"It was very last minute," says Jarosz, who'd come to Colorado that weekend to perform a solo set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. "The Punch Brothers were playing a late-night show at the Sheridan, after the main festival was over, and Chris Thile had asked Aoife to open. She asked Sara Watkins and I to join her. We only had a few hours to get ready, so we threw a short set together and literally rehearsed in the backstage bathroom of the venue."
Jarosz played banjo. O'Donovan played guitar. Watkins, still in the middle of her reunion tour with Nickel Creek, played fiddle. All three women sang, and when they hit the stage later that night, they did so as a proper band. To Jarosz, it immediately felt like more than a one-off gig.
"Over the next few days," she remembers, "we all texted each other, saying, 'This should be a thing, right?'"
Right. That "thing" has since grown into the overseas I'm With Her Tour, which kicks off later this month in Sweden, as well as seven-inch vinyl EP that hits stores May 8th. The record finds the trio covering songs by Nina Simone's late husband, Andy Stroud, and John Hiatt. (Watch them bring triple-stacked harmonies and rootsy fretwork to "Crossing Muddy Waters," the title track from Hiatt's 2000 bluegrass album, in the video premiering today on Rolling Stone Country.)
"We got together to record the EP in December," Jarosz explains, "and we spent three days holed up in Esa's apartment in Brooklyn, working up the material. It was really natural, in the sense that we all come from a similar world but also have our own unique voices. It's fun to hear those voices blending. We can switch around and see who takes the higher or the lower part. With this group, it doesn't have to be the same all the time."
There's some original material in the works, too, as well as a co-writing session planned for July. Even so, fans of the folk supergroup will have to wait several years for another release.
"We're all working on our own solo albums this year, and those will come out in early 2016," says Jarosz. "We'll really committed to getting this project off the ground this year, but then it'll go away for awhile while we focus on our individual stuff. The plan is to make this into a band, though, and write material that's unique to this collaboration. It'll be separate from our solo careers — it's just going to take some time before any full-fledged album can take place."