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Avett Brothers bassist finds God through difficult battle

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Bob Crawford, bass player for the Avett Brothers, doesn't know how he could handle the struggles life has thrown at him without God.

When Crawford's infant daughter had her first seizure in 2011, Crawford entered a long journey as she struggled to survive a brain tumor.

Being a traveling musician, Crawford said he has had to put his daughter's life in God's hands as he headed to the next gig and the Avett Brothers rose to national popularity.

That stardom will bring the Avett Brothers, with Crawford alongside brothers Scott and Seth Avett, to Saturday in the Park to close the festival at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow.

But before Crawford and the Avett Brothers got to this point, the bass player took a year-long break from the band in 2011 while his daughter received radiation treatments.

"The most important thing in my life is the well-being of my family and, at this point, my daughter," Crawford said.

Crawford returned full time in 2012 shortly before the release of "The Carpenter." He has continued to perform with the band, traveling around the world and leaving his family in God's hands.

"It can make you sick sometimes," Crawford said, "when things aren't going well."

His daughter, now 4, was doing better but then it came back, Crawford said.

"It's the kind of thing where you're never really over it," he said.

As Crawford struggled to support his family, he said his faith in God strengthened and while his conversion to Christianity wasn't a straight walk, Crawford said, "It's something that I just can't handle myself."

While finding comfort in religion, Crawford said music also became a place of solace through this process. Crawford started playing with the Avett brothers when the musicians were still playing more rock than folk.

Crawford joined them with his upright bass playing spots like the Dairy Queen, a college cafeteria and any empty street corner.

After playing with brothers Scott and Seth Avett for more than a decade, Crawford said the band creates a collaborative sound that comes through in albums like the band's most recent, "Magpie and the Dandelion."

While recording the 2012 album "The Carpenter," the Avett Brothers produced enough music for a second album, which became "Magpie and the Dandelion."

"There were no throw-away songs from that session," Crawford said. The folk band came out with "Magpie" in 2012 as a companion album, but Crawford said he is more drawn to the music from "Magpie."

The album, he said, has energy that was absent from "The Carpenter." "Magpie" includes great Avett Brother's tunes like "Another is Waiting" and "Morning Song" and is no doubt one of the band's best works.

Then in 2011, the band joined Mumford and Sons and Bob Dylan at the Grammys. Crawford returned from his sabbatical to play at the show, and said it was one of those surreal experiences.

"We love what we do," Crawford said. "We're so blessed to do it."

At the same time, the 43-year-old musician said, "we're living our lives and trying to do our best to take care of our families."

And with God by his side, Crawford said he's been able to give up some of that control and enjoy life despite the curve balls regularly coming his way. 

"I'm really comfortable where life is for all the tragedy and upheaval," Crawford said. "This life we live, I don't know how you can handle it without God. We're all kind of over our heads."

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