Sara Watkins (Sara Watkins)
Sara Watkins is a sweet, simple and a humble artists, like the folk, bluegrass music she plays with her violin. During the press conference, she presented her latest album "Sun Midnight Sun" with a smile on her face and so many things to tell us. Enjoy the interview!
Article by Alessandra Leoni - Publish on: 04/06/12
First of all, I'd like to ask you if you could introduce yourself to the Italian audience, so that our readers can have a clearer idea of who you are.

My name is Sara! (laughs) I grew up playing in a band called Nickel Creek for 18 years. My first solo record came out in 2008 on NoneSuch. And this is my second solo record and it will be out this month.

What was your mood when you recorded this album?

Very happy! I think that the record reflects many aspects of my personality. The different moods are in the way songs were written, basically. There are some songs that are very personal and sad songs and were written in a very intense time. Some other songs, like "You And Me" were written after having spent some time thinking about different persons in my life. We tried to... Well, I was in these different moods while recording the songs, but the writing process was very fun, we had so much fun. I wanted to feel lively and I hope it sounds lively!

You play a lot of instruments, so when was your first encounter with the violin?

I first started playing the violin when I was 6. There was this band playing a lot in San Diego and I got to see it many times, and there has been a sort of natural exchange between people playing instruments on stage and they had so much fun. They were silly, joking around, they seemed so interactive and social. And somehow the violin spoke to me, there was a fiddle player in the band.

Is there any difference between your first solo album and your last one?

The first album was recorded a while before it came out, so it's almost three years and a half ago. In my first album my aim was to reflect myself, what I considered my "musical home". I was aware that was just a starting place, I wanted to do something I was comfortable with, I didn't want to guess, to try something that didn't fit me. So that was a deliberate decision to stay close to home on that record. I toured so much for my first record and I worked with so many artists in these years that I became a lot more comfortable with who I was and who I wanted to become. In this record ("Sun Midnight Sun") I was more open-minded, I wanted to have other people's influence, I wanted to share the songs with somebody else. I wanted to be outside of my comfort zone, because I knew myself I little be more and I knew I wouldn't do that if I wasn't sure that it wasn't the right thing to do. I trusted my producer, he's a strong musician and he was worth trusting.


Are the duets on the album a part of this "going out to the comfort zone", or they are part of your normal process?

It's something I am really comfortable with! The song with Fiona Apple came out very naturally, because we performed together several times before we recorded our duet. We perform together quite regularly at my family's show in Los Angeles, "The Watkins' Family Hour", and she has become a big part of the show, but anyway I was excited and delighted when she accepted to record that song with me.

What can you tell me about you experience with Decemberists?

I signed on to tour with them for the 6/7 months when they promoted the album, they needed a fiddle player and a female singer to reflect the album better. I had a really good time, I needed a break from my solo tour and it was refreshing and it recharged me. They're really fun people to tour with, entertaining when it comes to take the audience through this journey that is their music. Also, they are super-precious with their songs, but they were fine when I was learning how to play baritone guitar. I have never done that in any show, it was fun for me because I had to to things I don't usually do because I am not good at them. I learnt what I had to do for that song and that was it, but I really enjoyed the trust they had in me. I learnt a lot from that tour.

Do you consider yourself a folk singer?

I think that is the best category I can put myself in, because it is the broadest. I think I am not a rock singer, I am not a bluegrass singer, I guess folk is the only one left. I like that wide category because it keeps things from being limited. People don't necessarily judge you when there is a wide and not specific label on your music, they usually listen to you with an open mind. The European folk and bluegrass scene is somehow even wider than the American one, I don't know why. In the U.S. if you say "country music" is based on 40 artists. It is a very small scene, so small.

Did you have any influence from any female figure? For example, some female artists are proud of their independence and strength...

I don't think I have an image of a female that influenced me, or I wanted to become. Musically, there are a lot of artists, for example Fiona Apple is one of my favorite. I saw her night after night reinterpreting the same song, I heard her improvising with a freedom that I don't see in other artists. To be honest, I like male artists and male voices more than female voices, I can listen to men more easily.

What about an upcoming tour? Can you tell us something about it?

I am touring only in the States this year, through November with my brother Sean Watkins and Tyler Chester. And basically we will be passing all the instruments around and we will try to cover as many bases as possible. There will be drums, the baritone guitar, some percussions, guitars and a bass. We will play in some festivals. I hope to come back to Europe next year with the same people, we're trying to sort it out.

Is it hard to be a Grammy-winning artist? I mean, for the expectations...

Oh, no. I don't think so, because, people don't think about it too much. 114 Grammys are given out every year and the bluegrass, country category is a very small one. The smallest categories are not that popular, they are awarded three hours before the glamourous TV-show, so the pressure is for those who actually win in a bigger and more popular category. I think the categories televised are just ten or eleven... But anyway, it's very nice to have won a Grammy, but you soon realize that it doesn't really affect your life: you still to have play in concerts, you still have to make records and try not to mess up your career. It quickly gets pushed back in your life, you have to move on.

Is there any other artist, beside the bluegrass, country, folk scene that you would like to work with?

There are a lot of people, but the best moments come from the unexpected. You know, I would have never thought I would have worked with some artists, but I have worked with them! So, there is not an artist I really want to work with, I just let the mysteries of collaborations grow and develop and see what happens next. Because the moments you think they are the best ones in your life, most of times turn out to be not so special and don't affect you as deeply as other unexpected moments, like playing and jamming in someone else's house, and there is always a lot of people walking around the house, either you know them or you don't, but it might be a very special musical moment. Anybody can help you in creating this special moment, no matter how much experience he or she has behind.

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