Acclaimed songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and Grammy winner Sara Watkins has been a steady fixture over the years in LA and the greater folk and Americana scene. A founding member of both Nickel Creek and I’m With Her, Watkins is freshly off of two years of consistent touring with I’m With Her (along with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan) garnering praise from the NY Times, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and more. The trio recently won Duo/Group of the Year by the Americana Music Association. In addition to I’m With Her, Watkins’ work in the other collaborative groups of Watkins Family Hour, Watkins has a sizable solo career which sees her boldly stepping in to the role of front-woman. Watkins’ latest album, Young In All The Wrong Ways, is easily her most cohesive and fully realized album of her solo career. It is also her most powerful, personal, and revealing.
Watkins signed as a solo artist with Nonesuch Records in fall 2008 and released her self-titled debut solo album in 2009. Watkins started recording the album in February 2008, and it was jointly recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles. Sara Watkins was produced by bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame, who first performed with Watkins on a Mutual Admiration Society tour in 2004.
In 2008 Watkins performed short tours as an opening act for singer-songwriter Tift Merritt and with Robert Earl Keen —as well as doing a 17-date tour with Donavon Frankenreiter. In April 2009, she appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, with Jones on bass, Questlove of The Roots on drums, and her brother Sean Watkins on guitar. She has also performed on A Prairie Home Companion at the Minnesota State Fair and the Fitzgerald Theater and at the Alaska State Fair in 2011. In 2012, she toured with Jackson Browne as the opening act for his acoustic winter tour.
In May 2012, Watkins released her second solo album, Sun Midnight Sun, again on Nonesuch Records.Produced by former Simon Dawes guitarist Blake Mills, it features guest appearances from Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne.
In 2016, Watkins won “Instrumentalist of the Year” at the Americana Music Honors & Awards.
In 2002, Watkins starred in an advertisement for cell phone provider Cingular Wireless alongside her former fiddle teacher Dennis Caplinger, as well as other prominent bluegrass artists. Between 2000 and 2004, Watkins and the other members of Nickel Creek (Chris Thile and Sean Watkins), John Paul Jones, and Pete Thomas collaborated on an EP, Mutual Admiration Society Solo Sampler; an album, Mutual Admiration Society followed with a brief tour.
The 2007 documentary film Arctic Tale featured a song by Watkins and musician Grant-Lee Phillips, titled “Song of the North (Beneath the Sun)”. Watkins lent her vocal talents to the film alongside other performers such as Aimee Mann and Brian Wilson.
In January 2008, Billboard reported a new supergroup octet tentatively named The Scrolls, later named Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). The octet is composed of Watkins, her brother Sean Watkins (guitar), Glen Phillips (guitar, vocals), Benmont Tench (piano), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Greg Leisz (various), Pete Thomas (drums), and Davey Faragher (bass). The group released their album WPA in September 2009.
In late January and early February 2010, Watkins undertook a short tour with Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain in Scotland and England under the “Transatlantic Sessions” banner, culminating in a performance in the Royal Festival Hall in London on February 6, 2010. In June 2010, Watkins appeared on the Nerdist podcast as a musical guest, performing her best-known solo song, “Long Hot Summer Days” (a John Hartford cover). Later that summer, she participated in the Summer Love Tour with Garrison Keillor in venues across the United States.She guest hosted Keillor’s show, A Prairie Home Companion, on January 15, 2011. Watkins contributed fiddle, guitar, percussion, and vocals on The Decemberists‘ 2011 tour.Also in 2011, she (and her brother Sean) began to perform as a musician and singer in the humor/retro-radio podcast “Thrilling Adventure Hour“.
Watkins played violin and sang on “A Face To Call Home” on John Mayer‘s 2012 album Born and Raised. During 2012 and 2013, she toured with Jackson Browne, both as an opening act and accompanying him during the performance.
Watkins and her brother Sean play regularly at the Largo nightclub in Los Angeles as “The Watkins Family Hour“. Keyboardist Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and bassist Sebastian Steinberg (formerly of Soul Coughing) are regular participants, and other guest musicians from the Largo family generally show up as well, including Jon Brion, Fiona Apple, Don Heffington, Greg Leisz, and former Nickel Creek bandmate Chris Thile when he is in town. The irregular collaborations led to a 2015 album and tour under the same name.Also in 2015, Watkins toured extensively with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still fame). The trio, who now play under the name I’m With Her, hosted the radio show A Prairie Home Companion on October 10, 2015. Watkins also performed vocals for “June & Johnny” on Jon Foreman‘s 2015 EP The Wonderlands: Darkness.