Sara Watkins of the Grammy-winning groups Nickel Creek and I’m With Her, as well as The Watkins Family Hour will release Under the Pepper Tree on March 26th via New West Records. The 15-song set was produced by Tyler Chester (Sara Bareilles, Margaret Glaspy) and is the follow up to her critically acclaimed 2016 solo album Young In All The Wrong Ways. Created with families in mind, the personal project encompasses songs Sara embraced as a child herself and brings storytelling, solace, and encouragement to the listener, no matter the age. In addition to two stunning original songs, the album includes Sara’s renditions of “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, The Beatles’ “Good Night,” “Moon River” (originally sung by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and more. Under the Pepper Tree also reunites Sara’s Nickel Creek bandmates Chris Thile and her brother Sean on “Blue Shadows on the Trail” (from the 1986 comedy The Three Amigos), Sara’s I’m With Her bandmates Sarah Jarosz & Aoife O’Donovan on “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” (originally performed by Roy Rogers & Sons of the Pioneers), Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes on Harry Nilsson’s “Blanket for a Sail,” David Garza on Roy Orbison’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” and Sara’s now three-year old daughter on her immensely sweet rendition of The Sound of Music’s “Edelweiss.”
Paste Magazine has premiered the video for “Blue Shadows on the Trail” which features Nickel Creek. Sara said, “As a kid, I watched the movie The Three Amigos a LOT. Specifically, I watched it a lot with my Nickel Creek bandmates at the Thile’s house. We’d run around quoting jokes, sing along and even tried the ‘My Little Buttercup’ dance once. As an adult, I’ve sung this countless times to my own daughter. When I decided to make a record full of songs from my childhood, I knew that I wanted ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail’ to be included, and I also knew the only way to do it was with Nickel Creek. Now that we in the band have our own families, it makes this moment even more sweet for this lifetime Nickel Creeker.”
Variety previously premiered the video for “Pure Imagination,” alongside a conversation with Sara about the album’s creation. The video brings the album’s incredible artwork created by Adam Sniezek to life.
Sara admits that she initially felt conflicted about making a children’s record until she realized that perhaps this album could impact a young listener in the same manner as the music from her own childhood affected her. The nostalgic and gentle Under the Pepper Tree offers a comforting record for those moments as daily rhythms fade into nightly rituals — and when a child’s imagination comes to life. “I want this album to be a place of calm, imagination, and relief,” Sara says. “Some days are perfect and things are a dream and make you feel like a superhero. And some days are just… such a challenge. I feel like this record has a place in both of those days, and I really hope that these recordings find a place in kids’ hearts, and become as special as they are to me.”
Sara sequenced the album’s 15 songs with the vinyl listening experience in mind. After forming the track listing of Side A and Side B, she then crafted transitions between the songs, making each half of the album seamlessly glide by. Sara says, “Although this album can certainly be enjoyed by listening all the way through, very early on in the planning I began thinking of it as something to be taken one side at a time. I imagine someone dropping the needle on side A one night, and side B the next.”
Under the Pepper Tree also features a stunning vinyl package so children can interact with the record in a deeper way. The idea stemmed from the vintage vinyl releases she’s collected for her daughter. “You find some that are really beautiful, and there are some Winnie the Pooh albums that we listen to on a daily basis, not just because of what they sound like, but because of what they look like,” she says. “My daughter will look at the book while I put on the record. The pages don’t tell everything that’s in the song, but that doesn’t matter because sometimes she’s more looking and sometimes she’s more listening. It’s all there, it’s all connected. I want kids to experience my record that way, with all of those senses.”
Under the Pepper Tree will be available across digital platforms, on compact disc, and standard black vinyl. A limited to 1,500 Neon Pink with Metallic Silver Vinyl Edition will be available at Independent Retailers worldwide, while a limited to 500 Translucent Blue Vinyl Edition will be available directly via New West Records. Under the Pepper Tree is available for pre-order NOW via New West Records.