We’ve all got an Avett Story: An interview with Marilyn Tennant

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 Marilyn Tennant

Where are you from and where did you grow up?

Holt, MI. My dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up in Washington State, California, Mississippi, and Michigan.

What is your earliest music memory?

My mom rocking out in the car to The Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” She was in a bad mood before, probably unsatisfied about something, and then this song came on the radio and just flipped her mood entirely. It was then that I realized the transformative power of music. Also, my dad use to sing me lullabies on his guitar to drift me off to sleep. I’m thankful music has been present in my life as a happy outlet to express myself through, hide away with, show off with, and otherwise just have a positive relationship with. No matter where we moved, there was always an acoustic guitar around the house to pick up and play. What’s even more awesome about music is that it is the universal language that all can understand, no matter where you go or what language you speak.

What was the first musician/band that you loved?

By immersion, I just fell in love with my dad’s generation of music. Especially Eric Clapton. Now if you want to know my very first childhood musical crush, it was The Monkees. Oh that Davy Jones…but I will NOT mention anything about my Paula Abdul phase!

What was the first record you bought? 

It was a Jerry Lee Lewis cassette tape. “Great Balls of Fire” was my first dance routine I learned in tap class at 6 or 7-years-old. I’m guessing I drove my parents mad playing it repeatedly.

What was your first concert?

The Smashing Pumpkins. Garbage opened for them. I think I was 14.

How did you first discover the Avett Brothers?

I was at Bonnaroo ‘06 and absolutely miserable from being there. Me and my boyfriend at the time were on our way to see Les Claypool perform at one of the main stages when we passed by this smaller stage, and there were these three guys up there playing what I would call punk music on acoustic instruments. I had never seen or heard anything like it. I gravitated to the stage like a mosquito to a fly trap. It flipped my mood. The transformative power of music. I was mesmerized. My boyfriend tried, but could not talk me into leaving that tent. There was an argument. I did not make it that day to see Les Claypool. That is all I remember.

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

See above.

How many Avett shows have you been to?

I forgot my login password to the database and can’t get in, but I’m going to say about 18.

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

Definitely Red Rocks.

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

Yeah.

How has the Avett experience changed over time for you?

The waiting in line has been longer, yet more enjoyable. Though I don’t think I have enough grit to show up at 5 am to stand in line. I think it’s inevitable that people will probably start camping out overnight. However, waiting in line has allowed me to meet some of my favett friends. That’s right spell check, I meant “favett.” We find ways to pass the time that just add to the whole experience. Waiting in line at the meet n’ greet was nine hours for me, but it felt like half the time because I was playing guitar tunes with this kid that knew every Avett song by heart. Good thing Avett fans are the coolest, otherwise waiting in line would suck.

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

Has anyone that does? If I was on the outside looking in, I would probably wonder, “Why in the world would you see one band so many times?” It is definitely better to be on the inside knowing why, rather than on the outside just not getting the reason for it. Every concert is like a priceless gift. The people, the moments you share with said people, the songs, and the positive energy are all pieces to a puzzle we are missing in current times. There are familiar faces that have somehow become like family that you can share things with that you can’t even share with your real family. There are also new faces looking for someone to sing along words to a song with, and them BAM! You know something very deep and personal about that person, just by relating with them on a favorite Avett song. At an Avett concert, you probably will cry and laugh all in one night. You will probably make a new friend if you just start talking to someone. You will probably see someone you’ve met before at a previous show. You will probably get annoyed by people, only to remember “we’re all in this together.”  In this technology addicted world, we are so isolated from each other. Social media has taken the place of real socialization, when what we really need is to be physically present with people. If you let it, The Avett Brothers’ concerts have created a beautiful space for that.

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

Pretty much anything from Country Was or A Carolina Jubilee.

What are some of your favorite Avett Lyrics? 

Funniest:

“Well if you wa-ah-ah-ant I’ll stay for dinner. I’ll throw my suitcase in the river.”

Loveliest:

“Tenderness and grace. How you’ve come to change this place. However dangerous or safe
I’ll find within you.”

Profoundest:

“I want to have pride, like my mother has. And not like the kind in the Bible the turns you bad.”

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

Pretty Girl from Locust, One Line Wonder, Closing Night. I’ve also really fallen for the traditional covers they’ve done recently like Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel and I’ve Endured.

Do you have a favorite Avett concert moment?

There is no way I can pick just one moment. Every minute of being a part of this phenomenon is so awesome.

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

Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunsfels, TX was very unique. Not nearly as magnificent as Red Rocks, but I liked the trees behind the stage, the river, the outdoorsiness, and the food trucks. I hate when a venue only has junk food.

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

Probably Chicago. There’s just so much to do, and you can explore it by train.

Do you have a favorite poster or piece of memorabilia?

Last December, when I heard of the meet n’ greet opportunity, I had this daffy thought that I should drive down from Michigan and go to it. Daffier still, I had an idea to write a song and sing it to the Avett Brothers there in person. The same mesmerization that was present at Bonnaroo 10 years ago came about. When I got there, I bought a purple, Luna guitar from Mullins Music, the same music shop that the brothers use to frequent in Concord, and I waited in line for 9 hours (see above story). Standing in line, about every-other-hour, nervousness would get the best of me and I would talk myself out of singing my song to them. Good thing it didn’t take 8 or 10 hours, because I’d change my mind just that frequently and would probably never have ended up singing it. When my time had finally come to walk up and meet/greet, I said to myself I had better sing that song because I drove 11 hours to get there and waited all day to sing it to them. Well, I did sing it. Then Bob, Scott, Joe, and Seth signed the guitar. That guitar is my most cherished memorabilia. I was so flustered that I almost left without getting a picture and the CD they signed too. But to this day, I almost never get stage fright anymore. So if you want to cure stage fright or public speaking, do this.

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

I thought it was incredible. My favorite part was witnessing the songwriting process for I Wish I Was.

What 5 artists would you recommend Avett fans listen to?

The Appleseed Collective (before the banjo player broke it off with the guitarist and moved to New York, because they got kind of dark after that); Mike + Ruthy Band (because, like TAB, they have excellent lyrics); Seth Bernard (his music is very uplifting and original); Josh Davis (because he fought to sing his own original tunes on The Voice, I respect that he stood his ground); and Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys (because their music is soo sexy).

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