I’m With Her released its debut album last year and has been touring practically nonstop since. The trio comprises Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, all of whom have earned their musical chops along the way with a total of seven solo albums collectively, have acclaimed work in other well-known bands (Nickel Creek and Crooked Still) and have picked up a few Grammys. Andrea Valluzzo spoke with the band before they kick off their 2019 tour at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Feb. 13.
Andrea Valluzzo: Where did the band name come from?
Aoife O’Donovan: The band name just came with us throwing ideas around in 2015 before we were going on our first tour. I think Sara Watkins coined the term. At least in our minds, this sort of predates any political reference. And we just love the sense of camaraderie that it had, just the general vibe of all for one and one for all.
AV: You had known each other a long time but the decision to form a band came out of the blue?
AO: Not out of the blue. We all found ourselves at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2014, we were doing a workshop together and we all sang together for the first time as a trio. That was the moment where we kind of looked at each and something clicked. Shortly thereafter we formed the band.
AV: How do you describe your sound and your influences?
AO: I hesitate to describe our sound when it’s so easy to access music these days. For fans of acoustic music, that’s sort of the broadest sense of the term. We play mostly acoustic instruments although dabble in electric instruments. For fans of acoustic music, they will definitely be into the show, it features lots of vocal harmonies and incredible virtuosity in the way of my bandmates. Sara Watkins is one of the greatest fiddlers playing music as well as Sarah Jarosz on mandolin; they are just two powerhouses and it such a honor to be in the band with them.
AV: 2018 was a big year for you and the group. What were some of the highlights?
AO: Last year was an insane year, it was jam packed nonstop, starting in January with a trip to Europe; we came and did a headlining tour across the United States; I think we were in Europe five times; a highlight, of course, was playing on Jimmy Kimmel, that was unbelievably fun. We went to Roskilde Festival in Denmark, that was a total blast. We were just all over the world. We played Telluride again, which is the birthplace of the band … It was a truly magical year, a ton of hard work and we had had such an amazing crew on the road with us.
AV: What inspires your songwriting?
AO: What inspires us is living our day-to-day lives, which tend to be pretty crazy and exciting. Of course, also the mundane tends to make its way into our songs. I think a great example of that is the song Ain’t That Fine on our record, which speaks to the fact that everybody these days wants to be extraordinary and wants to have an exciting story. There’s all this competition on social media, ‘Oh I did this amazing thing’… But sometimes what is really at the heart of the matter is spending time with family and friends and just having a nice life.
AV: Do the three of you write jointly?
AO: It’s all collaborative, we write all our songs together, it’s really worked out and it’s been so fun and an inspiring process to get to to collaborate with three like-minded people.
AV: You’re touring in Australia in a few months. What are you most looking forward to?
AO: I have been there before but the girls have never, so it’s going to be really really fun. It’s going to be a jam packed trip.
AV: What can Ridgefield audiences expect?
AO: We have a lot of exciting things happening on this tour. The guy who is opening up is unbelievable, a phenomenal instrumentalist and musician named Billy Strings. It’s the first night of the tour and first night debuting a lighting designer … so it’s going to be an extra special show.