"We felt like ['I and Love and You'] was boot camp, and with this record Rick was like, 'Do your own thing,'" says Seth Avett.
After feeling "a little bit out of our element, a little unfamiliar with the territory" on 2009's lauded "I and Love and You," the Avett Brothers made their upcoming seventh album, "The Carpenter," with considerably more confidence.
"With 'The Carpenter' we felt like we had our sea legs, that point where you've been in the boat awhile and don't feel like you're going to throw up any more," Seth Avett tells Billboard.com. "The songs felt more developed, and we felt more capable of getting them to where they needed to be. We feel like we were able to get what we hoped for and do what we needed with the songs in a really comfortable and thriving environment."
After having producer Rick Rubin "right on top of us, in the studio with us every day" during the making of "I and Love and You," the Avetts took control in making "The Carpenter," which is due out September 11. The group recorded primarily at home in North Carolina with Rubin in more of an oversight and support role.
"They went into this album with a confidence based on all of the things they took away from the creative process on...'I and Love and You,' " Rubin says. "They applied so many of the methods we used on the last one. This felt like a natural progression."
Avett adds, "We felt like ('I and Love and You') was boot camp, and with this record Rick was like, 'Hey, I trust you guys. Do your own thing.' We stayed in contact and he gave us feedback, but it was really much more in our hands." The group did, however, use West Coast players such as Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, keyboardist Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and percussionist Lenny Castro on the 12-song set.
The Avetts -- Seth, his brother Scott and bassist Bob Crawford -- started working on "The Carpenter" in January of 2011 and finished about a year later, with its release delayed a bit when Rubin moved his American Recordings from Columbia to Universal Republic. The group came and went from the road throughout the process and was able to road test "just under half" of the songs, according to Seth, though the process helped generate a harder rocking energy during the sessions.
"It seems like there's some more of that going on," Avett acknowledges. "I think we just had to serve the songs as well as we could and let an album surface out of that. I think we're comfortable giving ourselves over to a song. Sometimes you want to rock, and sometimes it's not the right thing, but we benefit from not being too caught up in thinking and considering how a record is going to be seen and just doing what it needs."
Avett says the group recorded a total of about 21 songs for "The Carpenter" and is contemplating a companion EP at some point, or a series of singles. "Whatever it is, I would like them to see the light of day sooner rather than later, he says. Meanwhile, the Avetts plan to hit the road again in late December and will open for the Dave Matthews Band's three-night run at the Gorge Amphitheatre Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Quincy, Wash. Other shows include the Music Midtown Festival on Sept. 21 in Atlanta, the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 14 and Zac Brown's Southern Ground Music & Food Festival Oct. 19-20 in Charleston, S.C.