Sean Watkins co-founded Nickel Creek when he was just 12 years old, kickstarting a career that's taken him from the stage of the Grammy Awards
to the top of the bluegrass charts. Along the way, he's become an award-winning
guitarist, a singer/songwriter and a member of several different bands, not to
mention one of the early pioneers of a genre now known across the world as
Americana. Now, after 25 years of being either a band member of sideman,
Watkins is throwing his full weight behind a new solo album, All I Do Is Lie.
"It's a culmination of the past 10 years," he says of
the record. "It was borne out of a drive to step out of supportive roles
in bands. I do like backing up other artists, but in the last couple of years,
I've started owning my own personality as a musician. I've had the urge to put
my name on something and step out of the supporting role."
Folk fans are already familiar with Nickel Creek's story. Formed
decades ago as a bluegrass trio, the group expanding its sound — and
its popularity — with albums like the Grammy-winning This
Side, which became a crossover hit on the bluegrass, country and pop charts
in 2002. Three years later, when Nickel Creek decided to take an open-ended
break from the studio, Watkins found himself with more time to focus on other
projects. He made the most of it, forming an indie-folk duo called Fiction
Family with Switchfoot's frontman, Jon Foreman, and launching a monthly variety
show called the Watkins Family Hour with his sister. Meanwhile, he also played
with musicians from all different genres, even joining the touring bands of
legendary songwriters like Jackson Browne and Lyle Lovett.
Working with those icons felt like going to music school, and
Watkins learned all the lessons he could. By 2012, he'd grown into a
considerably different player. His songwriting, too, had grown. It was time to
do something new — something that redefined Watkins by
showcasing his skills not only as a player, but also as a songwriter and
singer. He began recording All I Do Is Lie that summer, rolling the
influences and experiences of his past 10 years into a new batch of self-penned
songs. Released in 2014 by Roaring Girl Records, it's a roots album that
straddles the line between multiple genres, proof that Watkins' own influences
are just as wide-ranging as his resume.
"It's always good to learn new ways of playing and new ways
of looking at music," he says. "I started with bluegrass, but at this
point, I'm a musician who's also taken on a lot of other influences from the
people I've been around over the years. I've finally got a sound that I feel
like I can own. I can put my finger on it. I want to keep myself honest with
who I really am, and despite the title, that's what All I Do Is Lie is
All I Do Is Lie also marks the first time that Watkins
has promoted one of his solo albums with a full tour. He's no stranger to the
road, but this specific tour promises to be different. Watkins will be
occupying the spotlight himself, acting as a frontman instead of a bandmate or
sideman. Years ago, whenever he released one of his own albums, he'd
immediately hit the road again with Nickel Creek… a
move that turned his solo career into a project. It's not a side project any
"This feels like starting over, in a way," he explains.
"It's the beginning of the next phase."