Sean Watkins has been making music since 1989 and none of what he releases is predictable. Comparing his music with Nickel Creek with his solo work shows the depth and breadth of the man's talent and his abilities as singer, songwriter and guitarist. It's very easy to pigeonhole him as simply a bluegrass artist, but that would be overlooking his artistic tendrils into pop, folk, country and old-time mountain music.
His new album, "What to Fear," was released in March of this year and is another beautiful showcase of his stellar songwriting ability. Watkins will play at The Belfry in Sisters on May 17, and took time out of his busy schedule to talk to the Source about his music, direction and what to expect at his upcoming show.
Source Weekly: Has music always been a part of your life? The ease and comfort you show onstage seems earned through a lifetime of doing it.
Sean Watkins: Yes, it has. I started playing on stage when I was 9. I've gone through various levels of being comfortable on stage but at this point I feel better than ever. It's really fun to get up on stage with a good listening audience and just go with the flow. It's like hosting a party. You have to read the room and vibes and work with it and if you find the right balance and the crowd goes home happy, it's extremely satisfying. Source: Will the show be primarily stuff from "What to Fear," or will you be doing pieces from Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour and some of your other projects?
Watkins: I do about half the songs on "What To Fear" and also a smattering of other stuff. A couple Nickel Creek songs, songs from "All I Do Is Lie" and a cover or two.
Source: What would you be doing if you weren't playing music?
Watkins: I hesitate to even imagine but I'm going to go with park ranger.
Source: Would you do another tour like The Watkins Family Hour where you have a special guest on tour with you, like you had with Fiona Apple, or would you focus on the core crew?
Watkins: Well, Fiona is a part of the core crew. Not everyone in the core crew can make every show, even when we're doing our hometown residence at Largo. The main thing about the family hour is the mixing of musicians. Mixing in new ways. The more unlikely, the better.
Source: Do you have a favorite style of music? You bounce so easily between genres that I was curious whether you felt more at home in folk, bluegrass, blues?
Watkins: Bluegrass and new/acoustic/folk, whatever you want to call it, will always be my musical home, but I always will be branching out into new areas. I like good music and any kind of music can be good as well as bad. Music, like any art, is about conveying a feeling, and why would you want to feel the same feeling all the time? I don't understand the mindset of being into only one kind of music. Why limit yourself in that way?
Source: Working on any more classic covers like "Not in Nottingham?" I was really happy I got to see that last time you played here.
Watkins: The two covers I have been singing lately are "Walk Away, Renee," by Left Banke and "I Go To Pieces," by Peter and Gordon.
Source: How would you describe one of your shows to someone who isn't familiar with your music? What should they expect?
Watkins: Transcendence. Hah, sorry. Um, I don't know, some stories, some songs, some bluegrass flat picking and good vibes all around.
Tuesday, May 17, 6 p.m.
The Belfry 302 E Main Ave., Sisters