Sean Watkins

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Sean Watkins
Sean Watkins at Bowery.jpg
Sean Watkins playing with Fiction Family, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.
Background information
Birth name Sean Charles Watkins
Born (1977-02-18) February 18, 1977 (age 41)
Origin Vista, California, United States
Genres Progressive bluegrass, folk, country
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, piano, mandolin, ukulele, bouzouki
Years active 1989–present
Labels ATO Records
Sugar Hill Records
Associated acts Nickel Creek, Fiction Family, Works Progress Administration, Mutual Admiration Society, Sara Watkins, Switchfoot

Sean Charles Watkins[1] (born February 18, 1977) is a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. He is a member of the contemporary folk band Nickel Creek, the duo Fiction Family and the supergroup Works Progress Administration. He is the brother of Sara Watkins.


Nickel Creek[edit]

Sean Watkins began his tenure with Nickel Creek playing mandolin, but later switched to guitar. The band has released three albums and a CD composed of their hits (called Reasons Why: The Very Best) and won a Grammy for This Side – a coveted trophy that Watkins reportedly put on top of his toilet at home. Explaining the somewhat odd situation, Watkins said that "it seems like a humble place. I didn't want to put it out in plain view of my house. I didn't feel like displaying it right when you walk in. It's a nice crown for the porcelain."[2] In addition to playing with Nickel Creek, Watkins has released 4 solo albums.

As a solo musician, his early material was contemporary bluegrass, but he has since incorporated other influences into his music (especially indie rock.) Watkins' solo music career seems to reflect Nickel Creek's: turning from traditional bluegrass songs to indie rock with bluegrass instrumentation. He is the oldest member of Nickel Creek. Sean qualified for the National Flatpicking Championship in 1993 at age 16.

"My first instrument was the piano when I was six", Sean recalled. "I took classic instruction for seven years, but three years into that I discovered bluegrass music, through my piano teacher's son, who had a bluegrass band that played every Saturday night at a pizza place in Carlsbad. I really got into it, and when Sara and I met Chris [Thile], we started playing with him on Saturday nights too."[citation needed]

His sister Sara Watkins, also a member of Nickel Creek, plays violin and sings background vocals on the two latest of his three solo albums. In 2004, Nickel Creek participated in a project dubbed Mutual Admiration Society, a collaboration with former Toad The Wet Sprocket singer Glen Phillips. Sean and Sara are also part of the 2007 soundtrack for the psychological thriller Bug with the track "No Way to Live".

Current projects[edit]

In 2006, Sean and Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman started a collaborating duo called "The Real SeanJon".[3][4] In March 2008, the duo announced that they had changed their band name to "Fiction Family". In a spring 2008 interview, Jon Foreman said that the album would have a summer 2008 release and the duo was considering having the album be distributed by Starbucks.[5] However, a September 2008 press release by Nickel Creek confirmed that the album, Fiction Family, is to be released on January 20, 2009, on ATO Records.[6]

In January 2008, it was reported by Billboard that a new supergroup octet tentatively named The Scrolls had formed, now known officially as Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). The octet is composed of Watkins, his sister Sara Watkins (fiddle), Glen Phillips (guitar, vocals), Benmont Tench (piano), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Greg Leisz (various), Pete Thomas (drums), and Davey Faragher (bass). The group released their self-titled debut album on August 28, 2009. As the group continued, the lead singer-songwriters Watkins (Sean), Phillips, and Bulla were considered the core group and were supported by others when their projects made it possible. Bulla is no longer considered part of the group and as of summer 2011, their most recent lineup was Watkins and Phillips supported by Jerry Roe on drums and Sebastian Steinberg on bass guitar.

Sean and sister Sara play regularly at the Largo nightclub in Los Angeles as "The Watkins Family Hour". Keyboardist Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and bassist Sebastian Steinberg (formerly of Soul Coughing) are regular participants and other guest musicians from the Largo family generally show up as well, including Jon Brion, Fiona Apple, Don Heffington, Greg Leisz, and former Nickel Creek bandmate Chris Thile when he is in town. The irregular collaboration lead to a 2015 album and tour under the same name.[7]

Sean has also frequently supported his sister Sara on guitar and vocals for her solo dates since the release of her debut album in April 2009.

In addition, Watkins plans to release what he calls "15 minutes of noise" as a digital download on his website. He said that the final product was "very strange",[4] and that there would "be some cool art to go with it".[8]

In October 2013, Sean announced that he had completed a record entitled All I Do Is Lie, which was released in June 2014.[9]



Statistics Singles
Let It Fall
  • Released: March 13, 2001
Singles Released


Statistics Singles
26 Miles
  • Released: April 8, 2003
Singles Released


Statistics Singles
Blinders On
  • Released: March 14, 2006
Singles Released
Statistics Singles
All I Do Is Lie
  • Released: June 30, 2014
Singles Released


Statistics Singles
What to Fear
  • Released: March 18, 2016
Singles Released


Nickel Creek[edit]

Fiction Family[edit]

With Watkins Family Hour[edit]


  • 2015: Watkins Family Hour


  1. ^ Sean Charles Watkins Writing Credits at
  2. ^ Million-selling trio Nickel Creek gives bluegrass a facelift
  3. ^ Nickel Creek Official Website
  4. ^ a b Watkins, Sean. "a very long blog about what i'm up to". MySpace. January 5, 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2007.
  5. ^ "Switchfoot – 02.24.08" Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. Mammoth Press. March 19, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2008.
  6. ^ "update on everything Nickel Creek" Archived January 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. September 15, 2008. Retrieved September 16, 2008.
  7. ^ McCue, Lori (3 September 2015). "Sean and Sara Watkins are taking their Watkins Family Hour on the road, and bringing famous friends". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  8. ^ Watkins, Sean. "about the "15 minutes of noise" and my string quartet.". MySpace. January 5, 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2007.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

External links[edit]