Since the day I was born

Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins solo at Canal Public House

By Justin Kreitzer

Photo: Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek will perform a solo show at Canal Public House on April 22; photo: Devin Pedde

Singer-songwriter and virtuoso guitarist Sean Watkins has practically been playing music since birth. He co-founded the influential Grammy-winning Americana trio Nickel Creek, with mandolinist Chris Thile and Watkins’ sister, violinist Sara Watkins over 21 years ago, at the ripe age of 12. This week, he’ll continue his musical journey with a solo stop at Canal Public House on April 22.

Last year Nickel Creek returned from a lengthy, nine-year hiatus to tour and release a new album, the acclaimed A Dotted Line. During all of that celebration, the prolific Watkins – who has also previously released two albums with Fiction Family, his folk-pop side project with Switchfoot vocalist Jon Foreman – found time to write, record and release a new solo album, All I Do Is Lie. In addition, Watkins recently released a new 70-inch single highlighted by a duet with Fiona Apple.

In anticipation of his upcoming Gem City show, Dayton City Paper spoke with Watkins about Nickel Creek’s hiatus and reunion, his new solo album and more.

Last year after a very long hiatus, Nickel Creek reformed, recorded an excellent new album and toured the country in honor of the band’s 25th anniversary. How was that experience for you and how did the fans react to your return?

Sean Watkins: It was so much fun. The whole thing couldn’t have gone better really. From the first day of writing with Sara and Chris through the last show, it was just a blast. We’ve all grown up and matured a lot since we put the band on hiatus in 2007 and this time around we were able to just let the band be what it is and focus on its strengths rather than force our own individual musical wants onto it. It was really great to have new material to play alongside the old stuff. Going into it, we weren’t sure what the level of interest would be but the shows ended up being pretty packed and just a lot of fun.

With everything Nickel Creek-related going on last year, how did you ever find time to write and record a solo album?

SW: I’d written all but one song before all the Nickel Creek stuff started. Originally, “21st of May” was going to be on my record but when we got together to write the Nickel Creek record, Sara and Chris asked if we could do it on [that] record which I of course thought would be great. But then I needed a song to replace it so I wrote “All I Do Is Lie.”

What inspired this set of songs?

SW: A lot of these songs came about in 2012, a busy year for me. I traveled a lot, touring with Jackson Browne and Lyle Lovett. I tried to soak in as much as I could from those guys. Also, I was going through some good life changes that needed to happen. The songs on the record are pretty autobiographical.

My favorite song on your new album, All I Do Is Lie is “The God You Serve” with its bold yet truthful lyrics. Can you please speak to what the song means to you?

SW: Thank you. Yeah, that one was fun to write. It’s just interesting to me the picture a lot of people have about God in their head. I think if the average churchgoer were to really think through all his/her beliefs about the character of God and line them up and write them down, they might be really enlightening to see all the inconsistencies and hypocrisy. It is a good thing to do. I have done it myself and that’s what made me want to write that song.

What is your favorite song of yours to play live?

SW: I have fun playing “Wave As We Run.” It’s just fun to sing and play.

What can we expect from a solo Sean Watkins show?

SW: Fireworks and confetti. Oh, and some songs. Some old and some new.

What does the future hold for you?

SW: I am writing for a new solo record, which I will record later in the summer. Also, I will be part of a summer tour that I am really excited about which will be announced very soon. No Nickel Creek plans now but at some point when we all feel like it, there may be.

Sean Watkins will perform Wednesday, April 22 at Canal Public House, 308 E. First St. Special guest Joseph LeMay is also on the bill. The show begins at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit canalpublichouse.com or seanwatkins.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Justin Kreitzer
Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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