We’ve all got an Avett Story: An interview with Michelle Castañeda Little

If you’ve bought an Avett concert ticket or album, then you’ve helped write the story of the Avett Brothers. The plan is once a week to interview a fan to get their Avett story. This week’s interview is with Michelle Castañeda Little

 

Where are you from and where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in San Jose CA and now live in a small-ish town about 90 miles south of San Francisco called Gilroy. Yes.  The garlic place.

What is your earliest music memory?

This was around 1970.  I was 5.  My (Hispanic) parents were dancing in the kitchen to a song called Soy Huerfanito by Mike Laure.  Soy Huerfanito means “I’m an orphan” in Spanish.

I thought the words were “se fue Juanito” which means “there went Johnny”.  This made sense to me because my brother is named Juan (Spanish for John), after my dad, and we call him Juanito (Spanish for Johnny).  I didn’t find out the real words until I was about 30.  Hahaha!

What was the first musician/band that you loved?

Johnny Cash.  Another awesome memory I have is of my dad and my Uncle Joe drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and listening to At Folsom Prison. My dad and Uncle Joe thought they were bad asses listening to that record.  I thought they were cool too.  And I became obsessed with The Man in Black.

What was the first record you bought?

First record was a 45 of Love Rollercoaster by The Ohio Players

What was your first concert?

AC/DC at the Oakland Coliseum. 1982. (wow, my tastes are all over the place!)

How did you first discover the Avett Brothers?

On the radio – KFOG in San Francisco.  They played I and Love and You and I and loved and it.  Later that same day, I looked them up on the Youtube and discovered Crackerfarm’s vid of Bella Donna and I literally watched it about 80 times that night.  I was hooked right then.  However, a few months later, I realized I had mislabeled them in my head…I was calling Seth Scott, and Scott Seth.  Oooops.

When was your first Avett Concert and what did you think afterwards?

July 19, 2011 at The Fox Theater in Oakland.  I enjoyed them very much but I was a bit distracted by their opener, Jessica Lea Mayfield.  I went the next night as well and David opened for them.  That concert was wild and a blast.  That first time one experiences Talk On Indolence – I felt like my head was going to explode.  It was the most crazy concert experience ever!! It must be said that on this night, I met Jim Avett.  He was looking for the VIP section and I was only half paying attention when my friend was pointing him in the right direction.  Then he said “We really appreciate your support.  The boys are very grateful.”

“We”.  I slowly turned around and looked at this man and saw a face that looked just like my Seth’s!!!  I leaped into his arms!!!  We have been buds ever since.  😊

 

How many Avett shows have you been to?

33.  So far.

What is the farthest you have traveled to go to an Avett Show? 

3107.4 miles.  To Mexico.    I’m going again and I can’t wait!!

Is there any Avett experience you are hoping to cross of your Avett bucket list?

I would so love to hear Darling songs (besides Bella Donna). Especially the early stuff.    If I had to choose a fantasy bucket list thing, it would be to transport myself back in time to attend the concert that Live Volume 2 was.  There is something about that album that pulls at me.  I just love it.   I feel like the boys’ voices sound so innocent on that record.

How has the Avett experience changed over time for you? 

Oh my!  Where do I begin?  You know, I went to asmylifeturnstoasong.com as I needed to check my data, and I am floored by the fact that by the time I went to the Cola shows in 2015, I already had 7 shows under my belt.  My experience at the Cola shows literally changed my life. But I realize now that before that experience, I really was going as a fan in what I call the “traditional mode” of going to a concert.  You know what I mean…show up, listen to the music, clap, yell for an encore, clap some more, and go home.   Once I went to the shows in South Carolina, I started to understand what was in front of me, besides the Hague sisters and a few other new friends!  I started to piece together the OTHER things about seeing the Avett Brothers perform a concert.  I started to notice the camaraderie and the brother/sisterhood that was happening.  I noticed that people were talking about the band members as if they knew them personally.  Not in a weird, stalking way; more of a “Scott was so sweet to my kid” or “Joe gave my daughter a bow!” kind of way.  I saw with my own eyes how sweet Jim Avett was with the fans of his sons’ band.  Those days in Cola demonstrated to me that when music brings people together, the bonds form quickly and become very powerful.  Since that time, I have leaned on MANY fellow fans for support and love during difficult times, and I have offered support and love when times get tough for others.  These people are FRIENDS.  No quotations.  I know I speak for a lot of folks when I say:  I wish I could eloquently explain to the brothers how powerful these bonds are – and how these friendships never would have happened if not for them and their music.

During those Cola shows 2 ½ years ago, I saw the beginning of my Avett journey unfold.  These days, when I go to a show, I of course look forward to seeing a great concert but I also look forward to hugging and connecting and RE connecting with my friends.  I look forward to singing and dancing and crying with them.  I look forward to letting a poignant moment wash over me and offer a hand on the shoulder of someone who becomes so touched by words and song.  I look forward to ripping off a piece of Avett jewelry and putting it on a stranger and giving a hug.  At that moment, a stranger became a friend.  This is it.  This is the Avett Brothers.

Did you ever think you would see a band this many times and travel so much to see them?

No.  Never in a million years.  I’m not fond of crowds.  Also, God did not make me very patient.  So to think I would fly somewhere over night and wait in line in the brutal sun or the cold and rain…to think that I would sleep on a couch, or an air mattress or share a queen bed with a person I just met…that seems crazy to me.  But it has happened.  Many times.  These trips – they are my escape.  When the world is messing with me and when things are going wrong for me, I can take a deep breath and relive these trips and I am instantly calm, sated and happy.  And amused!  😊

What are a few of your favorite Avett songs to hear live?

Smoke In Our Lights (RIP, Shannon)

St. Josephs (by the way, until VERY recently, I thought Scott was saying “Lake June, Alaska” HA!)

Indolence (especially when Mr. Kwon does that wild hair flying move!)

Laundry Room (50% because I like the song and 50% because I LOVE to see the audience do the bounce.  Hearing that song live is pure joy.)

Beaches (slays me every time.  Tears.  Boatloads.)

What are some of your favorite Avett Lyrics?

You mean besides No Hard Feelings?  OK.  Just checking.  😊

“No count of gold placed in my hand

The largest find, the greatest sum

Though some would say it’d ease our pain

We know that it can’t be done

Not even the sun

Not even the clouds

Not even the past

No nothing that this world could bring

Or anything someone could do

Could hold me back from you”

Also…

“My heart is dancin’,
To a November tune
And I hope that you hear it,
Singing songs about you

I sing songs of sorrow,
Because you’re not around
See, babe I’m gone tomorrow,
Baby follow me down

I don’t know why I have to,
But this man must move on
I love my time here,
Didn’t know ’til I was gone

November shadows, shade November change
November spells sweet memory, the season blue remains
November spells sweet memory, the season blue remains

Your yellow hair is like the sunlight,
However sweet it shines
Bit by the cold of December,
I’m warm beside your smile”

And…

I want to live
and I want you to live
happy and free
But I don’t know how
to separate the now
from what used to be
Will you sleep?
Not a wink
Well neither will I

Man, it’s tough to pick out just a few.  Furthermore, I can listen to a song a hundred times and be OK, and then on the 101st time, I will listen in and completely fall apart.  Sometimes, these boys lay down lyrics that stop me in my tracks and break my heart.  I heard an interview from KEXP in Seattle with Seth when he and JLM were touring for the Elliott Smith songs.  Seth said (paraphrasing) “When listening to a song, if you check in to the lyrics, you can enjoy that – even if it’s a sad or rough theme. And you can also find hope in the lyrics; it’s not all just a drag.    You wouldn’t even need to speak English to connect somehow with Elliott Smith songs”.  That’s how I feel when I listen to songs like If It’s The Beaches or The Lowering (A Sad Day in Greenvilletown).  So much sadness.  But a little hope in there too.

If you got to add 5 songs to the setlist what would they be?

Croce’s Operator – I loved when TSA sang that.  I have a good memory of quietly crying at the Greek in Berkeley and standing next to Mike Colee.  We were the oldest in the immediate area and probably were the only ones who knew that this was a cover song.  Haha!!

BOH’s No One’s Gonna Love you

In The Curve – We need to hear this one every show.  Thank you. (Ha!)

LOL, LOL – and this one.

My Last Song To Jenny – and this one.

 

Do you have a favorite Avett concert moment?

The Ganz Engagement was awesome.  I will never forget that.

Also, being arm in arm with Bruni, Stacie, Amanda etc during NHF at RR 2016.  That was a very moving moment.

Oh, and I traded a ticket for an album of Emotionalism in Cola.  I wish I knew who I traded the ticket with.  We met briefly, exchanged goods, hugged and I didn’t see him again.

What is your favorite venue that you have seen them at?

From a pure venue point of view – RR.  No debate.  But shout out to Edgefield at Troutdale and the Capital Theater in Port Chester.

Both of these were fun for different reasons.  Troutdale, because I was side by side with Cole.  For the record, I was side by side with him during one of the Cola shows.  I just didn’t realize how cool that was until a little bit later.

Also, Port Chester is where I met Team Martin in person and I loved seeing the interaction of parents bringing kids.  If you have met Team Martin – or Team Campbell – you know what I mean.

What city have you had the most fun visiting while seeing the Avett Brothers?

Man, I am always in and out.  One time I went with Kristin Russell from SFO to JFK for Speed of Sound near Poughkeepsie and we were in NY for literally 22 hours.  Haha!

I need to take a few more days off and explore some day.

Do you have a favorite poster or piece of memorabilia?

Hmmm….Well, my fave poster would be the Seth poster by Charles Crisler for Ohio in 2015.  My fave piece of memorabilia – it is something that didn’t come from the band directly.  The Neevel pendant.  I’m not sure about the rest of you, but mine is magical.  I wear it every day.  It centers me and makes me feel calm.  I am always reaching for it throughout the day.  It’s a good touchstone and I believe in it.

Did you see May it Last? What did you think? 

Yes.  Well, I cried as soon as it started.  And I cried throughout.  How lucky are we that these boys took a chance with vulnerability and opened up their hearts and heads so that we could catch just a glimpse?  I can’t wait to see it again.  I took a friend from work to the show.  She was curious about this little band I follow and worship.  After the show, she told me that she had a deep respect for them musically, and she can see that they are not spoiled by success…in fact, they are very humble.  But we already know that!  😊

I love the Avett Brothers.  I love the Avett family.  I love MY Avett family.  My life is so much better ever since I heard I and Love and You that first time.  Every day, The Avett Brothers make me laugh, think, cry, think, contemplate, wish, think, sing and think.  Nobody can understand what this and my fellow fans mean to me.  Well, you guys can.  xo

What 5 artists would you recommend Avett fans listen to?

Greg Alan Isakov (and go see him live!!)

The Brothers Comatose

Martin O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra

The Wailin’ Jennys

Kate Mann

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