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Sara Watkins “Change was going to happen...”


A Prairie Home Companion; is now married and has toured extensively as a solo artist. But as I sat across the table from her at her London hotel, she explained that after 18 years as part of Nickel Creek, being in the studio and on the road alone, still feels a little alien at times. “Occasionally it feels more natural than others but I enjoy it. I think it’s helped to have been part of several different shows and the Watkins Family Hour has been very useful for helping me to be a little bit more forward with the audience and appear that I’m running things sometimes, even though Sean [Watkins] is leading the band. And when I toured with the Decemberists last year, their frontman, Colin Meloy, is so captivating from an audience perspective, he engages with them in a way that I hadn’t seen before. The same with Garrison [Keillor], he gives so much to his audience. They’re both so generous and I learnt so much about what I want to do and how I want to be with the crowd.” It seems that she has not only begun to find her feet as a


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front-woman but also as a studio artist. Her second album, SUN MIDNIGHT SUN, shows her firmly in the driving seat, with the self-assurance to pay homage to her traditional roots but to also explore other directions and take a few risks along the way. The vision for this album began when Sara met the album’s producer, 25 year old, multi-instrumentalist, Blake Mills. “I met Blake through mutual friends at a Sunday night music party and


46 Maverick


n the three years that have passed since the release of Sara Watkins’ first solo album, a lot has changed. She’s turned 30; made her radio presenting debut on Garrison Keillor’s


he started coming down to the Family Hour and I just really liked it. I liked what he added to the songs we were playing and I liked the turn things took when he was added to the mix. So I asked him to produce some songs and we ended up doing the whole thing!” It seems that from the outset, Watkins knew she wanted to spread her wings with this album, but self- production was not an option for her as she felt it would be “…a little boring…” if everything on the album came from her, so the change in sound was somewhat of a conscious decision; she just needed someone to help her move the songs along. She continued: “I was aware that the change was going to


happen, simply because so much time had passed and I’ve been playing with so many different people, the songs started to lean a certain way. I asked Blake to produce the album because I had in mind certain things that I wanted him to bring; like, he’s a really great guitarist with electro-acoustic, and he’s really creative with different tones in the studio, and versatile and I trusted his musicianship. I wanted his perspective, so bringing in this new ingredient, I knew it was going to shake things up quite a bit. So I wasn’t trying to be something I haven’t got to be yet, I was just trying to spice it up a little and see what happened.” Apart from a change in producer, a new band was brought


in. Keeping the core as herself, brother Sean and also Mills, the rest of the album was formed around them, bringing in the likes of Jackson Browne and Fiona Apple to add additional instruments and vocals. Although the album still has traditional folk instruments as its base, Sara has made wise and interesting choices with the covers that have been included on this outing.


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