Q&A: Aoife O’Donovan on Crooked Still’s Reunion Tour & Upcoming Projects With Sarah Jarosz & Sara Watkins

Aoife O’Donovan, keeping up her reputation as one of the busiest women in bluegrass, isn’t taking this weekend off like the rest of us. Instead, she’ll be joining Greg Liszt (The Deadly Gentleman), Brittany Haas (Haas Kowert Tice), Tristan Clarridge (The Bee Eaters) and Corey DiMario for a quick reunion tour by Crooked Still – a band that dominated the festival scene for years and kicked off successful tangential projects for its members. Coming off of a three year hiatus, the band will spread four New England shows across the weekend and then…keep us waiting for the next one.

I caught up with Aoife about the reunion and a few other upcoming projects with Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.

Crooked Still
Crooked Still

Whose idea was it to get the band back together for this little tour? 

In the spring of 2014 we got a call from Jim Olsen, our label head up at Signature Sounds. He was in the early stages of planning for a big 20th Anniversary concert and asked us to be involved. It seemed like the perfect push to get the band back together, and miraculously, schedules aligned! We’ve been off the road now since January 2012, so everyone is really looking forward to these shows. In addition to the Sunday matinee for Signature Sounds (Tickets) in Northampton, MA, we’ll kick things off on Friday night in Rockland, ME (SOLD OUT), and then play TWO shows in our hometown of Cambridge, MA (Tickets: Early Show, Late Show).

With Crooked Still’s five albums of work spanning seven years (not to mention that damn fine live album), what can fans expect to see in these sets tour?

We’ll be playing all the old hits! There are some classic Crooked Still tunes that people will want to hear, like our cover of “Orphan Girl” and the old timey tune “Hop High”, but we’ll also play some of our darker numbers from Some Strange Country and Still Crooked. I can’t wait to play “The Golden Vanity” and “Calvary”, and am especially excited about Greg’s song “It’ll End Too Soon…”

Have you been together to rehearse? What’s that been like?

We got together in September for a preview show at Helsinki Hudson, and a friend of the band’s lent us his house in the Berkshires for a rehearsal retreat. We barreled through our repertoire and it felt great to make music together again. We’ve all had such varied musical experiences in our time apart, but the grooves fit together as if no time had passed.

Watkins, Jarosz & O'Donovan
Watkins, Jarosz & O’Donovan

Shifting to you now. Our pals at The Bluegrass Situation recently premiered a gorgeous duet of Sarah Jarosz and you singing Kate Rusby’s “Some Tyrant” (below). Tell us about that and the tour set for next year that pairs you with Jarosz and Sara Watkins. 

2015 will see the debut of a new project for me – a trio tour with my dear friends and musical heroines Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz (2015 “I’m With Her” Tour). We decided to take the show on the road after an impromptu set at the Sheridan Opera House during Telluride this past summer – and I can’t wait. So far we only have European dates on the books, but you never know 😉 .

While the rest of us hope for an “I’m With Her” tour in the US, the people of Connecticut get to see you and Sara Watkins play a Christmas show on December 6th. Is this the first time you’re doing that?   

Yes! Connecticut! Sara Watkins and I will be singing with The Greater Bridgeport Symphony for A Folk Christmas, on Saturday, December 6th (Tickets). Eric Jacobsen (of Brooklyn Rider and The Knights) is the music director and conductor of GBS, and he’s put together an incredible lineup, including the Fairfield County Children’s Choir and Jeremy Kittel on fiddle and arrangement duties. We’ll sing some classic Christmas tunes, as well as premiere new arrangements of a few original songs. Did you know Bridgeport is SO CLOSE on MetroNorth? I’m super excited about this show and hope to get some NYC pals in the house that night!