Singer-songwriter-fiddler Sara Watkins to open for Jackson Browne at Luhrs

August 05, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • California native Sara Watkins will open for Jackson Browne at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University. She has been playing the fiddle since she was 6.
Submitted photo

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Singer-songwriter and fiddle player Sara Watkins is known best for being one-third of the Grammy Award-winning bluegrass band Nickel Creek.

In 2007, the band decided to take a break. But Watkins' career was by no means on hold, and decided to launch her solo career.

"It wasn't hard at all (to go solo) and I love it," she said during a telephone interview while stopping in Philadelphia for her tour. "Largely, if you're in one band, you should be in two bands. You should have something else that you can jump into."

In 2009, Watkins officially stepped out on her own with her self-titled debut that was met with critical acclaim.

She spent some time with Garrison Keillor on his nationwide "Summer Love" tour, and spent about seven months touring with the Decemberists.

Watkins' calls her time with the Decemberists "super fun."

"I was able to absorb new things, and listen to things very crucial for a second record," she said.

In May, Watkins followed up with her sophomore album, "Sun Midnight Sun," which is also garnering the performer more accolades.

As part of her new tour, Watkins will open Tuesday, Aug. 7, for singer-songwriter Jackson Browne at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa.

An old friend of Watkins', Browne has an uncredited appearance on her album. She got to know him through the Watkins Family Hour, where artists perform at the Largo, a music and comedy club in Los Angeles. California native Watkins co-hosts the show with brother Sean Watkins.

Watkins said Browne lives nearby to the club, and said she's amazed by the singer-songwriter.

"I'm blown away by the quality of his voice," she said. "It's gotten better."

Watkins also calls Browne a "very generous" artist, and will often be collaborating on stage with other artists. She said they'll do the same while at their stop at Luhrs.

Watkins said she has learned from Browne, but not in the traditional sense.

"The thing you learn from people like Jackson is that you don't sit down in the corner and have a heart to heart," she said, "you watch what they do."

Fiona Apple also performs on Watkins' new album. Apple is featured on the track "You're the One I Love."

Watkins said as part of Nickel Creek they toured with Apple. Apple has also been a regular at the Watkins Family Hour.

Watkins said Apple is inspiring. She said the first time she saw the Grammy Award-winning performer, "it was a total changer."

"I hadn't seen a singer that comes into each song with such heart and conviction," she said.

Multi-instrumentalist Blake Mills contributes music, vocals, songwriting and arranging, and  produced "Sun Midnight Sun," someone Watkins' was introduced through the Watkins Family Hour.

Watkins said she wanted Mills to be part of her record because she had specific goals in mind for "Sun Midnight Sun."

"I wanted to involve a lot of new sounds and have the instruments played that I hadn't had on any records before," she said.

For instance, she said, she wanted drums on the album, but she didn't want the sound to revolve around the drums, which are usually used as a foundation to the sound of a song.

"I wanted them to be put on after the fact," she said. "I wanted each song to start with foundation of Blake and my brother Sean's acoustic guitar and me. And I wanted the songs to be able to be just held up by that performance and just go from there."

As Watkins continues on her career path, one thing will remain — her fiddle. She was introduced to the instrument when she was 2, asked her parents for lessons at age 4, but her parents put it off until she was 6.

"I can get lost in playing the fiddle. I know how to say things that I want to say on the fiddle. But there's also a lot of things that I don't know how to say," she said. "It's a balance of competence enough to express yourself, but always having to know how to better express yourself. It's kind of like speaking a language, and you can have conversations, but you're always looking for that word you don't really know."

If you go ...

What: Sara Watkins, opening for Jackson Browne

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7

Where: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

Cost: $45 to $69.

Contact: 717-477-7469 or go to

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