Nickel Creek (formerly known as the Nickel Creek Band) is an American bluegrass band consisting of Chris Thile (mandolin), and siblings Sara Watkins (fiddle) and Sean Watkins (guitar). Formed in 1989 in Southern California, they released six albums between 1993 and 2006. The band broke out in 2000 with a platinum-selling self-titled album produced by Alison Krauss, earning a number of Grammy and CMA nominations.

Nickel Creek
Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins on the Farewell (For Now) Tour in October 2007.
Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins on the Farewell (For Now) Tour in October 2007.
Background information
Also known asThe Nickel Creek Band
OriginCarlsbad, California, U.S.
Years active1989–2007, 2014–present
LabelsSugar Hill Records, Nonesuch/Elektra Records
MembersChris Thile
Sara Watkins
Sean Watkins
Past membersByron House
Derek Jones
Scott Thile

Their fourth album “This Side” won a 2003 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Following a fifth studio album and a compilation album, the band announced an indefinite hiatus at the conclusion of their 2007 Farewell (For Now) Tour.[1] Following numerous solo projects from the band members, Nickel Creek reformed in 2014 with announcement of a new album and subsequent tour.[2]



The Watkins and Thile families met after Sean Watkins and Chris Thile had mandolin lessons with the same music instructor, John Moore. Sara Watkins studied with Moore's bandmate, Dennis Caplinger. The band name comes from a song by Byron Berline, who was Sara Watkins' fiddle instructor.[3]

Early days: 1989–99


Nickel Creek's first performance was at That Pizza Place in Carlsbad, California, in 1989 with Scott Thile, Chris's father, playing string bass.[4][5] The oldest of the Watkins children, Sean was only twelve years old at the time.[6] At the start of Nickel Creek's history, Chris Thile played guitar and Sean Watkins played mandolin but later they decided to switch instruments.[4] The band played many bluegrass festivals throughout the 1990s, and the band members were home-schooled to accommodate their tour schedule.[7] Nickel Creek's first two albums were Little Cowpoke (1993) and Here to There (1997).

Nickel Creek: 2000–01


Nickel Creek met Alison Krauss at one of their shows and later invited her to produce their next album. According to band member Sara Watkins, the group was "thrilled" with the guidance they received from Krauss to upgrade their vocal sound and the overall "production of the CD."[8]

The group received two Grammy nominations: Best Bluegrass Album and Best Country Instrumental for the song "Ode to a Butterfly". The trio was nominated at the Country Music Awards for Best Vocal Group and the Horizon Award and were named one of the "Five Music Innovators of the Millennium" by TIME Magazine in May 2000.[9] Nickel Creek's "The Lighthouse's Tale" video was nominated for a CMT "Flameworthy Video Award" for Group/Duo Video of the Year.[10][11]

The band went on tour and opened eleven shows for Lyle Lovett in the summer of 2000 and appeared on Austin City Limits in January 2001 with Dolly Parton. A month later, Parton invited Nickel Creek to perform as her backup band at the 2001 Grammy Awards. The trio also had a spring tour with Glen Phillips in a collaboration dubbed Mutual Admiration Society. A self-titled album was set for release, but was delayed until 2004. Nickel Creek also opened for Vince Gill and Amy Grant that winter.[12][13] Shortly after Nickel Creek started touring, Scott Thile decided to leave the band to spend time with his family. He was replaced by bassist Byron House, who was in March 2001 replaced by bassist Derek Jones.[13]

This Side: 2002–04

Sara Watkins, Mark Schatz, and Chris Thile touring in 2003 after the release of This Side.

In 2002, the band released their fourth album, This Side, produced by Alison Krauss. It was a departure from their previous, purely bluegrass releases. The core bluegrass influence remained, but with other genres, such as indie rock and folk rock, and they included cover songs—"Spit on a Stranger" by Pavement and "Should've Known Better" by Carrie Newcomer.[14]

A review in Allmusic said that "Thile and the Watkins siblings' originals, easily outdo the likes of folk-rockers Dave Matthews and Hootie & the Blowfish, while forging a new style to rejuvenate a genre that has always been a bit of a dark horse."[15]

This Side entered the Billboard 200 at No. 18 on the chart, and at No. 2 on the magazine's Top Country Albums chart.[16] The album was certified gold the following year by the RIAA.[17] The success of This Side earned the group a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.[5][11] The band was featured in Rolling Stone's "Best Of 2002" edition.[11]

During their 2002 and 2003 tour, Nickel Creek opened five shows for John Mayer in November 2002,[18] and toured with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings earlier in the year.[19] In 2003, Nickel Creek appeared on the Béla Fleck and the Flecktones album Little Worlds.[20]

Why Should the Fire Die?: 2005


In 2005, the band released their fifth album, Why Should the Fire Die? with more rock and pop influences.[21][22] The album debuted and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Billboard bluegrass chart.[5]

In the summer of 2006, Nickel Creek appeared at numerous music festivals, including Bonnaroo,[23] High Sierra Music Festival, Austin City Limits,[24] SXSW,[25] Lollapalooza[26] and Star Fest.[27]

Farewell (For Now) Tour: 2006–07


In late summer 2006, via Billboard and their official website, Nickel Creek announced that at the end of the year they would no longer record as a group and their tour, scheduled through 2007, would be their last for an indefinite period[28] so band members could expand their musical horizons.[28]

Sara Watkins and Chris Thile on the Farewell (For Now) Tour in April 2007.

In November 2006, Sugar Hill released Reasons Why: The Very Best, a compilation of selected studio tracks from Nickel Creek's three latest albums, as well as two previously unreleased tracks and all of the music videos from the trio's singles.[29] Their seven-month Farewell (For Now) Tour started in April 2007 and ended in November.[30] The tour was originally to be called the Victory Lap Tour, but the band's managers thought that would sound "presumptuous and boastful."[31]

The tour featured guest appearances by Glen Phillips,[32][33] Jon Brion,[34] Fiona Apple,[35][36][37][38] Bruce Molsky,[39] Bela Fleck,[37] Tom Brosseau[37] and Tift Merritt, among others.

Reunion and A Dotted Line: 2014–2020


The band announced on February 3, 2014, that they would release a new album in the spring of 2014.[2] Titled A Dotted Line, the album was produced by previous collaborator Eric Valentine and marked the group's first release on Nonesuch Records. Released on April 1, 2014, in the United States, the album coincided with the group's 25th anniversary. A subsequent tour began in April 2014 with over two dozen dates.[40][41]

Nickel Creek has occasionally reunited to perform on the radio show Live from Here (hosted by Thile), including once in November 2017[42] and again in February 2019.[43] A Dotted Line's "Destination" was selected as the theme song for the Netflix original series, "Sweet Magnolias." The series premiered May 19, 2020.

On October 2, 2020, the band announced the release of their debut live album, Live From The Fox Theater, recorded on May 19, 2014, at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA .[44]

Nickel Stream: A Livecreek Experience (2021)


On February 9, 2021, Nickel Creek announced a series of livestream concerts on Feb. 21 and 28 as the start of a new series known as Livecreek. They continued to release other streams throughout early 2021.[45]

Celebrants (2023)


After intermittent performances between 2014 and 2019, Nickel Creek began writing new material in early 2021.[46] On January 24, 2023, Nickel Creek announced a new album titled Celebrants, slated for release on March 24, 2023. The lead single “Strangers” was released the day the album was announced.[47] They subsequently announced a tour on February 7, 2023.[48] On 27th August 2023 they played Towersey Festival.

Awards and nominations












Live albums

  • 2021: Live from the Fox Theater




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  2. ^ a b Paulson, Dave. Nickel Creek will reunite at Ryman Auditorium. The Tennessean. February 3, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2014
  3. ^ Seida, Linda. "Chris Thile Bio on JamBase". JamBase. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Quillien, Shay. "Hit-making Nickel Creek tries to catch its breath". Oakland Tribune. April 27, 2007. Retrieved February 23, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Rubin, Steven. "Grammys follow Nickel Creek as sound morphs". NC Times. December 14, 2005. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  6. ^ "Nickel Creek's Sean Watkins Blue Ridge Exclusive Interview". Blue Ridge. 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  7. ^ "Nickel Creek: Mandolin With No Country". Paste Magazine. 2006-08-01. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  8. ^ "Sara Watkins" Archived 2009-04-06 at the Wayback Machine. 1999. Retrieved on October 13, 2007
  9. ^ Jeckell, Barry A. "CMA Awards Add McBride, Tritt & More". Billboard. October 10, 2002. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  10. ^ Jeckell, Barry A. "Jackson, McBride, Keith Lead 'Flameworthy' Noms". Billboard. May 14, 2002. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  11. ^ a b c Nickel Creek. "Meet The Band". Nickel Creek. June 8, 2002. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  12. ^ Martens, Todd. "Grant, Gill Take Christmas On Tour". Billboard. September 21, 2001. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  13. ^ a b Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins. "Nickel Creek Journals". Nickel Creek. August 17, 2000. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  14. ^ Nickel Creek Tackle Bluegrass Tradition and Pop Innovation on This Side Archived 2008-12-07 at the Wayback Machine. Barnes & Noble. August 16, 2002. Retrieved November 11, 2007.
  15. ^ Charles Spano. "This Side – Nickel Creek". Allmusic. Retrieved November 11, 2007.
  16. ^ Martens, Todd/Ellis, Michael. "Nelly Topples The Boss At No. 1". Billboard. August 22, 2002. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  17. ^ "Nickel Creek Certified Gold". CMT. September 11, 2003. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
  18. ^ Jeckell, Barry A. "Mayer Taps Randolph, Nickel Creek For Fall Tour". Billboard. October 25, 2002. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  19. ^ Sara Watkins. "Nickel Creek Journals". Nickel Creek. November 19, 2002. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  20. ^ Jeckell, Barry A. "Flecktones Prep Ambitious Triple 'Worlds'". Billboard. June 12, 2003. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  21. ^ "Nickel Creek's Sean Watkins Blue Ridge Exclusive Interview". Blue Ridge. 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  22. ^ Cook, Dennis. "Chris Thile: Bringing In Some New Blood". JamBase. Retrieved January 17, 2007.
  23. ^ "Bonnaroo 2006 Lineup Announced". CMT. February 1, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  24. ^ "Petty, Morrison, Nelson Top 'Austin City Limits' Bill". Billboard. May 18, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  25. ^ Cohen, Johnathan. "First Round Of Artists Confirmed For SXSW". Billboard. December 15, 2005. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  26. ^ Jeckell, Barry A. "Chili Peppers, Kanye, Wilco Lead Lollapalooza Lineup". Billboard. March 16, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  27. ^ Jeckell, Barry A. "Train, Pink lead Atlanta's Star Fest". Billboard. May 17, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  28. ^ a b Hasty, Katie. "Nickel Creek Going On Hiatus, Just Not Yet". Billboard. August 28, 2006. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
  29. ^ a b "Top 10 Country Compilations of 2006". CMT. December 22, 2006. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
  30. ^ "Nickel Creek Prepares First Leg of Farewell Tour". CMT. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
  31. ^ Argyrakis, Andy. "Interview with Sean Watkins: Roots rock/alternative country combiners Nickel Creek say "farewell" for now LiveWire. August 8, 2007. Retrieved February 18, 2008.
  32. ^ Jackson, Cory. "Sold out crowd says 'farewell' to Nickel Creek" Archived 2014-02-27 at the Wayback Machine Marshall Parthenon. July 19, 2007. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  33. ^ Dickens, Tad. "End of the road for Nickel Creek?". The Roanoke Times. November 2, 2007. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
  34. ^ MacDonald, Patrick. "Bluegrass fans tell Nickel Creek "hurry back"". The Seattle Times. May 11, 2007. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
  35. ^ Hasty, Kate. "Apple, Nickel Creek Teaming For Tour". Billboard. May 18, 2007.
  36. ^ Madison, Tjames. "Fiona Apple joins Nickel Creek's 'farewell' tour" Archived 2008-04-10 at the Wayback Machine. LiveDaily. May 17, 2007. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
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  44. ^ @NickelCreek (October 2, 2020). "We're excited to announce that we're..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  45. ^ "Nickel Creek Announces 'Nickel Stream: A Livecreek Experience' Livestream Concerts".
  46. ^ "Chris Thile on Instagram: "You heard it here second! It is our great pleasure to announce @nickelcreek's fifth studio album, "Celebrants," an 18 track exploration of togetherness to be released in totality on March 24th! Today, you can listen to the first single, "Strangers," and pre-order the album [link in bio]. If you happened to log into one of the live streams we did early in 2021, you saw us at the very beginning of the process. There were many trips across the country to write and make demos, a constantly evolving shared-note of lyrics, and life-affirming collaboration with heroes @mikeelizondojr on bass and Eric Valentine (@nerdentine) in the producer's (and engineer's) chair, culminating in four weeks at RCA Studio A in Nashville. As much fun as we've had making music together over the years, this project broke the joy meter. We're very proud of the results, and can't WAIT to share them with you. P.S. How about that cover shot from @joshgoleman??"". Instagram. Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  47. ^ "Nickel Creek on Instagram: "ICYMI! We have a new album, 'Celebrants,' out March 24. The first single, "Strangers," is streaming everywhere now! Listen + watch the full performance video at the link in bio."". Instagram. Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  48. ^ "Nickel Creek on Instagram: "SPRING 2023 TOUR ANNOUNCED! We're hitting the road this spring for our first headline tour since 2014! Pre-sale tickets and Celebrants Club packages — including a private performance, signed poster, and more — will be available Wednesday, February 8 at 10am local venue time. Sign up for access to pre-sale at the link in bio. If you miss the pre-sale window for your selected show (or pre-sale tickets sell out), general on-sale begins Friday at 10am local venue time."". Instagram. Retrieved 2023-02-08.