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!

You May Know Me From the Hall Of Fame



I hope you’re winter has been safe and sound.

I have been home, off tour, since early December and loving every minute of it.  I’d be bored, but fortunately, there have been many musical activities in LA and a few fun sessions have popped into my schedule too!  For Christmas my husband and I went back to Virginia Beach to visit his wonderful family, and on New Years Eve, we, and a small, last minute, group of friends played scrabble and banged pots and pans out in the street with my neighbors.

Thank you to all of the people who came out to my 100+ shows last year.  It was a surprise and honor that you came out every night.

After that chunk of touring, however, I was pretty tired.  This is the first week where I’ve been antsy to get back out there, this is convenient timing because I leave next week for Celtic Connections in Glasgow!  I’ve played this two week long festival once before and had a wonderful time.  This year I was invited to join the Transatlantic Session in which I get to play with a huge list of beautiful music makers including Aly Bain, Tim and Mollie O’Brien, Michael McGoldrick, Jerry Douglas and Eddi Reader.

We’re actually going on a little tour in the UK and Ireland a well!  The weather will be cold but the Guiness will not.  Thank heaven.

Oh my gosh! I had my acting debut this month!  All of you True Jackson VP fans be on the look out for a fiddle playing waitress.  It was fun to be on a set – interesting to see how they put a show like that together.  I even had a stunt double! …she got to do all the cool stuff, like ride the zip line and slam into a wall.

Perhaps best of all, this weekend I was inducted by my hometown into the Vista, California Hall of Fame.  A thousand thanks to local artist Karen Brake who painted my portrait!

Skater Matt Hensley was among the other inductees and there will be others including of course my brother Sean.  The mayor came out, Councilmen, and so did Miss Vista and Miss Teen Vista! Thanks to my aunt Joanie for taking the pictures!

In other news, we got a dog!  He’s a one and a half year old St Bernard named Buckley.  You’ll probably be hearing about him a lot : )

Los Pantalones

Wowee!  What a busy fall!  From WPA to driving across Canada, Pavaritti’s Limo, countless oatmeal breakfasts at Starbucks, ferrie’s, floppy eared rabbits to a great mini-tour with the Infamous Stringdusters.

My last full band show was this past weekend for a special New York broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.  It has been a wonderful year of touring out with these guys.  Sebastian named us “Sara Watkins Y Los Pantalones”. I can’t tell you what a sweet bunch of guys they have been, all through hard travel conditions and lack of sleep.  I am so privileged to have these guys on stage with me any night, much less most nights.  When any member, or all the members, of Los Pantalones were unavailable for a show, the heroic and very talented Aaron Redfield, Tyler Chester, Todd Lombardo, Byron House and Zeke Hutchins stepped in.  I can’t thank you guys enough.

Thanks to all the promoters who took a chance on me this year, to John Prine and Garrison Kellor for welcoming me to your shows, and to all of you who came out and supported us.  What a remarkable encouragement you are.

All I have left this year are some solo shows in Southern California and the Annual Watkins Family Hour Christmas Show at Largo!  This year’s show will benefit a very special foundation called Help Mend A Heart.  Our good friend Jordan’s mom developed an unidentified infection and only 10% of her heart is functioning on its own.  She is in great need of a heart transplant and has no insurance to pay for it.  Come support her at our special benefit WFH show December 16th.  OR you can make a secure donation right on that website.

Already looking forward to next year!

Happy Holidays everyone!  Love you! Sara

Construction, Cookies and Bluegrass

It has been so good to be home.  It took a few days for me to settle in and for it to feel real, but I’m now in the full swing of
domesticity.  We’ve been re-siding the garage and, yesterday, I even baked gingersnap cookies – Grandma Nordstrom’s recipe. I like em extra snappy, then you put them in the freezer (that’s where she’d store them, and where I’d sneak them from when I was little).

Last night I got to open for Exene Cervenka, from X.  Jon Brion and I learned a few old country songs to do, and Benmont came in on the last number.  That’s pretty good, but wait! There’s more!  My husband, Todd and I had our first on stage duet last night as well! A Dolly and Porter song called Tomorrow is Forever.  It was really fun. We’re gonna have to do more of that.

Tomorrow I’m going up to Ojai to record a couple more songs for that Cy Coleman project that came out earlier this fall. These would just be extra tracks, one is an other beautiful song of Cy’s called See Saw, and the other is a Jimmy Rogers tune I first heard Laurie Lewis do a long time ago called, I Miss the Mississippi and You. Its a lovely, lovely melody.

On Sunday I journey back east for a five show run of Co-Bill shows with the String Dusters. We’ll be starting in PA, then hitting VA, NC and MD.

I’m really excited to be touring with a bluegrass band again.  It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

This Time I’m Wearing Velcro Shoes


I’ve been spitting out little Twitter posts everyday, not realizing that it’s been over a month since I’ve sat down to journal anything longer than 140 characters.

Right now I’m on a flight home where I get to be for two bittersweet days before running off for two more weeks of touring.  I really love touring, and I’m enjoying tour-managing myself, but sometimes I just get tired!  The days at home will rejuvenate me I’m sure.

This last run was in the midwest. I picked up the rental car and gear in St. Louis (using it as a base) and met the band in Omaha.  A couple days later we had made our way up to Rockford, IL where we played the New American Theatre and when Emily met us with
their helpful hospitality –  our stressful day of driving and fatigue and delays was washed away.  The show was super fun, and afterwards the nearby resort (generously lodging up) even gave us a ride there in the 1930′s limo owned by Pavarotti himself! This is the first limo that has ever seemed remotely glamorous to me.  It sat only four, perfectly.  I felt like I should be wearing a fur wrap with gloves and veiled hat and pearls.

A reception met us at the hotel and chef, Philippe, treated us to bread and cheese (in may forms) and champagne.   It was an unforgettable night and we all had a ball.

Thanks to everyone who came out in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and ol’ Kentuck for supporting us and making our shows so fun!
I’m coming back to the region again in a week and a half! Here’s proof :)  Tour dates

I’m really happy right now and love having different musical outlets.  Sean and I have been working together on a couple things lately.  We were offered a chance to pitch a 20 sec theme-song for a TV show out this fall.  It turned out pretty good we think! Between that and joining in on some dates with WPA, I’ve had a busy fall!

I think if I only had my solo thing or was just part of a band, any creativity would shrivel up and die.  Looking back on times when I only had one musical outlet, I spent a whole lot more time making crafty things – puzzle solving my way through cards and different projects…trying to sew paper together.  Now I wish I could do those things but when I have inspiration, I haven’t the time. Isn’t that always the way. That’s one thing I like about the approach of the Holidays.  Christmas is the great motivator.  I did not make time for indulging creative cooking, makings and gifting – and I felt like I completely missed out on my favorite part of the year.  It was the first Christmas that passed me by.  It felt like an entire parade ran it’s course while I was bent over, tying my shoes.

But that doesn’t matter now, because all this stored energy from past Christmases . . . I can USE it this year.  There are still a couple more weeks left of touring, I get home on Halloween (perfect) and then OUT come the boxes in the garage and from under my bed!  Paper, thread,  fabric I won’t know what to do with, maybe some paint. Oatmeal, cinnamon, pumpkin, electric blankets I’m learning what does it for me – how to make my own Holidays and I love it!  My husband, having spent some years in the world of retail, has developed a foul taste for “the holidays.” Hopefully that flavor wears off soon.

From my desk

Today is a work day.  Shopping for and arranging flights and rental cars . . . Is it more economical to fly into Seattle and take the ferry to Seattle and drive into Canada? Where should I drop a rental car?  In the past, I’ve done most of this with my computer on the couch, but I find that no matter what, I’m left feeling that I’ve just wasted my time.  So now I’m moving to the desk in the spare bedroom, off of which my husband and I just cleared 3 mountainous piles of CD jewel cases. It’s far more professional feeling here, plus there is a cool breeze.

Today the weather is cooler, so I think of fall, and fall makes me think of going back east, and traveling back east in the fall makes me think of IBMA.  The International Bluegrass Musician’s Association, for me, was like a sort of bluegrass camp . . . only in a hotel.  The first time I walked into the IBMA hotel lobby when I was 12 or so, and I saw the Nashville Bluegrass Band just standing there, like they were just normal people, and I did a 180, and walked right back outside the and consider what I had just seen.  Some of my favorite players, everyone’s heroes, just standing there, trying to figure out where they were going to eat lunch. That’s one of the best things about bluegrass – the accessibility.   Its priceless.

I was home-schooled in high school, and the IBMA award show was the closest I got to prom. Many people, myself included, dressed up far fancier than feels comfortable an go out for a special night.  There’s the gossip of who’s going with whom, where’s the best party/jam going to be after the prom/awards?  I miss it!   Maybe I can sneak back this year for a day or so of the convention. It would be so great to see all the familiar faces and get a good solid bluegrass hang in . . .

There is much touring to look forward to this fall too!  I’m going back to the Chicago area in Sep with The Greencards, and then re-joining WPA for one last run with them.  (They’re going to tour lots more, I just won’t be joining them for a while.) Instead, I’ll be going up to be in the midwest some, and in late Oct I’m going Canada to open for John Prine, and play some shows with the Stringdusters in Nov.  Sounds like a good excuse for some new boots . . .

Storms at Showtime


I’m out on tour with Works Progress Administration for the next week.  Today we were to play an out door show in Exton, PA near Philly.  It was free for the community, and there was a good crowd gathered, but round about 7:30pm, when we were scheduled to begin, a storm blew in, and the show was called off.

SOOOO we told the crowd that remained to come over to the Grille across the street, and played there for a while.
The restaurant was pretty chatty (after all, we did invade their dinner space) so only the first 40 people could hear, but we had fun, anyway :)
It’s super fun being part of WPA every once in a while.  I will not be playing with them after October because I’ll be touring behind my record, but for now, its nice to be part of a band and not in charge. Plus, I get to sing and play with Luke Bulla, Glen Phillips and Pete Thomas in addition to Sean and Sebastian who often play with me.
All in all, this year has shaped up very nicely.
I’m looking forward to being in New York City again tomorrow.  We play Joe’s Pub and then I hope to go out and catch up with friends.

The summer has be really fun.  There has been a good balance of touring and LA shows and home time.  I will be much busier this fall however, including a trip to the UK in November.   Hooray!!
More soon!

Summer Goes Quickly

Summer is here and I think it goes by even quicker now than when I was a kid on summer vacation. It’s been a busy year for me so far. When my record came out in April, I was on tour for seven weeks, and since then its been stop-and-go traffic. A week ago I was lucky enough to do two of my favorite things in one weekend. On Friday I flew out to Chicago to play on A Prairie Home Companion, where I got to play with the Guys All-Star Shoe Band and actually do a sketch with Garrison Keillor. Thanks to everyone there for being such gracious hosts. I am such a fan of the program and had a ball. After the live radio broadcast, I hopped in a car to the airport and headed to Denver where I spent the night so I could get on the first flight to Montrose – on my way to Telluride. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is gorgeous. It’s so important to get to hang with other musician friends. To hear what they are playing these days, how they are growing and changing, its inspiring and energizing and exciting. . . long story short – I got dropped off back stage 30 minutes before the set. Fortunately it wasn’t my show, but rather a WPA set. They could have done very well without me, but I was definitely relieved to have made it. Though I was only there for a day, I got a good dosage of the Festival including a super fun Crooked Still set at the park stage, a walk along the river. I got to sit with a host of musical friends in the poser-pit; each of us with eager eyes and ears, delighted to be taking our medicinal dosage of the Tim O’Brien Band – (Tim, Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch, Bryan Sutton). Sean, Luke and I were so happy to get to share our favorite parts of this festival with our non bluegrass band-mates in WPA. Later that night Brittany Haas, Tatiana Hargreaves along with Sarah Jarosz opened for the Punch Brothers. They killed it. It was a great night. Stayed up till 6:30AM hanging out and playing tunes. Walked back to my room in daylight. I hope Telluride invites me back next year. Last Thursday in the Little Room was real fun. Sebastian brought his upright bass, Jon Brion and Fiona played and sang some. . . Yesterday I got in the ocean for the first time in a while. It felt so good to be in the wave – a beautiful clear day. The water is up to about 68 degrees now. Pretty warm for June!

The Tour

Sorry, I haven’t written in a while!   I was sort of tour managing for the first bit of the tour, and had precious few spare moments early on.  I HAVE, however, become more active in Twitter though, so, when I don’t have time to sit down and really share what’s happening in journal form, you can hear all about the stupid things going through my head on Sara Watkins (SaraWatkins) on Twitter.
Or you can find it under the Journal menu on my website!

Thanks to everyone who has written me with encouraging lines throughout the tour of the record release.  Many thanks also to everyone who came out for the shows!

It was a varied and successful seven week tour that included opening for John Prine, flying to London and retrieving the wrong piece of luggage (many bags look alike) going BACK to Heathrow for the suitcase swap . . . some chats with the charming folks at BBC, opening for and sitting in with Old Crow Medicine Show.  My first headlining show was in Minneapolis – back to New York, Jimmy Fallon show with Sean, John Paul Jones and ?uestlove!!  What the crap!

Don Heffiington and Sebastian Steinberg joined, Sean and me for a few shows including World Cafe in Phili and then we toured up the east coast as a trio (myself, Sean, and Sebastian).  We ran out of gas (9H blog) on the way to a radio staion in New England and then went on up toward Woodstock. After our show at the beautiful Bearsville Theatre we were able to make it over to Levon Helm’s to catch the last three or four songs at the Ramble.  The perfect Nightcap.

Over to the Midwest, we were joined by a tour manager who relieve me from the extra duties.  In Ann Arbor I ate at Zingerman’s twice and got to see our friend Glen at the Ark with Toad the Wet Sprocket, Chicago was a blast, Madison, super fun.  Then up the west coast.  Sweet sweet home.  Friends Don Heffington and Benmont Tench drove down to play with us at the historic La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas and then the next night in LA was AWESOME!  A full band! Greg Leisz joined us, Benmont, Sebastian, Don, Sean, Glen Phillips sang beautiful harmonies and Lisa Germano made Bygones even spookier!  Sooo Fun!  It felt really good to be back.

In the final stretch of the tour I was starting to ache with homesickness but it helped to see friends in each town.  Salt Lake City and over to Portland, OR,  Alex and Tatiana Hargreaves sat in with us.  What sweet, sweet music they make.

Seattle was a dream of a way to end the tour.  Matt Chamberlain brought a few drummy things down to the Tractor Tavern, the audience was absolutely on fire!  Our good friend Jenny Anne Mannan brought her fiddle down as well.  I always forget how good it feels to sing with her.   What a great night.  The audience gave us a ridiculous three encores.  Thanks guys for making me feel like a rock star for a couple hours!!

screeeoot, scabba, maaaaa

Milwaukee, WI:

I am now in the sixth week of touring and it is becoming apparent by the perpetual flow of purposeless noise coming out of my mouth.  I noticed it a few days ago but it has undoubtably been going  on for at least a week.  Its a common condition:  saying anything and everything that pops into your brain.  Stories with now point, fragment thoughts…  words you see on a plaque in the elevator suddenly beg to be read out loud.   Holes begin to wear in the brain-to-mouth filter (which was in poor shape to begin with).  And if there are no words in mind? No problem.  Any untranslatable sound or gibberish will do. bledle-bledle-bledle-blaaaaa.

I have a week and a half left on tour but the last bit will be on the west coast and make a stop in my own home for a night or two in there.

Some hotels have a waffle iron and batter dispenser as part o their continental breakfast, and it occurred to me that this is as close as I get to cooking when on tour.
I’m not a good cook, but I do enjoy it.  If its still chilly at home, I plan on making a vegi soup.  yum yum yum!