Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins Releases Duet With Fiona Apple [LISTEN]
Nickel Creek's Sean Watkins has teamed up with singer-songwriter Fiona Apple for a new version of a bluegrass classic. The two artists are breathing new life into a 19th century murder ballad, "Banks of the Ohio."
"I grew up hearing songs like "Banks of the Ohio" played at bluegrass festivals, and I never really paid attention to the words that much," Watkins tells Rolling Stone Country. "It sounded like a happy song. One day, I looked it up and read the words, and it was shocking. It's a good example of how a lot of these old bluegrass songs can be so violent."
Watkins learned the song and started playing his own version of the classic, and when he met Apple, the tune clicked with her as well. The unlikely duo met at a Los Angeles club, where Watkins and his sister Sara have been hosting the Watkins Family Hour variety show since 2002, and he and Apple got to know each other by sharing songs unique to their upbringing.
"Fiona and I met and started playing songs together," he says. "Largo [the Los Angeles club] was still a small place back then, a place you could go try out new things and learn new songs, so we started finding some music we both could identify with. I learned some songs she had grown up singing -- mostly jazz standards -- and then she learned the equivalent for me, which was bluegrass songs and murder ballads."
Watkins is releasing "Banks of the Ohio" as a 7" vinyl single in April, with a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," featuring former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson, as the B-side. The record is available for pre-order here.
Listen to Sean Watkins and Fiona Apple, "Banks of the Ohio":