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Interview: Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek Releases Her First Solo Record

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Sara Watkins / Photo by Jeremy Cowart
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It's not often that an accomplished Grammy-winning musician waits two decades to release a solo album, but in the case of Sara Watkins, the timing has worked out perfectly. Watkins has been performing professionally since the age of eight, and in the years since, people the world over have fallen in love with her emotive voice and adept fiddle playing. In addition to the 18 years she spent in the band Nickel Creek with brother Sean Watkins and Chris Thile, LA residents may also know her work from one of the best shows in town—the Watkins Family Hour evenings at Largo at the Coronet.

When Nickel Creek went on hiatus in 2007, Watkins crossed paths with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, who told her he wanted to be the one to produce her first solo record. The result of this effort is Watkins' self-titled solo debut, which combines original songs and instrumentals with inspired covers. Her voice absolutely shines throughout this disc, and her most brilliant moments are those when she is somehow able to convey a sense of hopeful melancholy. LAist spoke with Watkins last week to learn about the new album, where she likes to shop for clothes in LA, and her gig at Largo this Thursday night.

LAist: "All This Time" is such a great way to kick off the album and the lyrics are so unexpected and tender. How has your songwriting process evolved over the last few years, especially when it comes to lyrics?

Sara Watkins: When I first started writing, it was all very cryptic—analogy after analogy—and it didn't really convey anything specific. I'd run lyrics by a few friends and they'd tell me, "That's awesome, but I have no idea what you're talking about!" Over the years, I've been trying to be more specific and clear about what I'm saying—to a degree. I want to be able to extend an idea over several verses, but not be so clear that you get it all out in two verses and a chorus.