Nickel Creek rolling along ... again - April 21

By Barry Courter Article posted on Thu. April 17th, 2014
Chris Thile and siblings Sean Watkins and Sara Watkins, from left, are celebrating their 25th anniversary as Nickel Creek.
Chris Thile and siblings Sean Watkins and Sara Watkins, from left, are celebrating their 25th anniversary as Nickel Creek.
Photo by Brantley Gutterson


■ What: Nickel Creek with The Secret Sisters.

■ When: 8 p.m. Monday, April 21.

■ Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

■ Admission: $39.

■ Phone: 423-521-2929.

■ Website:

Chris Thile is excited to again be playing with Sara and Sean Watkins as Nickel Creek. He says the band's very amicable seven-year time-out was much needed, very healthy and allowed the three to grow as individuals. For now, he is glad to be back, but he hopes it is a reunion with a future and not just to remember old times, especially when it comes to the trio's loyal fans.

"I am curious to see what extent the audience wants to keep traveling with us," he says during a break while taping a recent "Tonight Show" appearance.

"Pulling out the photo album is fun, but it would be a drag if all they want to do is look at the album. It's like when you hang out with old friends and all you talk about are the old times. That gets old."

Nickel Creek is touring to support a new CD, "A Dotted Line," and will appear at Track 29 on Monday, April 21, along with The Secret Sisters. It is the first recording since 2005 from the Grammy-winning progressive acoustic trio, who did a farewell tour in 2006-07. Since then Thile, regarded as one of the world's best mandolin players, has worked on solo projects and with the brilliant Punch Brothers.

The Watkins siblings spent the time playing with The Watkins Family Hour, and Sara concentrated on solo works as well.

The group, which originally featured Thile's dad, Scott, on bass, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year -- remarkable considering Thile is only 33 now.

Thile said Nickel Creek was all he had ever known. He was 8 when the group formed in 1989. Sara was a few months younger, and Sean was 12.

The time apart was a chance to spread his wings.

"I think you need balance in your life, not just in music," he says. "If you are a serious musician, one project is not enough."

Sara has said in a previous article that in the past, when it came time to record, each of the three would essentially come to the studio with a completed song or idea and each would fill in their part at the direction of the composer. With "A Dotted Line," the three worked together on nearly every track from idea to completion. Thile says "A Dotted Line" is the most collaborative collection the group has ever done.

"Everyone is more comfortable," he says. "More patient and more confident. It has increased the ability to trust.

"I'm excited to see where this might take us. Plus, it feels great to be singing with them again. It is amazing to sing three-part harmony with them. I love it."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

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