Charming Chemistry

Musicians find magic in on- and off-stage harmony

Courtesy Photo Sara Watkins, from left, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan make up the trio I'm With Her, performing Tuesday at the Walton Arts Center.
Courtesy Photo Sara Watkins, from left, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan make up the trio I'm With Her, performing Tuesday at the Walton Arts Center.

When a musician has solo and group credits on her resume, it seems to be the norm that she achieved some level of success as part of a group and eventually broke off to pursue a solo career. That is (sort of) the case with two members (Sara Watkins, Aoife O'Donovan) of folk trio I'm With Her. The third member, Sarah Jarosz, took the more unusual path from solo (Grammy Award winning) artist to joining a trio. Now, just shy of four years after the first time the threesome came together for an impromptu performance in Colorado, they've seen the name of their band co-opted by a presidential campaign, released their debut album and embarked on a world tour.

"I think we all feel that this [situation] feels different. And I guess maybe the reason it does is because we kind of figured out early on that we do life well together -- the day-to-day aspects of hanging out and having lunch and getting coffee and all of those mundane things someone might not think about," Jarosz muses. "So we just really love being in each other's company. And I think that brings a heightened appreciation for when we finally do get to get on stage at the end of the day and [perform] these songs together."


I’m With Her

WHEN — 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $32.50

INFO — 443-5600

BONUS — The trio will be joined by special guests Smokey and the Mirror.

With an abundance of media praise for the women's instrumental talent, rich harmonies and the touching nature of their music, a quote from American Songwriter cuts quickly to the reason their names, faces or voices may be familiar: "I'm With Her combines the myriad talents of three of roots music's most beloved musicians to a result far greater than the sum of its already impressive parts."

Watkins took to the Americana stage at just 8 years old as a founding member of Grammy-winning group Nickel Creek, has performed with The Watkins Family Hour -- among other collaborations -- and enjoyed a solo career over the past decade. O'Donovan, too, released solo material following her founding of and performing with progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. After crossing paths for years, when the two sat down with Jarosz "backstage, on a couch, in a tent behind the mainstage at Telluride [Bluegrass Festival in Colorado]," the chemistry was instant and undeniable.

"I remember being a little girl and you sit in the circle and when a solo gets passed to you, you improvise a solo. There's a deep history of improvisation within bluegrass. So all of us kind of being accustomed to that, it's just easier to drop into a situation with new musicians," Jarosz shares. "It's really amazing how if you practice improvising a solo in the course of a song for a long enough time, that's really going to stretch your ear in a way that [another style of music] might not. [And] because we all come from a similar background, it was easy to have this impromptu moment as a trio."

Harmonies -- the syncing up of two or more unique voices to become a new sound -- are an enchanting thing, Jarosz says. And hopefully, I'm With Her shares a little bit of that with their audiences as they continue to ride the magic that brought them together in the first place.

"It's especially special when the singers themselves notice it," she enthuses.

NAN What's Up on 04/13/2018

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