Bob Crawford is a gentleman. When asked about Mumford & Sons, the bluegrass-driven quartet that the Avett Brothers, the band in which he plays double bass, is most often and sometimes reductively compared to, he’s got nothing but positive things to say.
“They’re just great guys,” Crawford says from a stop on the road during a tour that will take the Avett Brothers across the country for the rest of the year. “It’s always good to see them and they are wonderful human beings, and I think that all their success is deserved and earned and I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Don’t even get him started on Old Crow Medicine Show, the old-timey Nashvillians currently joining the Avett Brothers on tour.
“I could do years of touring with them and be so happy,” he says, before venturing into something akin to gushing. “Just beautiful guys, amazing show. I watched their show last night, they’re just awesome, I love ‘em. They’re great, I love playing with them, I learn a lot from them, they’re just great guys. I just really am thankful that we get to do this together. I mean, it took us 11 years for our bands to play together, and I’m just so sorry that it took so long to happen, because I don’t want it to stop.”
Crawford admits it’s relatively easy for him and the group to avoid dwelling on things like being repeatedly compared to Mumford & Sons. In the past three years, the group has been touched by tragedies like death, divorce and cancer - his young daughter, Hallie, was diagnosed in 2011. He took time off from the band to be with his family, but returned in August 2012 once her condition had improved.
With the group reunited and back on the road, the Avett Brothers are playing some of the biggest venues their decade-plus career has seen yet.
“The toughest thing about a room like that is being able to maintain a connection with the audience and keeping the intimacy,” he says, adding that structuring the show, using strategic lighting and finding new ways to present old songs has helped them do just that.
“A big thing that happened in 2013 is our band grew from four people on stage to six, and sometimes we have seven people on stage,” he says. “Now we have this full band ... and that’s really giving us an opportunity to breathe new life into our whole material.”
The long run
Fans can expect to hear plenty more new tunes from the hardworking group, but for now they’ll have to be patient.
“We are beginning the process of working on our next album as we speak as far as developing songs and kind of getting them to a finished kind of place,” says Crawford. “So we’re on the path. It’s gonna be a little while, but we’re on the path with the next record and we’re already working on those ideas and those songs as we speak.”
Crawford admits that it’s never easy to predict how recording a new album will go, but he says that he expects the group to have something ready by 2015.
“Don’t hold me to it, lots of things can happen between now and then and it could be 2016 by the time it’s all said and done, but I would say sometime in 2015 we’ll probably have another record at least ready to come out. It might not come out, but we should have one recorded by then.”