Sarah and Sean Watkins began their monthly folk-residency, Watkins Family Hour, 12 years ago at Los Angeles’ Largo at the Coronet. Over the years, members have come and gone, guest appearances by John C. Reilly and Jackson Browne have sparked interest, and some passersby have decided to stay awhile, now operating as full-time band members. “Everyone who is now in the band was at some point a guest,” Sarah tells EW of the roster. “They used to just stop by and play and we were thrilled just to have them. It started very, very naturally.”
Of John C. Reilly’s appearance she says, “The classic example of somebody walking in the backdoor was a Christmas show and John Reilly came in with some lyrics to an Everly Brothers song and sang with Dave Rawlings—it was a beautiful moment. The best seat in the house is sitting next to those people when those moments are happening.”
On July 24, they’ll release their self-titled, debut album. The 11-track collection features the Watkins siblings trading vocals with the likes of Fiona Apple, Benmont Tench, and more, and they cover tracks like Jerry Garcia and Robert C. Hunter’s “Brokedown Palace” and Roger Miller’s “Not in Nottingham,” the latter which EW is premiering below.
“Not in Nottingham” originally appeared in the animated version of Robinhood, which is also where the Watkins siblings first heard the track. “I didn’t know about Roger Miller at the time but I remembering thinking the music was pretty cool,” Sean, who sings lead on the tune, says. “And later on when we were looking for covers to do at Largo I kind of re-stumbled upon it somehow. And it works in a cartoon environment but it’s also just a good song.”
The Watkins troupe will be touring in support of the album, which is what each of the siblings look forward to most, though for different reasons. Sarah, because, “It feels more like we’re celebrating it, just bringing these songs to these towns and celebrating these songs with audiences,” and Sean because of Apple’s involvement. “Taking Fiona out with us, there’s a side of her musicianship that people don’t often get to see,” he says. “She sings these old country songs in a way that you would never expect—it’s just kind of captivating. I’m excited for people to see that side of her.”