Previous Next
June 2018 Relix Magazine Sampler: Slim Wednesday "No (So) Good"
00:00 02:30
Volume Control Open/Close

I’m With Her: We Three

Dean Budnick | February 24, 2018
i'm with her sara watkins sarah jarosz aoife o'donovanShervin Lainez

See You Around, the name of the forthcoming studio album from Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, encapsulates the spirit and origins of their I’m With Her project.

Long before they debuted onstage together in a trio format during a serendipitous, spontaneous set at the Sheridan Opera House as part of the 2014 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, their lives had entwined in innumerable ways.

“The three of us have so much history together,” Jarosz affirms. “I first met Sara Watkins when I was nine, about to turn 10, and Nickel Creek was playing at the Old Settler’s Music Festival outside of Austin [in 2001]. I had been given a mandolin for Christmas—I had been playing for a couple months, and I just thought Nickel Creek hung the moon. I was able to meet Aoife a few years later, when I was 15, at Rockygrass in Colorado. I’m an only child and she became something of an older sister to me. Sara and Aoife met each other in 2001 at the Philadelphia Folk Festival [when Watkins was 20 and O’Donovan was 18]. Over the years, we had all these moments, seeing each other at music festivals and jams. All of these short run-ins, all of that history, led up to that impromptu performance at the Sheridan Opera House.”

Watkins shares her own perspective on these encounters: “I met Sarah at a picnic table after we’d done a workshop, but my most vivid memory of her is outside a venue, on the street. She would come to Nickel Creek shows and bring her mandolin. Nickel Creek would often play outside of the bus after a show and if we had a friend around who played, they would come play with us. I remember Sarah being about 15 and playing with her by the bus in the headlights before we pulled away. I remember thinking, ‘She’s gonna be around for awhile.’ Then our paths crossed over the years.

“But the first time I ever sang with her was when we were rehearsing for this little workshop that we did during the day, before that evening set at the Sheridan Opera House. [The lineup at the Elks Park session also included Nicki Bluhm and Tift Merritt.] We asked everyone to get together to arrange a song or two for this workshop but Aoife and Sarah and I were the only ones who were able to get together. So we did, and we worked some three-part harmonies into ‘The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn,’ and a couple of other songs—one of Aoife’s and one of Sarah’s—and it was really fun.”

Jarosz adds, “I remember Aoife showing us her song ‘Magpie.’ That was a sparking moment, singing that song, which is in a weird time signature—it’s not the easiest song ever—and all three of us kind of fell into it naturally. I remember thinking there was really something to this.”

Events then took a turn a few hours later when Chris Thile texted O’Donovan and asked if she might be interested in pulling together an opening set for Punch Brothers that night at the Sheridan. O’Donovan decided to follow up on the euphony and rapport of the workshop rehearsals, sending her own texts to Jarosz and Watkins.

“To me, the specifics of it are less interesting than what ended up happening,” O’Donovan reflects. “Chris asked, ‘Can you come and do this thing?’ But that seems like it doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that the three of us convened and worked up these songs. Then, we did this really fun show and that kind of turned into the band.”