On this My Home, NC meet Joe Kwon, the high-energy cellist for the North Carolina-grown, American folk rock band, The Avett Brothers. Heather Burgiss talks to Joe about music, family, friends and food. Joe is a self-proclaimed foodie who is known to seek out “good eats” while on tour. He immigrated to America from South Korea when he was just a toddler and grew up in Archdale, NC. Watch as he invites the My Home crew for a dinner party where his mom and aunt help him prepare Korean soul food.
Joe Kwon, Cellist for the Avett Brothers
It’s a magical time onstage. I think the biggest thing is I’m with a bunch of people that are not afraid to be who we are and present at that time.
Joe Kwon is probably most known for playing the cello onstage, alongside bandmates Scott and Seth Avett of The Avett brothers. But those close to him, or even those who follow him on Instagram (@joekwon80), know he has another passion besides music—a passion for food.
“I think that love of food was not really so much cultivated as it was just a part of our lives,” Kwon said. “Being an immigrant family from Korea moving to Archdale, North Carolina where there is no other Asian Community it becomes a rich part of maintaining a culture.”
He’ll often cook meals in the customized kitchen in his Raleigh home, and for a dinner party with a guest list including the My Home, NC crew, local chef Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey), and his mom and aunt, he prepared a Korean dish called Japchae. Japchae is sweet potato vermicelli noodles, with blanched spinach, stir-fried beef, wood ear mushrooms, carrots and onion.
Bringing people together to celebrate food and friendship is something important to Kwon, and something that he thinks should be important to everyone. And the family you celebrate with, isn’t always family.
“You’re family doesn’t have to be blood. Just as much as AC (Ashley Christensen). . . and the Avett Brothers are my family—they’re just as close as family as my mom and my aunt.”
Kwon and the Avett brothers are close friends, and they also have a clear musical chemistry, with Kwon first appearing on the album “Emotionalism” back in 2007. The band has released nine studio albums—11 overall—with their 12th album “True Sadness” being released June 24.
“It’s a magical time onstage,” Kwon said of performing live. “I think the biggest thing is I’m with a bunch of people that are not afraid to be who we are and present at that time.”
Looking back on the success he and The Avett Brothers have had so far, Kwon is still somewhat in disbelief.
Kwon left his corporate job at IBM in 2005, because despite being “a great job, and a great company to work for,” he was miserable. He ultimately realized it was because he’d turned his back on music, having been playing the cello and developing a passion for the instrument since he was nine years old.
So Kwon turned his focus to his passion. And one night in Winston-Salem, playing at a dive bar called Rubber Soul, he first met one of the Avett brothers and bass player Bob Crawford. And the rest is music history. A history that, again, he looks at in amazement.
“I still look back and say, why did I get this job, how did I come across meeting the Avett brothers and ending up playing Madison Square Garden, at Red Rocks? Because I’m not a spectacular cellist, I’m a mediocre cellist at best,” Kwon said, with a smile. “But you know, I love it. I have a deep, deep passion for it, There’s something about that. It’s not just about being virtuosic. It’s about having a passion for what you do as well.”