Nickel Creek may have taken the back burner to many side projects, but members of the bluegrass band are moving onward and upward. Perhaps the most well-known player, Chis Thile (who was a bonafide MacArthur Genius for his mandolin playing), has found a new home with the bluegrass-with-attitude Punch brothers and has just started a new gig replacing the venerable Garrison Keillor on public radio’s Prairie Home Companion. And now, it’s time for Sara Watkins to hit the big-time.
Watkins formed Nickel Creek with her brother Sean and family friend Thile when she was only eight years old (Seriously. Eight years old. I did the math three times just to make sure). The trio toured the bluegrass circuit for years and then in 2000 (Watkins was a far more reasonable 19 years old then) when they scored some well-earned Grammy nominations, after mentoring by Alison Krauss. Later that year they toured with Lyle Lovett and the year after that, Dolly Parton asked them to tag along on her tour. The rest—a whirlwind until the band called it quits in 2007 to work on solo projects (save for a quick reunion album and tour in 2014).
About those solo projects, though. Watkins—who, keep in mind, was only 26 years old when the band quit touring—has been honing her solo act, releasing three studio albums and collaborating on far too many projects to list here). Each album has tracked the fiddling-ukulele-and-guitar-playing singer-songwriter’s journey from bluegrass to something more folky, punky (and awesome).
Bringing us to Monday night at The State Room, where Watkins will appear in support of her new album, Young in All the Wrong Ways—the first of her solo albums in which she has written or co-written on every track. The now mature, despite her album’s name, Watkins has cultivated a maturity and voice all her own and she’s finally stepping out of her bandmate’s shadows and into her own. Sara Watkins plays The State Room, Monday December 5. Tickets are still available here.