The Avett Brothers' cellist Joe Kwon talked with Lynne Rossetto Kasper in 2011 about his food blog and eating on the road. The Avett Brothers' new album, True Sadness, will be released on June 24, 2016, and they're on tour through the summer and fall.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: What do you crave when you're on the road?
Joe Kwon: I would have to say, more than anything, any sort of comfort Asian foods, noodle soups, or traditional Asian dishes that my mom made me growing up.
LRK: What's your background?
JK: Korean. Born in Korea, raised in High Point, North Carolina.
LRK: I'm looking at the way you are with that cello. In one of the articles that I read about you, you're referred to as a "cello thrasher."
Photo: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
JK: I'm sure my cello teachers of the past would hate to hear that.
LRK: But there's so much emotion that you throw into your music. Does that carry over to the food?
JK: I would have to say it does. I'm very passionate about eating together and having it be an event, and no matter how big or small the event, it's just as important. If I have friends over, then it's all around the food, based around the food. I have to attribute that to my parents, my mom especially, my grandmother, who pretty much raised me growing up and cooked me three meals a day, and it still brings back fond memories when I have these traditional dishes.
LRK: Did the blog become an extension of that? Of sort of reaching out to people?
JK: The whole reasoning behind the blog, initially, was to share my love for food and show people how food really is something that can bring people together. In my family, it brought us together every night for dinner, and every weekend with the whole family, extended family included. It only made sense that I would try to find pockets of different types of food from all around the country and all around the world.
LRK: What about before a performance? What kinds of foods do you eat before performing, and is there anything you would never eat before a performance?
JK: We have been trained well to never say never, but I will say I very rarely eat anything heavy, because it really does affect how light I am on my feet onstage and how I feel. We generally tend to have salads with some sort of protein 90% of the time, and then the other 10%, if we have time to eat, we'll eat a sandwich, whatever we can grab, some nuts or something. That’s usually a couple hours before we perform, just so we can settle our stomachs before we hit the stage and jump all over the place like madmen.
LRK: Now, the show is over, and you get a chance to go out and really eat whatever you like. What are some of the great finds that you've gotten?
The Avett Brothers (Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
JK: Some of the interesting dishes that I've come across have been raw lobster tail at this great sushi restaurant in Portland, Maine. There was a place in Columbus, Ohio, called Northstar Café, and every time we come to Columbus, we always find ourselves ordering the veggie burger from Northstar Café. We get to Columbus and we're like, “All right, who's making the order? How many veggie burgers are we going to have?”
LRK: I understand that performers have special riders on their contracts of the things that they want to have in their dressing rooms, and it's usually food and drink.
JK: We specify only blue M&M's ... no, I'm just kidding. We have fresh fruit. Generally, we ask for bananas and apples, orange juice or apple juice, avocados, mixed nuts, about five cases of water, and usually some cereal and milk, sandwich meats, and peanut butter, jelly, and bread.
LRK: Joe, where's the decadence here? I mean, I'm expecting Cristal, foie gras, you know, caviar, and you want cereal and milk.
JK: We try to be as low-impact and as friendly as possible, so people will ask us back.
[Ed. note: Make sure to check out Joe's Instagram for his latest finds.]