life.

MR: There's Operation Homefront, which is devoted to helping military service members and their families.

SA: Yeah, that's correct. A lot of those families are dealing with not seeing a parent or a spouse for months on end or more, and that can cause quite a bit of strain mentally and financially. That organization is set up to help those families out and to help get through some of those tougher spots.

MR: When you were growing up, did you drink Cheerwine?

SA: Oh yes. quite a bit, and I still do when I get a chance. It's always been a regional favorite. I even have a really cool old school gas station out in the country that one of my best friends from high school and I like to get together sometimes and ride out and get a Cheerwine in a glass bottle. I pretty much never drink it in any other form--always out of the glass bottle. But yeah, I certainly grew up drinking Cheerwine and still enjoy it occasionally.

MR: How did you guys hook up with Cheerwine regarding this event and the charities?

SA: You know, I'm not sure of the exact specifics, but I know the folks at Cheerwine contacted us at some point. My brother Scott did a little bit of voiceover work for them and their campaign. That whole campaign, they did these different stories about Cheerwine, and they got my brother to do a voiceover telling the story about a World War II connection to Cheerwine and how there were four World War Two soldiers that drank Cheerwine during a battle. I guess that was kind of the initial connection between us and Cheerwine, and then, as they started thinking more and more about doing this Legendary Giveback concert, I guess we made sense as a band that could contribute and work with.

MR: Can we do a little history lesson on the Avett Brothers?

SA: Well just the quick Avett 101 would be that we're in our eleventh year. We started as a band in 2001 and took our first tour in 2002. We've been probably the very definition of grassroots, word-of-mouth, do-it-yourself kind of mentality. It started with just me and Scott, then me and Scott and Bob our bass player, and us three or us four in a pickup truck with a camper on the back staying in campgrounds because they were only twelve dollars and hotels were more than that. We started out very rough and tumble and very connected to the road. I still stay very connected to the road but we started off like that and just built our organization on the road and built our relationship with our fans on the road and did that for eight years, pretty much basically on our own, building everything one-by-one as far as our team. We signed with a major label eight years in. In 2009, we made a record with Rick Rubin, saw an increase in popularity and major stuff for us as far as having our name out there and being recognized and all that. Since then, we've made another record with Rick and just released it. It's our sixth full-length studio record. Depending on who you talk to, there are eleven or twelve records including live records and EPs. There's a lot of stories in between but that's basically our past.

MR: Your Grammy performance with of "Maggie's Farm" was one of the show's great moments. How did it hit you?

SA: It was just as surreal as you might expect. Getting the opportunity, really, to just get together with Dylan to talk over parts of a song is a story for the grandkids and a story for the ages. That's something we'll always really treasure. In that way, the rehearsals were more impactful than the actual performance. The performance happened so quickly. We were in Los Angeles for like six days preparing for it and it all happened in about six minutes, so that was a snap of the fingers. But being able to play "Maggie's Farm" with Dylan was a highlight to say the least.

MR: By the way, when you look at The Carpenter album and the album you did before that with Rick Rubin, that's a major leap for the band, at least as far as psychologically, even if musically, it's sort of continuing the thread. Do you think that was due to Rick Rubin's involvement?

SA: Sure, sure, yeah. Mike, it should be mentioned again, we did put eight years in leading up to that, so by the time we got to a place where we were comfortable taking that step, we were ready for it. We stepped into the business aspect of it with a lot of experience of our own in business, and we stepped into it artistically with a lot of experience of our own artistically. So it wasn't a situation where we were twenty-year-old kids and we had stars in our eyes about signing and getting big. That kind of wasn't really part of our mentality anymore. By then, we were almost a decade into our own journey. It worked out great and if it didn't, we felt like that would be okay too. Our relationship with Rick has a lot of mutual respect, a lot of props. Not to downplay it, there certainly was an adjustment period with stepping up to working with a world-renowned producer and knowing that this way, it would be heard by more folk. Yeah, it was a great step for us, but one that we felt comfortable making and again, even if it didn't go like we wanted it to, we felt like it was going to be a learning experience. And it was. We took a lot from that experience. I'm glad that what you hear in it is focused. I feel the same way, and I feel like The Carpenter is kind of a good example of a unified approach that we were sort of introduced to with the "I" and "Love" and "You" experience.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

SA: Mike, advice I would have for a new artist would be to keep the career aspect in its place. Don't ignore it, because if you want to make a living playing music, you have to be legitimate. You have to pay taxes and you have to figure out how to write things off and you have to learn how to campaign and how to sell yourself in certain regards. But I would say keep that to a minimum, keep it in its place, and when it comes to making art, keep that pure and keep that in a place that's unaffected by the career aspect of it. I'd also say don't look to someone else to make your career for you. Go out there and connect with people. Play in coffee shops, play in bars, play in restaurants. Don't try to jump up the staircase in one jump. Just take one step at a time and, for God's sake, enjoy it.

MR: [laughs] Beautiful! "For God's sake, enjoy it!" That's the best line. All right, we've got to get one last thing in on The Carpenter album because, normally, I interview people about their projects. How's it been with this record? It came out in September, right?

SA: Yeah, it just came out about two weeks ago.

MR: How's it been going so far?

SA: All I hear is positives. That's either because it is positive or because people don't want to hurt my feelings. I don't know. As far as public response and charts and stuff, all that is in higher positions than we've ever been. We're seeing folks singing the words with us, and that's about as far as I'll take it. I try really hard to stay away from the big internet discussions because I'll get on there and I will find something really rotten that was said and it'll poison me. I try to stay away from all that. But I hear good things and I hope folks are enjoying it. I know a lot of copies are going out to folks, so all I can say is I hope it's good.

MR: Seth, I appreciate your time, I love your music, and I love the fact that the band's career is really taking off now.

SA: Thanks so much, and we'll see you out there soon, brother.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne


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"Suspicious is a song based off of real life events," explains Krissy. "Ever been in a relationship where you know for a fact that your lover is cheating on you? All the signs are there and you finally realize what's going on! I have. The record has a positive sound to it because, although getting cheated on sucks, the revenge is a bit sweeter!"

Check out her evil...EVIL...revenge on this HuffPost exclusive of "Suspicious." Eeeevil.


A Conversation with Duran Duran's Roger Taylor

Mike Ragogna: Roger, hi. Didn't you just play the at the Olympics?

Roger Taylor: Yeah, we played one of the concerts associated with the Olympics in Hyde Park.

MR: You almost can't get a gig like that except for maybe playing for the world with Live Aid?

RT: Yeah, we did the original Live Aid, which, to this day, I think is still the best event concert that's ever been. It was incredible, a little scary. "Okay, are you guys ready?" There are a hundred thousand people in the stadium, there's a billion people watching live worldwide, on you go!" It's scary, but we made it and it was a great event to be at.

MR: Nice, no pressure there.

RT: No pressure there, none at all! Just don't drop your drumstick.

MR: Roger, Duran Duran has been a favorite band for so many people for so long. You guys have hung in there, releasing many albums featuring pop classics, many of them appearing on your A Diamond In The Mind: Live 2011 DVD. It was filmed at the MEN Arena in Manchester on December 16th of last year?

RT: Uh-huh. Correct.

MR: And it was during your All You Need Is Now tour. When you're playing the hits, do you try to update the old songs?

RT: We sometimes do slightly different arrangements of the older songs. Like "Girls On Film" has a standard middle now and a slightly different end. Generally, people like to hear those songs as they were recorded. Of course, we still have four of the original members that recorded those songs. It's pretty easy for us to recreate those songs as they were recorded. We also have additional musicians. We have Dom Brown who is a great guitar player. We have an additional saxophonist and percussionist and backing vocalists. It's great that we have the original four members. People love to hear those songs as they were written. It's been quite easy to integrate the new songs into the show because the All You Need Is Now album is all about going back to that original, classic sound. The producer, Mark Ronson, led this band to rediscovering that sound. The whole show is very integrated very well on this tour.

MR: You can tell, especially on new songs like "Girl Panic" or "Man Who Stole A Leopard." They hearken back to the original days of Duran Duran.

RT: Yeah, Mark would come in and we would try to figure out a song or groove and it's, "Just think of the 'Girls on Film' groove. It's like, "Yeah, you own that groove. Why don't you use it again?" That was the inspiration for "Girl Panic." To use that with the "..Film" groove again.

MR: That's different from the approach you took on recent albums.

RT: We've spent a lot of time moving away from our sound. The last album we did was with Timbaland; Justin Timberlake came in and helped. We were trying to go in a different direction, but Mark Ronson said, "No, just be true to yourself. You're great at that sound." It was a great thing to have someone with that vision come into the project.

MR: Yeah, one thing I notice with some bands is that when try to upgrade or update their sound or style, it seems forced. I mean, it's fun to hear them in a modern context, but usually, things work best when a band remembers the essence of what they are. It's got to be satisfying to know that the essence of Duran Duran is what people still really want.

RT: Yeah, it's a fine line, you don't want to be a pale imitation of yourself. You don't want to be creating exactly what you were creating in the early eighties. You have to have some contemporary spin on the sound, and Mark Ronson came in with that. He just won a Grammy. He worked with Amy Winehouse. He came in with that real hip contemporary thing about him and that was thrown into the mix. He created something that was very unique and very 2011.

MR: Yeah, I agree with you, totally. My point is that it relied on the basics, the truth of what Duran Duran is really about at the heart.

RT: Exactly, exactly, which was the interaction between us as musicians. The great thing about Duran Duran in its early days is that everybody knew that John Taylor was the bass player and they could hear that he was playing on the record. I had a strong identity on the early records. Nick Rhodes also. It was great that he brought that back into the sound.

MR: Mark said that you own that groove, which bring up an interesting point. Over the years, you've introduced another signature song, a cover of Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines," and many people now associate it with Duran Duran.

RT: Yeah, well...it's still his song, but obviously, Duran Duran did a take on that in the nineties, and it has become a staple of our live show. It's an exciting song and it's one of the few cover versions that we perform. It still sounds great till this

MR: Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" is another one.

RT: Yeah, I was about to say that's the only cover version. We have integrated "Relax" into our set, which was kind of like a homage to where "Wild Boys" came from. John and I were standing in a discotheque in Germany in the early eighties. We heard this song come on, "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It's a real stomp-driving, bass drum groove. We thought we had the right song for that. We went into the rehearsal room and that song was a real inspiration. "Wild Boys" took on a real life of its own. The seeds of that song came from a nightclub in Germany.

MR: Do you have any other songs with stories like that? Were any other Duran Duran songs inspired in that way?

RT: I can't think of any others that were strongly inspired. In the early days, we were very influenced by David Bowie and Roxy Music. There was a band in the UK called Japan that used sequences in their songs. We're also fans of Ultravox and Kraftwerk. But then, Andy Taylor was a fan of AC/DC and all these different influences were coming into the studio. Somehow, it had its own life. It became very unique in itself. It was influenced by a lot of different people.

MR: Let's flip it around. People were very influenced by Duran Duran, especially your videos. Those were some of the most elegant and beautiful videos ever.

RT: I know, I know. It's incredible. I can probably go to any hotel in the world and turn on one of the music channels and see "Hungry Like The Wolf" or whatever. It's incredible. We never knew the importance of these little clips. They were just the new promotional device. We didn't want to be film stars. We wanted to be musicians. We wanted to write songs. We wanted to play concerts. Somebody came up with the idea of these on location videos, which we were willing to do, but had no idea of the importance of them. We're very grateful for those videos. They turned us into international stars. They broke America for us, it was a real lucky break for us.

MR: Yeah, you conquered the US, not only musically, but visually, as well as the rest of the world.

RT: Yeah, you've always got to be at the right place at the right time. We were exactly in the right place. MTV was just starting up, it was being piped into millions of homes in America, and we just happened to be the band with the right look and the right sound making these mini movies. If it would've come five years earlier, who knows. A lot of it was being in the right place at the right time and being open. We were very open to new ideas. There were a lot of bands who were refusing to do videos because it wasn't rock 'n' roll or it wasn't truly a band thing to do. We were very open minded and it worked for us.

MR: I also want to throw out there that you all were a young and a beautiful band.

RT: We always had the aesthetic quality, we say. You had to be a good musician to be in the band, but you also had to have a look about you, and I think that served us well in the end, although there was a point where we went down the teen route and thought, "Is this really where we want to be?" Again, it served us well in the end. It got us noticed. We took great comfort in the fact that The Beatles also went through this teen thing, but they were eventually taken seriously and made great albums. We used to look up to The Beatles and said it's okay because they had the teen thing--not that I would ever compare us to The Beatles because they are so unique and such a groundbreaking band. But we used to take comfort in the fact that they experienced the teen thing as well.

MR: And, of course, following your teen idol period, you had more hits like "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World." You did what you needed to do.

RT: Exactly, and we survived it. We survived 30 years now and we have more respect that we ever have. We get good reviews of our concerts now, which is... we never used to get that. Life is good.

MR: Duran Duran and groups like you definitely contributed to pop culture--the music, the videos, the fashion. And I think that the reality is you all broke MTV, though it's perceived as the other way around.

RT: Yeah, there weren't many videos out there.

MR: There weren't very many, but you really set the tone for what was going to come down the pike for many years, so in that way, I think you play no small part in the culture of America and the world.

RT: Thank you.

MR: When you look back to those songs and your career, what are your thoughts?

RT: I think that we really appreciated it. There was a time, I think, that we resented that we were famous for our videos. We were really resentful of that because we wanted to be taken seriously as a band and for our music and our songs. Luckily, time has been good to us. The songs have stood the test of time. We performed in Italy and there were 10,000 people there going crazy for the music and the songs and what we are now. We now accept that the importance of those videos was a great thing. We have total acceptance of that now, and that feels great.

MR: Roger, it didn't make the album, but to be honest, my favorite track by the group is "Save A Prayer," and that video as well. It was a beautiful Duran Duran moment all around.

RT: "Save A Prayer," wow. We played in Verona last and we came onto the encore with "Save A Prayer" and we actually didn't have to sing a word of the song. The audience sang every note, every word of the song. Yeah, thirty years later, that's still happening. It shows the strength of those songs. They weren't just about videos. The videos were amazing, they cemented the songs in people's minds, but we wrote good songs. We still get to play them now and to be able to get to play those songs that you've written is incredible.

MR: "Save A Prayer," no play on the title here, comes off like a hymn when people sing it. I remember thinking that years ago when you guys played it in concert.

RT: It was like a national anthem, actually in Italy. The two big songs there are "Save A Prayer" and "Wild Boys." They're almost apart of the culture identity of Italy. It's fantastic.

MR: Roger, what advice do you have for new artists?

RT: Of course, you would say something different now. We were lucky when we started. We came just after The Beatles and Queen and The Stones, bands that had this huge catalog of music and longevity. David Bowie was another one. There was a lot of money swinging around in the industry, so they signed a lot of different people and we were one of many acts that got signed to EMI that year. It was a land of opportunity at that point. Now, it's difficult. The advice is to just keep working it. Work hard. You have to work all the different mediums. My son's is in a band. He is also a DJ, a mixer, and a producer. I think you do have to diversify and work a lot harder, I think.

MR: Social media as well.

RT: Social media as well, which is another thing you have to work.

MR: Yeah, you almost have to work, as the old phrase goes, as a one-man band.

RT: You do. Unfortunately, I think it is a product of the illegal downloading. There's no money left in the industry and none to invest in new artists and bring talent on. I'm afraid we're at the point where the illegal downloading has brought us to, which is a tough point in the music industry.

MR: Roger, thanks so much, I do really appreciate your time.

RT: Thank you. It's a great thing you're doing there.

Transcribed by Brian O'Neal


Loving On The Flip Side is a collection of long overlooked sweet funk and beat-heavy ballads from the b-sides of funk 45s from the vaults at Now Again Records and Truth & Soul. This lovingly compiled anthology documents a great burst of black American creativity during the late sixties and early seventies that melded the harmonies of sweet soul with James Brown's rhythmic pulse. The CD is packaged within an 80-page soft cover book that includes the genesis of each song, full annotation and never-before published photos. You can download the premiere of Eddie Finley and The Cincinnati Showband's heartfelt plea on "Treat Me Right Or Leave Me Alone" below. Backed by James Brown's New Dapps collective--members of whom would later go on to form The Gap Band--this song was recorded in Dallas, Texas, and first released on Finley's tiny Rapturea label. Loving On The Flipside is out September 25th on Now Again Records. Go to http://www.nowagainrecords.com for more info.


A Conversation with Frisbie's Mary Frisbie Wood

Mike Ragogna: Mary, first of all, congratulations on creating such an interesting, diverse company.

Mary Frisbie Wood: Thanks!

MR: I noticed the company is named "Frisbie." What an awesome coincidence!

MFW: Ha ha. Yes, Frisbie is in fact my middle name. My Grandmother's family owned the Frisbie Pie Company in Connecticut. Their pie tins were used in a game by Yale students on their campus. The story goes they would toss the pie tin and yell "Frisbie!!" to protect innocent bystanders from the oncoming tin. Whammo came along, changed the spelling of Frisbie and, well, the rest is history.

MR: Can you go into the various departments that make up Frisbie?

MFW: We try and keep it pretty simple--everyone who works here wears a few hats. But we've got the recording studio, which is engineering and production, A&R and Marketing departments, the licensing division, East and West Coast, and general support staff for the day-to-day of running a recording studio and production company. And of course, this is for all the artists and composers we represent in all media.

MR: How did you get the idea to create the company, what's the history?

MFW: Previously, I was a composer and partner at a traditional jingle company. It was the closest thing to The Brill Building days I know of. My partner and I worked on jingles for every major advertiser- oft times on the same day: Coke in one room, Pepsi in the other, Sprite and American Express down the hall. We were pioneers in writing jingles that actually sounded like hit songs- and even became hit songs on the charts! While it was a fantastic experience, the model of songs for hire was becoming outdated and it was time to make a change. In essence, Frisbie was built on the idea that if we created an environment that inspired creativity and a fantastic recording experience, if we surrounded ourselves with some of the coolest artists and songwriters around, then commerce would follow.
So far, that has turned out to be true.

MR: What's your ultimate goal? What areas within Frisbie do you see the most growth in over the next few years?

MFW: My ultimate goal hasn't really changed over the years and that is to make great music--whatever the context may be. To never compromise that. Frisbie has grown quite a bit in the last year as far as the number of bands and artists we are representing exclusively for film, TV and advertising. I see those working relationships expanding: from producing more great albums, doing remixes, to releasing the music with a new definition for acting as a "label." Our urban division has grown again and I see it doing quite well coming up. I see us doing more TV shows. Lastly, I see Frisbie's relationships with major brands expanding. I am quite experienced with music branding for major campaigns and pairing artists with brands. In the future, I see more unique music initiatives with brands and the artists we represent.

MR: What's the reaction and success been to this point?

MFW: So far, so good! We have done Superbowl spots every year, a hit show for Nickelodeon, produced albums, scored successful apps and games and attracted new bands through word of mouth, indie and major labels. However, I think we still feel like a well-kept secret to those in the know. We like every experience to be a personal one. And, most importantly, we seem to be living up to our motto: "It's more fun because we're good."

MR: What kind of employment opportunities might there be?

MFW: I would say that our door is always open to meet those who are insanely talented and humble at the same time. Down the road, we will be looking at people with rad personalities with artist management and digital marketing skills. Again, the ability to wear a few hats is key in our working environment.

MR: What's the relationship between the creative artists and administrative employees?

MFW: Thankfully, we are like a family here. Everyone respects each other in their roles. You'll often see scenarios like, the lead guitar player of a famous rock band smoking out back with the bookkeeper.

MR: Speaking of creative artists, what advice do you have for new artists?

MFW: What remains constant is the need to be great at your craft as a songwriter and musician. That takes years of practice. If you're a songwriter, write songs, and then write some more. Listen to the greats and learn from them: Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, and contemporaries like Jesse Harris and Benji Hughes. Great writing is a unique commodity that can be applied in any number of musical genres to have success in numerous income streams--from ads to TV shows, soundtracks and video games. If you want to be a recording artist, play live a lot too. Even in today's digital climate, there is no replacement for the live show. It gives you a feel for what's working and what's not in your songs and for growing a dedicated fan base. Surround yourself with the best possible musicians and producers you can find. Collaborate when you need to and respect everyone's contribution as a vital part of the process.

MR: Frisbie five years from now?

MFW: I think I covered a lot in the growth question but, we plan to keep making music in Cool-Ass Loftville, our awesome spot in Tribeca, and to add more rad gear to the studios whenever possible. Workwise, I see us continuing with all the great types of work we've been doing in advertising, film, TV, apps and record production. Big picture, we'll be redefining what it means to be a production, management and record company by blurring all those lines and making one cohesive, affective whole. And, maybe a Frisbie clothing line with an office in Dubai.

MR: [laughs} Thanks for your time, Mary. All the best with Frisbie.

MFW: Anytime, thank you.

Transcribed by Samantha Tillman