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Concert Preview: I'm With Her

Shervin Lainez

The folk trio, I’m With Her, plays one of just two Indiana performances this evening at Purdue. The all-female group is still something of a rarity within the largely male-dominated genres of folk and bluegrass music. And the name I’m With Her is still much more associated with another woman.

In 2014, three Grammy-award winning musicians joined forces to create the female folk trio, I’m With Her. The band’s name may conjure memories of the 2016 presidential election, but band member Sara Watkins says it sprang from an event that predates the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which more famously used the phrase for posters and bumper stickers. Watkins says she doesn’t think people have trouble separating the two.

I don’t know that there is a ton of confusion, but we named our band in 2015, I think,” Watkins says. “It started because we named our tour ‘I’m With Her,’ and it just felt like it reflected our attitudes at the time, which is, you know, a lot of camaraderie and just happiness to be in a band together. And after we did that tour, it just seemed like we started to identify as I’m With Her, and so we just kept it.”

Released earlier this year, the group’s debut album, See You Around, features twelve songs—all but one co-written by the three band members – Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan. Watkins says rather than playing their songs in a certain order every night, the group tries to take a fresh approach each time they play.

“We try to write a new setlist every night,” Watkins says. “We don’t really play any songs we don’t like.”

Still, the group stands out as much for its musicality as for who’s in the band. Watkins says it’s still not uncommon for them to be the only all-female act on a bluegrass concert stage, but she believes a cultural shift has started, however slowly, in their corner of the industry.

“It seems like there are a lot more women than there used to be, which is great,” Watkins says. “I think that when I was growing up, I was not terribly aware of the lack of diversity, but I became more aware of it, and now there are a lot more women that you see in the community. I think festivals still need to represent the scope that is out there.”

Though currently touring for their debut album, the group already has plans to release new music, Watkins says.

“We are releasing new music in January, I believe, and we’ll be touring through July, and then we’ll be taking a break,” Watkins says.

I’m With Her’s concert starts at 7:30 this evening in Purdue’s Loeb Playhouse.