When Nickel Creek broke up in 2007, fans were devastated that Chris Thile, along with Sara and Sean Watkins, wouldn't be dropping any more country-tinged progressive bluegrass earworms. While the individual members were always prolific in other super groups, it was Nickel Creek that brought the musicians most of their fanbase. I discovered the Watkins through my favorite podcast, "Thrilling Adventure Hour," where they brought their perfect blend of old-timey textures and crisp musicality to the funniest hour of my week.
They eventually launched their own podcast, "The Watkins Family Hour," in which they combined bluegrass, country, storytelling, folk and some incredible guests for a magnificent gumbo of music and comedy. Last year, The Watkins Family Hour came through Bend with Fiona Apple lending some vocals and the brilliant Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing) on bass.
Earlier this year, Sean Watkins brought his powerhouse guitar and vocals through Bend on a solo tour and gave one hell of a performance. And now, we have Sara Watkins making her way through Central Oregon on her own solo tour. Whether she is making your spirit soar with her fiddle, breaking your heart with her unmistakable, inimitable voice or leading you through the worst day of your life with her guitar, Sara Watkins remains a musical genius.
With Nickel Creek reforming in 2014 and Sara releasing a brilliant new album, "Young in All the Wrong Ways," in July, her music is evolving and her indispensable role in the music scene is only becoming more defined. SW had a chance to talk with Sara about collaboration, her new record and how to stay sane on tour. Here's an excerpt from that conversation.
Source Weekly: How's the tour been so far?
Sara Watkins: It's been great. It's been mostly festivals and day trips. The first big leg of the four-week tour will begin in about a week down here and we'll move on up to Oregon.
SW: Congratulations on "Young in All the Wrong Ways." It's a beautiful album. How has it been playing these songs live? Have you been finding new avenues through these songs?
SW: Yeah, I have! It's been fun to explore the songs with different musicians onstage and this trio that I'm touring with is really exciting. I feel like we're going to cover a lot of ground. We're still noticing changes that we're making and ways that we're adapting to each other. We're having a good time with it.
SW: Can you tell me more about who you're touring with?
SW: I'm going to be playing a lot of guitar as well as some fiddle and ukulele for the show. David Garza (who played with us in Bend last time) is going to do a lot of guitar and keys and bass. A guy I haven't played with very much named Michael Libramento, from Asheville, North Carolina, is going to be playing a lot of drums and keyboard and bass.
SW: Can you tell me a little about the inspiration for the new record? Were there thematic areas you wanted to explore when you went into it or did that come out in the songwriting?
SW: It came out in the songwriting. Nickel Creek came out with an album a few years ago ("A Dotted Line") that had the song "Destination" on it. I feel like that song makes so much sense in the context of these songs and vice versa. I feel like it's from a similar place. It all makes total sense to me, sonically and vibe-wise. Honestly, these songs were dictated by the lyrics. It was a more aggressive time in life in that it was a time where I realized I needed to be more proactive in a lot of areas in my life in ways I had denied. I didn't mean to not be proactive but I had stalled out in some areas and I wanted to make some progress and move on. I wanted to cover some new ground in many areas. I think it is a little different from my other records but I wouldn't ever want to repeat myself. That's never as satisfying as covering new ground. Not doing something new just for the sake of doing something new, but just not being interested in repeating myself.
SW: Is there something that kind of keeps you sane on the road? Something that keeps it fresh for you?
SW: You have to have something, whether it's a good book or maybe you exercise every day or you search for the best food. I like to have some outside time. To get out into the real world and go for a hike or a run or something. To just be alone outside. Bend is actually great for that. It's been helpful for me in recharging things. Not for a very long time, just a little bit. It's nice to have a quest when you get to a town like finding great pastries or a great farmer's market or local beer. Whatever local thing helps you experience the town you're in for a very short time. You have hours and hours of driving time and you try and do a little research so you can get a taste of the town in the very few minutes before you sound check and do a show.
Thursday, Sept. 15, 8pm
Volcanic Theatre Pub,
70 SW Century Dr., Bend
$20 adv., $25 door