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Interview:
Sara Watkins settles 'Under the Pepper Tree,' 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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You almost need a proverbial scorecard to keep track of all the music Sara Watkins makes.



With Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour with her brother Sean, Works Progress Administration, the all-star trio I'm With Her and on her own, the singer and multi-instrumentalist has kept a steady stream of releases coming since 1993. She adds to that on March 26 with "Under the Pepper Tree," a collection of gentle lullabies -- including familiar songs such as the Beatles' "Good Night," the standard "Moon River" and "Pure Imagination" from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."



The 15-song set is filled with guests, including Sean and their Nickel Creek bandmate Chris Thile, I'm With Her partners Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan, Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith, David Garza and others. Watkins' three-year-old daughter Samantha even shows up on "Edelweiss" from "The Sound of Music." It's another something new from someone who never seems to want for fresh creative endeavors...







Watkins, 39, says "...Pepper Tree" was brought about by the pandemic shutdown, which put her at home in California for a longer stretch than usual. "I became aware, acutely aware, for the first of the value of the rhythms of life at home. I think spending so much time here and discovering how we do it, kind of, having that time to focus on that idea really got me thinking about making something that really fit this environment and this part of my life.



Singing to her own daughter, meanwhile, led Watkins to the group of songs she chose to record for the album. "I've been reminded through becoming a parent of just the beauty in some of these old stories, old imagery and certainly the songs that were very impactful to my life and have stayed with me and found different ways to serve me at different times of life. What I found was a collection of songs that have this wonderful place in childhood but have the lyrical depth to stay with you. They were the songs that just stood out among the rest as something that I valued enough to kind of keep them with me, and it made sense to share them on (an album)."



Of the guests on the album, Watkins notes that "it was really cool to have both Nickel Creek and I'm With Her on this record. I grew up with Sean -- obviously -- and Chris; We spent our childhood together, from the time we were eight (years old) on, and specifically 'Blue Shadows on the Trail' was part of our life, so it would have felt so strange to record that song without them. And Im With Her has been a huge part of my life for the last five years, not the least because I was able to bring my daughter on tour with that band. So it's forever going to be linked with my daughter's childhood and my experience as a mother."



Featuring her daughter on "Edelweiss" was also special for Watkins. "That was sweet. It was just in our dining room. I was set up, doing some editing and then my daughter woke up from her nap. She had never heard her voice coming out of the headphones before; I had one pass with her (singing) before she started getting distracted and started talking gibberish. I was really glad to capture that moment."



Though disappointed that she's unable to tour -- especially after releasing a new Watkins Family Hour album last year -- Watkins spent some time recently playing virtual shows with Nickel Creek and also working on new material with the trio "for an album that's not planned or scheduled. (The shows) were super fun and a good way to kick off some writing. I need to do shows right now. I Just need to play music. I feel totally stopped-up. I can't just keep creating for no foreseeable outcome. It's like a lot of pressure building up inside, and there needs to be that release of playing these (songs) for people. It can't happen quickly enough."

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