It has been almost four years since Seth and Scott Avett debuted Rejects in the Attic at an intimate Merlefest songwriter’s workshop. That morning, fans nestled into the 200-seat auditorium with grand hopes that they would witness something truly special. I doubt that any of us were prepared for this song and the palpable heartache that echoed through Seth’s microphone. Once an orphaned sheet of scribbled lyrics buried in a disheveled pile, Seth dusted off Rejects, dismantled it and pieced it back together, replacing Scott’s pain and vulnerability with his own.
As fans, we speculate on what may drive the emotion behind such a heavy song–despair, regret, shame, hopelessness. Though we will never fully understand the twisted path a song takes from start to finish–even when written by two brothers, years apart–it was clear that on that day, as Seth sat with his journal and heart left open for the world to see, the pain behind those lyrics being uttered in public for the first time was fresh and present and very personal.
Seth’s face told a story of sleepless nights and mental anguish. With eyes shut, the weighty lyrics left his lips to find sympathetic ears and sturdy shoulders. Suddenly, we realized that we were there to share the burden. We held our breath and took it in, collectively acknowledging the therapeutic exchange that was unfolding before us. We were not just a passive sounding board that day, but rather a living, breathing levee taking on a flood of emotion. And just when we thought the chairs may buckle beneath us, Seth opened his eyes, looked to the sky and asked us for more. We obliged, hopeful that whatever role we played that day for him allowed those holes of pain to be filled in with new found joy.
As Seth closed the song, an almost embarrassed smile spread across his face like that of a grade school kid who just finished reading aloud his first poem in English class. That bashful authenticity reminded us all that even though we often find ourselves separated from them by a steel barrier or tour bus window, we are all just a bunch of rejects riding through this crazy, beautiful, painful experience together.