Journal

I Have Goals, People

Last November, while I was playing in the UK as the touring behind my 2009 solo record was winding down, I was sort of wondering what 2011 would hold.  It was definitely time to start work on my second record, but having been on the road for much of the previous year and a half, I hadn’t had time focus my thoughts on what my follow up record would sound like  While over there in England somewhere, I opened an email to see that The Decemberists were inviting me to join their 2011 touring, as part of their band!  What a crazy idea to me.

Aside from a sleepy hello (when the Nickel Creek and the Decemberists’ buses crossed paths on tour once at a truck stop in who-knows-where) I hadn’t met them, but they seemed like cool folks, I liked the new record a lot and I had free time so at the end of the day i thought, “sure, why not!”  I’m so glad I made that decision.  I played as their sideman on their tours from January thru August and got to hit a drum, play a little baritone guitar, and fake my way on a few other instruments as well.  They were so generous and fun to be with.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Jenny, Colin, Funk, Nate, John – Thank you!!  The day after the last show with the D’s I flew to Alaska (the most beautiful state, sorry everyone else) to join Garrison and A Prairie Home Companion for the last leg of their Summer Love Tour.  It was great. I love those guys.

i had goals for my time on tour with the Decemberists.  I wanted rest and catch up with myself, I wanted to find music that I hadn’t heard yet, and then – to focus on writing.

I have really enjoyed putting this collection of songs together and in December I’m going to go in the studio, somewhere in LA, and record the suckers.  But first, my brother Sean and I will be opening for the Blind Boys of Alabama in November and mid December so keep a look out for us!

June 28

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Hello everyone – happy summer!  The day here in Carlsbad, California is overcast, but bright, my hands smell like fabric softener and cinnamon.  I am happy at home.

It’s been a wonderful year, I’ve been working a lot, mostly as a sideman in The Decemberists.  Everyone in the band and crew have been very welcoming to me and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Earlier this year I went with them to the UK and Ireland with a stop in Amsterdam and Antwerp.
I LOVED Antwerp. On the morning we arrived at the venue in Antwerp, I hitched a ride with a friend of a friend, and just wondered around.  No GPS, no phone, in a town I’d never been . . . I hadn’t done that in a while.  It was early enough in the day I knew I had time to get myself lost and then find my way back before soundcheck so I took a picture of a town map (just in case) and off I went.  Wondering in a strange European town, tiny street to crooked tiny street. The smells, the people, the clothes . . .   There’s something about getting lost in a city when you have no particular place to be. I was in heaven.

I did make it back in time for soundcheck as well, which is good, because The Decemberists are a punctual band.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s like they are considerate, grown-ups . . . all be them silly grown-ups.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival is one of the festivals where a lot of folks feel Iike they grew up.  I certainly relate to that.  It’s a special place and a very well run festival with a great staff and thrilled festivarians.  In addition to the main stage, there is also a smaller stage at the town park.  I was asked to put together a “Sara and Friends” set and had invited a bunch of friends to come down to play with me, and low and behold, they all showed up, instruments in hand! I was delighted to say the least and had great time. Thanks to all of them.

 

Later that afternoon, at the Decemberists show on the main stage, it felt really good to be showing so many of my bluegrass friends what I’d been up to this year.

Right after finishing with the Decemberists, I will be joining Garrison Keillor on the Summer Love Tour again!   I did this last year with the folks from Prairie Home Companion and am very happy to do it again. Later this summer and into the fall, Sean and I will be touring across the country with the Blind Boys from Alabama.

All this touring with the D’s has been really great for my creative health. I have fewer off-stage responsibilities, so I’ve been able to read, listen to music, and ultimately, write my next record which I plan to record when I’m home this fall.

A couple months ago we learned that beloved Jenny Conley (Decemberist keyboardist and accordion player) was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is currently undergoing treatment so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.  We all hope to have her back out on tour as soon as she’s able, and I hope to see you out there as well.
Be well everyone.
xo
Sara

Wrapping It Up

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Closing night of Much Ado About Nothing was on Sunday and I’m very grateful for all involved for giving me a glimpse of what goes into a theater production.  I had a wonderful three weeks!  The Kirk Douglas crew hosted a potluck last Sat, between the matinee and evening performances.  Here is a picture of me and Lyle holding left overs of his crepe contribution.

Much Ado About So Many Things

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It’s been busy, busy, busy in LA for me since Thanksgiving.

After 3 productive and beautiful weeks in the UK, playing shows as a duo with my brother Sean, we flew home and jumped directly into rehearsals for a production of Much Ado About Nothing.   This strange opportunity is the most recent in a string of diverse gigs that came my way this year.

Five week so of touring with the Prairie Home Companion gave me new friends, and an even larger respect for Garrison and the team of people who put on that radio show. The whole tour was a great experience.

Our time in the UK was rad.  The generous and hard working Joe Rusby tour managed, and drove us around and ran the house sound at all the gigs. It’s fun traveling in a small group because it is more likely we will all be game, if one of us has a whim to go see what’s down that road, or pull over for some tea or leave early so we can sight see.

With just six more performances of Much Ado left, I’m starting to get into the Christmas Spirit.  We rehearsed for the Watkins Family Hour Christmas Show yesterday and I’m really excited about one song in particular :)

I am delighted to announce that  starting in January, I will be joining the DECEMBERISTS on tour.  The tour will extend through summertime and will take me to Europe and, for the first time, I get to visit Australia!!

The adventures continue ladies and gentlemen…  More January excitement to be announced soon!!

Stonehenge

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Having a great time touring in the England.  Our friend Joe Rusby has been driving us around and running sound at the shows and I’ve enjoyed doing duo shows with Sean.  The drives have been beautiful and we’ve even gotten to do some sight-seeing including a stop at Stonehenge!! It’s just right there, at a fork in the road.  We listened to the recorded tour in headphones they gave out at the gate. It’s amazing what they historians have learned about Stonehenge, but I also love the mystery that still cover’s it.

I’ma Be in the Movies

It’s mostly root vegetables, green beans and broccoli at the Saint Paul downtown farmers market today.  I’m here for A Prairie Home Companion’s cinecast, which is when APHC is filmed in high def and broadcast in movie theaters across the country! Many showings have sold out and some theaters are re-showing the cinecast on Monday! Sean is here with me, and our friends Old Crow Medicine Show and Andra Suchy are here as well, which makes it extra good time.

I went to Macy’s today to visit a coat I’d been eyeing last time I was in town. This time, thinking specifically about our trip to the UK, I bought it.

Hope to see you guys out there on the road! Come up and say hi if you make it out!  Here is where I will be! Sara

The Beginnings of Summer Love

Two weeks into the Summer Love tour and today I feel, for the first time that I can sit back and think on the whirl-wind that tour has brought me so far.  Before the first show, we gathered in a music room at the Keillor home, and hashed through a pile of material.  We gave almost every song that fit our criteria a fair shot and pick our favorite duets, silly, sweet, and heartbroken songs.  I was a little nervous and, quite honestly, the nerves did not recede until we were five or six shows into the tour.

Each night there are little, and sometimes big, adjustments in the show.  This makes it really fun, but also, for me (an complete novice at this sort of program) my brain had to adapt fairly quickly.

In short – i’m having a BLAST and am completely impressed with how Garrison puts the show together every night balancing all the options PHC has: sketches, songs, sonnets, stories, more songs, Ketchup, Guy Noir and of course, the monologue.  In Interlochen, I went for a night swim in the lake, in Salt Lake City, a storm came on us which stage nearly blew off the mountain!  I’ve interviewed picnickers  who brought beautiful dinners, or KFC to the show which the watched from a grassy hillside, and I’ve seen them smile all night long even through the occasional downpour.  Garrison knows exactly how to please his audience.

Last night we played in my hometown of San Diego and today I write you on our day off, from my very own couch while the laundry finishes the last cycle. Tomorrow we head up the west coast and then curve back toward the center of the country.

Nic Vetter has been taking some great pictures every night and posting them on the APHC website, so its been fun for us to check every couple days. I hope you guys can make it to a show, it’s so much fun for me!

0 – 4 Weeks in 3 Days

The weeks at home have been restful and productive. The super talented and sweet band Crooked Still came to southern California on their tour and stuck around on their off day with us in LA to be our guests at the Watkins Family Hour!  I love those guys.  We hung out all afternoon at the house, rehearsing and working up new songs to do together.  The show came together really.  What a great night.  I also got to be the musical guest for the Nerdist live podcast.  Man those guys are funny.  Craig Ferguson was the other guest.  I don’t know when it will be released, but will keep you posted.

Just a few more days at home and then I hit the road for a little over a month.  The first week of the tour will be with the whole band!  We’re kicking it off in Brownfield, ME at the Stone Mnt Arts Center – about which I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from other bands who have played there.  After that we’ll go to the  Clearwater Festival in NY, Fall River, MA for the first time, Joe’s Pub in Manhattan (with a special guest!), back to Sellersville, PA and finishing the tour in New Haven, CT.  This is going to be sort of a celebration week for us, since it will be the last tour this year as a four piece. (Our friends know us as Sara Y Los Pantalones).  So come on out and we’ll all have a great time together!!

After a teary goodbye to Sebastian and Don, my brother and I will fly down to North Carolina to join up with Dar Williams for a few weeks!  We’ll be paling around, riding all over southeast and midwest with them.  Its going to be a lot of fun, I’m sure.

Follow me on the road on twitter @SaraWatkins
And while you’re at it, check out  Crooked Still | Some Strange Country

…Happy Birthday to You…

. . . Happy Birthday dear record, happy birthday tooooooo yooooooou.
on April 7th my record turned one year old.  Time does fly. Actually, I sort of feel like its been two years since it’s release, but you know you can’t always trust your feelings.

So far 2010, has been a flurry of variety.  I’ve spent lots of time in LA, opening and headlining out on the road, I went on my first cruise (a rad music festival on a ship called Cayamo) . . .

A couple weeks ago my brother, Sean and I were asked to join Jackson Browne who was to be supplying the music for a benefit performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have put this event on for 20 years now, each year they perform a different Shakespeare piece with a different group of Hollywood actors.
They did an amazing job.  We ran thru the entire play twice during the day, ate a quick dinner and then it was time for the real thing.  I’ve never seen acting or a production like this develop, much less so speedily.  Big name actors worked through the Shakespeare and so quickly adopted the minor direction given to them, remembering it, and then also improvising.  The play itself is so clever and there was a whole lot of hilarious ad-libbing. I had a blast.

Today I’m working on finishing the details for the upcoming week and a half tour.  We fly out tomorrow and I should already be done with the advancing, but I’m not.

The last several days have been gorgeous and my husband’s family has been visiting from VA; there are simply better things to do than labor over how much I should bid on Priceline for a Boston hotel room.  However, gear must be rented, and arrangements must be made, so today I have pecked away much harder at my lump of chores.  I’d better finish by tomorrow.

I will be trying out some new material on tour, for sure. Last time I was on A Prairie Home Companion I  played a new songs I wrote with Jon Foreman. Well, I can’t believe it, but APHC is having me back a couple more times this spring! I think I’m going to throw an other new one in the batch. Listen for me on April 24th!
Hope you’re all well!
Sara

Transatlantic Sessions

Greetings from Glasgow, Scotland.  I really like this city.

The days have been gorgeous and clear and I heard it didn’t rain at all for the entire two and a half weeks of the Celtic Connections festival.

I arrived early on Wednesday morning and had the entire day off to settle in and get sorted.  Walking around, stretching out away from the hotel, little, ghosts-like memeories came to me from Nickel Creek days: Walking on Buchanan with Mandy and Chris in 2006, and then I came to a dirt parking lot and had a quick vision of seeing it about eight years ago on our first visti to Glasgow.  I know it now as the corner before Gandolfi’s Cafe.

I was invited to Celtic Connections to be a part of the Translantic Sessions, a fantastic show organized by Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain involving a batch of muscians from Ireland, Scotland, England, the States and other countreis as well.  The 11 piece band had two rehearsals to put the show together and, let me tell you, the rehearsal on Thursday was just heavenly.  My main job is to sing a few songs and jump in on harms, although I get to sit in with the fiddle on a few songs too :)

The Transalantic Session band is Jerry Douglas, Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, Tim O’Brien, Russ Barenberg, Mike McGoldrick, Bruce Molsky, Danny Thompson, Donald Shaw, James Mackintosh and John Doyle.  Good LORD!  Most of these guys have been musical heroes for me and the others are quicky becoming so.  The singing guests are Dan Tyminski, Karen Matheson, Eddi Reader, Mollie O’Brien, Darrel Scott and myself.  When we aren’t singing or playing, we all sit on a couple couches on stage with a couple bottles of wine and enjoy the concert.  It’s amazing

Just before my second batch of songs, Karen leavs us all in tears singing her verson of a gaelic song (the name of which I don’t know how to spell on my english keyboard) is about a children’s cemetery. Right after that Tim sings Hey Joe…You have to understand, the way Tim sings that song is so wickedly awesome, I can’t sit still!  I get so amped up I’m in no condition to do anything but run in circles – certainlty not in a good place to sing a sad, mellow song.  It took me until the third verse to sink into it last night.  I have to figure out how to deal with it.

There have been very late night jam sessions.  Last night I went down to the hotel lobby to find Mollie, Eddi, and Karen singing old songs and new ones – accompanied by Phil Cunningham on the accordion.  What a beautiful sound.

We start on the first ever Transatlantic tour tomorow!  Manchester, Gateshead, Belfast, Birmingham and then London.  Traveling in planes, trains and automobiles – it’s going to be a blast!