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Grammy award winning singer, songwriter, and fiddler Sara Watkins stopped by the WERS studios for an exclusive live mix on her “day off” from a rigorous national tour and fresh off of her main stage appearance at the Newport Folk Festival this past weekend. Watkins first came on to the American music scene in 1989 as a member of the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek alongside her older brother Sean and Chris Thile. Five studio albums later, Nickel Creek went on hiatus and Watkins began her solo career with Nonesuch Records in 2009. Watkins still works with her brother and he joined her in the studio today whereas Thile has gone on to other projects like the Punch Brothers (another Newport featured group).
Watkins started off the live set this afternoon with “You and Me” off of her newest solo album Sun Midnight Sun that was released in May of this year. Watkins’ vocals were soft and delicate as she sang, “The night flowers bloomed/the air so sweet/I remember you/I remember me.” The next track she played was “The Foothills,” an instrumental track that kicks off her new album. The fiddle resting on Watkins’ shoulder was just like another limb of hers. Her technical skills really shined particularly on this instrumental track, Watkins is a natural and makes even the fastest parts of the song seem effortless.
Watkins wrapped up the short and sweet live mix with a beautiful cover of “You’re the One I Love” by the Everly Brothers. The track is featured on her new album Sun Midnight Sun with Fiona Apple as a guest vocalist. While Apple could not be with Watkins in studio today, her brother did a fantastic job substituting. When Watkins sings about love and relationships she manages to make it sincere and not cheesy at all – even on the cover track when the words aren’t her own – proving her maturity as an artist and an individual.
When she’s not touring with Jackson Browne, Watkins hosts a monthly event that has come to be known at the Watkins Family Hour. The event originally started nearly a decade ago in Los Angeles and serves as a platform to try out new songs with friends and fellow musicians to get feedback. Watson says she almost relies on it now when writing new material and credits it for her collaboration with Apple.
Reflecting on her set this weekend at Newport Watkins said, “[Newport] is a great festival to play; it’s definitely one of my top five favorite festivals. Because of its size, you get a chance to see most of the bands you want to see, and a bunch of my friends were there so I got a chance to catch up with them all weekend.” Watkins explained that one of her favorite things about Newport is the attitude it gives off. “It’s a collaborative festival, they encourage people to play together on each other’s sets and are careful to plan it so sets don’t overlap.”
Watkins is currently finishing off the summer on tour with Jackson Browne.