When the acclaimed progressive bluegrass group
"A lot of the first record was me finding Nickel Creek fans and showing them that I'm still alive and that they should care," reflects Watkins. "In this record, I'm getting to play for new people. And that's really exciting."
Sun Midnight Sun features more adventurous instrumentation and a refreshed sense of creativity, which Watkins says was helped along by her decision to step away from her own music and hit the road as a backing musician in 2011.
Touring with Americana favorites the Decemberists rejuvenated and inspired her enough to enter the studio with a new producer (Blake Mills), and the resulting album pushes Watkins even farther away from bluegrass. From the opening track -- a grungy, distorted instrumental piece with a hint of Celtic flair -- listeners will feel the difference.
The album also includes a guest appearance by Watkins' friend and indie darling Fiona Apple on a cover of
CMT.com caught up with Watkins before opening a concert for Jackson Browne at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. She filled us in on finding her feet as a solo artist, shaking loose new songs for Sun Midnight Sun and discovering that being your own boss is far from easy.