Nickel Creek and I’m With Her member Sara Watkins‘ forthcoming new album is for families. Under the Pepper Tree finds the Grammy-winning musician revisiting the music of her childhood and reimagining it in her own way.
Due out on March 26, Watkins’ new record features 15 songs for listeners of all ages. In addition to two original tracks, the project features classics such as “When You Wish Upon a Star,” Roy Orbison’s “Beautiful Dreamer” and the Beatles’ “Good Night.” When she announced the album on Wednesday (Jan. 27), Watkins premiered her version of “Pure Imagination,” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
“We did our best to pay tribute to to the soaring tempo dynamics and emotional dynamics in the original version with Gene Wilder’s vocal. His version seemed like a feat of magic to me — but nonetheless, we took it on,” Watkins tells Variety. “We came up with our own ways to pay tribute to that original arrangement and orchestration as best we could, because it’s just so gorgeous, and the song needs to have that momentum and those soaring tempos where it pushes and pulls — these qualities that we remember from the original recording that are so in us and our expectation of the song.”
An accompanying video, created by Adam Sniezek, brings the Under the Pepper Tree album artwork to life:
“I want this album to be a place of calm, imagination and relief,” Watkins shares. “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.”
Produced by Tyler Chester, Under the Pepper Tree features guest appearances from her Nickel Creek bandmates on “Blue Shadows on the Trail” and her I’m With Her bandmates on “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Additionally, fellow artists Taylor Goldsmith (of the band Dawes) offers an assist on “Blanket for a Sail,” while David Garza appears on “Beautiful Dreamer” — but, perhaps most adorably, Watkins’ three-year-old daughter sings with her mother on “Edelweiss.”
It was her daughter’s vintage vinyl collection, in fact, that inspired Watkins to pay special attention to how Under the Pepper Tree looks in its final physical form. Some of the little girl’s favorite albums, her mom says, are special not just because of their sound but because of their design.
“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,” Watkins explains. “I want kids to experience my record that way, with all of those senses.”
Under the Pepper Tree, Watkins’ first solo album since 2016’s Young in All the Wrong Ways, is available to pre-order on CD and black vinyl and pre-save via digital platforms now; limited-edition neon pink/metallic silver and translucent blue vinyl versions will be available through independent record stores and New West Records, respectively. Full details are below.
Sara Watkins, Under the Pepper Tree Tracklist:
1. “Pure Imagination”
2. “The Second Star to the Right”
3. “Blue Shadows on the Trail” (feat. Nickel Creek)
5. “Moon River”
6. “Under the Pepper Tree”
7. “When You Wish Upon a Star”
8. “Night Singing”
9. “La La Lu”
10. “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” (feat. I’m With Her)
11. “Blanket for a Sail”
12. “Beautiful Dreamer”
13. “Stay Awake”
14. “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
15. “Good Night”
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