A Nickel Creek Reunion

By Derek Halsey (reporter@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jul. 10 | Modified: Jul. 15
A Nickel Creek Reunion

The members of the young and progressive string band Nickel Creek were still in their 20s when they took a hiatus in 2007.

They formed the group so early in life that band members Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins and Chris Thile had been together for more than a decade and a half before they reached their 30s.

Now, they are back together and will perform at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, July 14.

With thoughts of branching off and doing their own thing, Nickel Creek split up and went in separate directions several years ago. Sara Watkins recorded two solo albums, a self-titled one produced by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and her recent well-received effort, called “Sun Midnight Sun.”

Brother Sean Watkins has released three solo projects, including his new album, “All I Do Is Lie.” Both of the siblings also host the monthly all-star “Watkins Family Hour” jam at the Largo at the Coronet club in Los Angeles that can be watched as a podcast.

Thile would go on to start the Punch Brothers, was awarded the $500,000 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2012 and has recently toured as a solo act, playing the music of J.S. Bach on the mandolin.

Back in the day, however, Boone was an important stop for Nickel Creek, and the now-reunited troupe, backed by their long-time bassist extraordinaire, Mark Shatz, is looking forward to returning to the High Country.

“I think Boone might hold our record for the largest paid audience ever,” Sara Watkins said. “For a long time, they held the record, and we had a great time playing in Boone. We played there years and years ago, like 15 years ago, and there were about 4,000 people at an auditorium, I think. We’re looking forward to coming back.”

For Watkins and the rest of Nickel Creek, the almost decade-long break was needed so the creative air could be cleared and new possibilities explored. Then, when the band’s 25th anniversary was on the horizon, they regrouped and recorded their acclaimed new album, “A Dotted Line.”

“Yeah, that is exactly what the hiatus was for, because we did grow up together and experience life together from a very early age,” Watkins said. “So, this hiatus has been really good, letting us dig into our own lives and our own aspirations as individuals. It has made it all that much sweeter, as we came back together to write this record.

“We didn’t intend for (“A Dotted Line”) to be a whole record. We thought it was going to be a little EP to celebrate the 25th year of being a band. The collaboration went so well and the writing went so quickly that we kept going and came up with enough material for this album. So, we decided to go for it. We recorded it in November, and it has been really fun playing the songs live.”

“A Dotted Line” has proved to be a successful album for Nickel Creek, as fans and critics alike have responded positively to it.

“What has been really nice is that the audiences have been into it, too,” Watkins said. “A lot of times, you come back together after a while, and they just want to hear the old favorites. We’re lucky to have old favorites, first of all. But for people to come to the show and to recognize the first couple of chords of the new material and to be cheering for that, that is a delight. It’s been wonderful.”

Still, even though the new album is performing well, Nickel Creek will be playing some of the music from its first recordings.

“It’s just young,” Watkins said, describing the sound of the band’s earlier cuts. “And that’s fine, because we were young. We have actually found our way into that material again in new ways that we really weren’t able to do towards the end of Nickel Creek. I think that we were still in it so much that some of those songs were a little embarrassing for us to play. But we have come around quite a bit so that we have all embraced the songs in a new way. It’s just a part of our history, and we’re enjoying the fact that people want to hear them and sing along with it. That is so much easier to embrace, particularly, because people have kept with it through the new songs, so we don’t feel like we have to only play the old songs. The fact that they are willing to go to the new places, too, makes the whole show a form of celebration.”

For more information on Nickel Creek, or to check out the new album, visit http://www.nickelcreek.com.

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