Oak trees dripping with moss, the heady scent of jasmine, and ethereal harmonized vocals ringing across the Cistern on a warm Saturday night. Sounds like a rare gem of an evening in Charleston, and on June 1, the vision becomes reality when the all-female folk/bluegrass trio, I’m With Her, swings through the city for a one-night-only Spoleto performance. The group, formed in 2014, consists of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan. You’ll find harmonies that interlock perfectly, poignant lyrics, and masterful instrumentals at an I’m With Her performance.

Before becoming a trio, the band knew one another through the music festival scene and had been a fan of each other’s work. “We happened to be scheduled to be on a workshop stage together. We came together to work on a few songs to have on hand during performances and really enjoyed that process,” recounts Watkins. “It was a really smooth arrangement and quick process which is delightful, and when we went on stage together it just felt like something we wanted to keep doing.”

With a repertoire of Americana covers and a medley of instruments to choose from (each member can play a variety), they started performing regularly together. Exploratory performances later became a full-blown tour followed by the recording of their first album, See You Around. Expect to hear songs from that album along with some of the group’s tried-and-true folk favorites.

“Charleston is a town that every band I know of looks forward to coming to,” says Watkins. “It’s a great location for a festival and we’re very much looking forward to getting there. It feels extra good to visit while we’re still touring

See You Around. We’ll also be playing a bunch of songs we’ve worked up since then. Typically, in the first few months of a new release, a band will focus on the album and then start to get a little restless. We’ve had a lot of fun working up new material and some different cover songs, so we’ll be bringing all of that to the festival.”

Choosing a creative partnership is a vulnerable act for any artist, especially when broaching the tender-hearted subjects I’m With Her confronts in their music: relationships as they exist behind closed doors, what it means to be a woman in today’s society, knowing when to toe the line and when to walk across it. While these subjects aren’t unique to I’m With Her, it’s extraordinary for three humans living separate lives to have such powerful and seemingly effortless chemistry together.

“A band’s dynamic like ours is hard to come by. It’s a really special combination of people and musicians,” says Watkins. “I think we’ll continue to put out solo records and collaborate with all kinds of people, but this band is something we’re eager to keep alive through the many outlets we have.”

Take the lyrics from their most recent original composition, “Call My Name,” as an example: “Once upon a life, not so long ago / I showed you what I got, laid my heart low / On a patchwork quilt of leaves under an opalescent sky / I’m a wandering woman, I’m a tired light / I’m a soul second guessing out in the night.” Watkins explains that the single is about “the perseverance and stamina that it takes to be in relationships with people through thick and thin and all the disagreements that you might have. I think it’s more about general human relationships. Every kind of human relationship will undergo challenges.”

Whether confronting relationship struggles or simply celebrating this wonderfully weird experiment we call life, the band will surely tug on the heartstrings of the Spoleto audience just as they’ve enchanted audiences across the world. One of their fondest memories as a group, says Watkins, was during a performance in Berlin. “It had been kind of a hectic day and we were playing in a venue above a crematorium. It was kind of wild but beautiful, and the audience sang along to nearly the entire record. For that to happen for the first time a long way from home was a very special moment,” recalls Watkins. “I think there are a lot of personal and musical highlights from over the last couple of years. We’re looking forward to creating more.”


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