Sarah Watkins | Award-Winning Nickel Creek Vocalist Releases New Album & Talks About It
March 23, 2009
Dr. Kent: That’s a beautiful tune off of a brand new upcoming album by Sarah Watkins and that’s of course Any Old Time, by Jimmy Rogers if I’m right! Welcome to the show Sarah Watkins!
Sarah Watkins: Hello! How are you doing?
Dr. Kent: I’m doing pretty well. So I didn’t know the name of that track when I put it in, all I knew was track 6 and track 9 of the upcoming album and of course that’s Any Old Time. Tell me about that tune.
Sarah Watkins: Well I heard that song off Tony Rice record. I think it was church street blues, his recording of that song and I just loved it and over the years of songs that I liked it sort of stuck around and ended up on the record. It was really fun to record. Tim O’Brien is on there too and that was fun to do.
Dr. Kent: Yeah, Tim O’Brien is the best. So lets get into right away, now you’ve been in the bluegrass scene for a long time for somebody whose 27 years old.
Sarah Watkins: Yeah, I grew up playing in a band called Nickel Creek and we were together from the time I was eight until a little over a year ago now so this is my first solo record and that’s actually the only song of that style on the record. Most of it well there’s a lot of different things on there, but that is definitely the only two-steppable song on there.
Dr. Kent: I love the steel guitar and nickel creek towards the end was also you were starting to develop a real edgy sound and do some really interesting things and of course Chris Telay has gone off and done his own stuff; incredible mandolin player and you are a great fiddle player. Do we hear some good fiddle playing on this album?
Sarah Watkins: Well there’s fiddle playing, you be the judge of how good it is! But its yeah, there’s a couple fiddle tunes on there and true to form when doing interviews on the phone there’s always a siren that goes by whenever I’m on the phone with somebody. I hope it’s not too loud but yeah a couple fiddle tunes on there and I play a good amount on the record actually, probably on almost every song. That steel stuff is awesome, Greg Reese plays all the steel stuff on the record and he’s amazing.
Dr. Kent: So is there a point in your career when you started playing with people and saying wow, these are some amazing musicians and on this record of course you’re being produced by John Paul Jones and you’ve got all these amazing musicians. Tim O’Brien singing harmony vocals, Gillian Welsh and David Rawlings on here, I mean at what point in your career did you all of a sudden say man, its pretty fun?
Sarah Watkins: Oh a long time ago I started saying yeah. It’s been great especially this last year working on this year working on this record has been really special and I’m so grateful and so glad to have all these musicians play on it who I have known and loved for a very long time. Some of them I know on a more personal level than others, but everybody who’s on this record means something to me, professionally, personally, very often both. I’m so grateful to have that kind of connection with the record where I wasn’t necessarily having to pay for everything just to get it the way I wanted to buy the help that I needed to have. It has so much more of a more personal attachment to me because I love Greg Reese, I love playing with him, I’ve had the privilege of playing with him over the last five years and now his music is a part of my life and I could say that about every musician on this record. Each one of them has a special place in my life, whether it’s just musically I’ve grown up listening to them or I’ve just played with them over the years. It was great to have Shawn & Mark Shaft and Christie Lee on the record, which have been for so very long, so there’s a deep attachment to all these songs and the performances that came out on the record.
Dr. Kent: Here’s a question for you; Shawn is your brother, right?
Sarah Watkins: Yes.
Dr. Kent: Being on the road with him and Christie Lee and your bass player when you were young and being on the road, did you get into some pretty vicious fights?
Sarah Watkins: Oh yeah, of course, every brother and sister and brother obviously get into fights and every band gets into lots of fights so it’s a great combination to have both in there! but we also I don’t know if you have siblings but most people that I talk to, the best part about having siblings that you get along with on any level is you can have these huge blow out fights and just five minutes later you’re like alright, you’re my brother, your still here, hang out and move on to the next thing. That’s a really great relationship to have in a band because you do live together and you’re traveling on the road and that’s a helpful basis for a relationship.
Dr. Kent: Did you ever get sick of it? Like the Ben Claiborne complex where he was famous so young and said I got to get out of the public eye. Was there a time when you said this is too much?
Sarah Watkins: No, I’m not in the public eye. I mean nickel creek fans were really enthusiastic and totally into us and they made us feel like rock stars but that is a very small world and I don’t think we ever felt like it was too much for us or that it was an unreasonable amount of exposure. The world is very big and nickel creek was very small so we didn’t have to deal with it. I felt that I got tired of touring a lot because in that machine there’s five or seven years where I had not been home more than two months at a time and very often it was only a week or two weeks at a time. After awhile it changes your relationships with your friends and family and I got tired of that. So it’s nice to be home for over a year and be able to nourish those relationships back to functionality [inaudible]. That was what I got tired of and I’m really glad to have had some time and now I’m actually ready to go back out again and really excited for the record and all that.
Dr. Kent: What’s it like so far the difference for you between being on the road with Nickel Creek and now being out there under Sarah Watkins, your own name?
Sarah Watkins: It’s a huge difference. I’ve done limited amounts of touring by myself, I went out and opened for a few people this year; for [inaudible], and a couple others and its completely terrifying at first and then after awhile, I started remembering I can do this, this is fine, people do this, I can do this. It’s a matter of getting used to it and making changes in how I perform and I can learn how to be a better entertainer. Its an adjustment but its really fun to realize more and more that I actually can do it and I’m not going to be out there all by myself a whole lot this year, I’ll be out with one, two or three other people depending on the trip, or if I open for somebody or do my own show, I’ll have a band. It’ll be a huge range of situations this year and I’m looking forward to experimenting with each scenario and just you know having fun with it.
Dr. Kent: Tell me about this record. Its self titled as far as I can tell and it’s coming out on the None Such Label. We heard one song off it, you’re western swing tune, tell me about the rest of the tunes.
Sarah Watkins: Well half are mine and half are songs that I borrowed from other songwriters and they’re not terribly far off from Nickel Creek stuff, except there’s not much mandolin because one you play with Chris Deeley it’s hard to play with others and we have the shining crewship of [inaudible] playing mandolin and John Paul Jones on one. So it’s represented. Chris plays mandola but the songs I wrote are well, you’re just going to have to listen to find out. It’s not super crazy but I was glad to be able to play some songs that my friends had written that have come close to my heart in recent years and it’s good to record them.
Dr. Kent: Immediately once you’re in the process of getting on the road to support an album, you’re already thinking about the next album because it’s been so long since you recorded that one. Are you already planning the next one?
Sarah Watkins: I’m not planning it. I kind of feel like I’m not ready to start packing away ideas but I’m looking forward to it and I’m always trying to gather songs and thinking about what the next step will be but I’m actually still very anxious to look forward to see what happens with this record. Since it’s my first one I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know if I’ll be touring this summer or working throughout the year, it depends on how people respond. I’m just taking it day by day, month by month and see what happens.
Dr. Kent: Now you got a couple shows coming up – you had one last night in LA and you have a couple more coming up?
Sarah Watkins: Yeah, when I’m home off the road, we have a residency in Los Angeles at a club called Largo, which has basically my home club. Shawn, my brother and I played there for six or seven years but we used to be our little outlet from nickel creek when we were off the road, it was our way of playing non-band material, songs we liked. It was a safe plays to spin with songs we had written which we maybe hadn’t finished developing and since the bands off tour, we’ve played there more often. Basically almost every Thursday we play so yeah, next month until I start traveling more promoting my record.
Dr. Kent: Awesome! The record’s called Sarah Watkins, it’s on None Such Records, and it’s coming out April 7, is that still right?
Sarah Watkins: That’s correct, yep!
Dr. Kent: I’m excited to listen to it and now you don’t know what track 9 is do you? That’s what we’re about to play?
Sarah Watkins: Oh shoot track 9, there are fourteen tracks on there so I have no idea what track 9 is actually.
Dr. Kent: Okay well we’ll be surprised then. It’s been such an honor chatting with Sarah Watkins of the very well known group Nickel Creek, with her own upcoming solo record, Sarah Watkins. Thank you so much for chatting with me.
Sarah Watkins: Thank you.
Dr. Kent: Let’s listen to track 9 off Sarah’s upcoming solo album.
Dr. Kent: That was a gorgeous track off the upcoming album by Sarah Watkins; its self titled on the None Such Label and we chatted with her about time with Nickel Creek and her upcoming tour and all of that with the new record. Go out and buy that record, it’s beautiful. Amazing vocal tracks; some originals and beautiful fiddle tunes like that one. Thank you so much for tuning in to Sound Authors today, this is Dr. Kent and enjoy these last days of winter. Pick up a good book.