Country Music Memories: Nickel Creek Release Their Debut Album

Twenty-one years ago today, on March 21, 2000, Nickel Creek released their self-titled debut album on Sugar Hill Records. Produced by Alison Krauss, the project spawned three singles and earned the group their first Grammy Awards nomination, for Best Bluegrass Album.

Nickel Creek, a trio made up of siblings Sean Watkins and Sara Watkins, along with Chris Thile, formed in 1989 and began performing around their home in southern California; at the time, Sean Watkins was 12, Sara Watkins was eight, and Thile turned eight that year as well. Throughout the ’90s, the threesome performed at bluegrass festivals all over the country and released two independent albums. It was at one of their shows that they met Krauss, who signed on to produce what became their freshman major-label record.

Sugar Hill Records

Nickel Creek toured throughout much of 2000, including serving as the opening act at several shows with Lyle LovettNickel Creek sold more than one million copies and became the trio’s most successful record to date. Their single from the project, “The Lighthouse’s Tale,” earned them a CMT Flameworthy Video Award nomination for Group / Duo Video of the Year.

Nickel Creek followed the Nickel Creek album with This Side in 2002 and Why Should the Fire Die? in 2005, before splitting up in 2007 to work on other musical projects. However, they reunited a few years later, at first just for a writing session, before realizing that they wanted to perform as a trio again.

“I definitely had my misgivings about the whole situation, and whether it would feel regressive,” Thile recounts. “I didn’t know how musically fruitful it could be. But the second we got in the room and started working, it was apparent that there are musical things that we can’t get any other way.”

Nickel Creek released A Dotted Line in 2014 on Nonesuch Records and have performed together occasionally since, including in 2019 on Chris Thile’s show Live From Here. The group performed “21st of May” and a cover of Sam Phillips'”Where Is Love Now?” as well as “Scotch and Chocolate.”

“We were excited every day to be there,” Sara Watkins says. “Having grown up singing together, there is something natural about our voices, and it’s really fun to harmonize. Our voices have come to match each others’ really well. Sean and I are siblings, and Chris is about as close to a sibling as you could get.”

This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.