A lot of roots music lovers have watched Sara Watkins (and her brother Sean) grow up, personally and professionally, over the past couple of decades. As members of Nickel Creek and the Watkins Family Hour band, the two are bound together in many hearts and minds. But they both have solo careers, as well, and Sara’s new set, Young in All the Wrong Ways, does much to establish her singular, crystalline voice, literally and musically. The impressive collection marks a stepping out for her… and a coming of age.
What was different about your songwriting approach on this set?
There was a point that I started to become aware that songs were starting to come out, and I could feel that I still had more to say. This led to a chunk of time in which, whenever I could, I’d wake up around 7:30 or 8, make coffee, and — without looking at my phone to check email, texts or news — sit outside at a table with a guitar and some paper. I got some good work done out there.
Did you have a sonic vision going in or did that evolve?
The sonic vision was pretty broad strokes. It was more about getting the right musicians in the room together. That was the primary focus. I knew this wouldn’t be a solo-heavy record. I knew there wouldn’t be a ton of fiddle on it, but wanted it to feel more orchestral.
There are quite a few different styles on this thing, but it comes off as cohesive. What conscious choices did you make to tie them together?
Thank you. This is the first of my records on which I wrote or co-wrote all the songs. I think it helps that the lyrical voice is consistent throughout. Even though the album covers a lot of subjects over time, it all came through me.
“Move Me” feels like the biggest curve ball of the collection. How does it feel to push yourself — and your voice — to that edge? And how do people respond to it?
Interesting. I love singing “Move Me.” It comes out pretty naturally live. Audiences have been receptive to this new material — it’s been great touring so far and there is much more to do.
Because you regularly collaborate with Sean, do you guys strategize together on the timing of all your various projects, or do you each just go with the flow?
You know, we actually do a little bit. We had to take a five-month break from our monthly Watkins Family Hour residency in L.A. because our tours were directly opposite from each other. He’d come home from his tour and the next day I’d leave for my tour. It was ridiculous. Now we have started to try and coordinate a few breaks here and there in our touring so we can keep the Family Hour fairly consistent.