About three minutes into the video for her single “Move Me,” Sara Watkins erupts from a quiet family meal into food-slinging tantrum.
As four other people sit and eat impassively, Watkins starts hurling pineapples Jell-O salads and other food around the table, imploring the person she is singing to: “Want you to move me!” She eventually leaves the room while the rest of the family continues dining, unfazed by her behavior.
The video treatment, created by director Allister Ann, is an apt metaphor for much of the music on “Young in All the Wrong Ways,” Watkins’ third full-length album, released in June. Watkins wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs, and most of them were inspired by a need for change.
“I was going through a period of transition,” Watkins told The Star recently. “I don’t want to ever find myself in an accidental rut or pattern that I no longer identify with.
“For me, it comes up every six or seven years. I might find myself saying something and when I hear it coming out of my mouth, I realize I don’t really identify with it anymore. That can inspire some reflection and acknowledgment that maybe I need to reapproach some things.”
This period of analysis involved more than just personal issues. Watkins said it also involved reassessments of what she thought about a variety of issues.
“I remember at the beginning of this process being a little bit alarmed at being in such a comfortable place in a way that I identify as being almost complacent and passive,” she said. “I was craving the feeling of digging in, digging into issues that I wasn’t really informed about, wanting to develop opinions and not wanting to just go along with the informed people around me. I wanted to do the work myself.
“Those transitions can be slight adjustments … or they might cause some turbulence, and I want to embrace that turbulence as evidence of a positive disruption that will send me on a different forward motion that I was craving.”
Watkins, 35, grew up musically in the world of bluegrass and string bands, including regular performances at the annual Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan., as a member of Nickel Creek, the trio that included her brother, Sean Watkins, and Chris Thile.
Founded in 1989, Nickel Creek rapidly grew in acclaim and popularity, receiving Grammy and Country Music Association nominations and developing a fan base among college students and 20-somethings. The band went on hiatus in 2007, but reunited in 2014 for a tour and an album, “A Dotted Line,” which received two Grammy nominations.
Watkins would pursue a solo career and other collaborative projects, including the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her, a trio comprising Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan.
“All the collaborations affect everything,” she said. “I get to do my own solo shows. I get to put together my own albums and tour as I want to. And I also get to join a group of talented people I adore and respect and learn from them, and I get to be a side person. All of those things affect whatever my next project is going to be. And that’s why I do it. I want that affect.”
Her first two solo albums received positive reviews, as much for the musicianship as the songwriting. Reviews of “Young in All the Wrong Ways” have cited a change in sound and attitude.
From AllMusic: “What makes ‘Young in All the Wrong Ways’ resonate is how it touches upon her bluegrass and folk roots while feeling entirely different: the work of a musician who is integrating the whole of her influences into an idiosyncratic voice.”
In a review at NPR.org, Jewly Hight wrote: “The title track opens the album and sets the tone. Watkins momentarily loses herself in lulling wistfulness, only to lurch into a rebuke of naivete, bearing down on her scorn for once-automatic acquiescence over spiky eruptions of electric guitar and a tumultuous drum groove.”
Watkins said the change in sound was natural.
“Some people have said this album is a stretch sonically from my previous album, ‘Sun Midnight Sun,’ ” she said. “That came out in 2012 and a lot has gone on since then. I think because of the projects I’ve been part of, particularly the tours, that makes total sense.
“But there’s always a bit of an incubation time between a tour and the making of an album where you get to write without really worrying about what the album is going to be.
“You can kind of tweak it, but it’s without an audience, and it gets to develop in a way that ideally creates an album that stands apart from other projects and becomes something I want to tour on for a year and a half. That’s something that ‘Young in All the Wrong Ways’ is. I’m really proud of it. It stands apart from my previous records.”
Lyrically, Watkins relied on that internal excavating and self-analysis to recalibrate and express in song what she exhumed and discovered.
“Some of it was dug up and thrown away and some of it was uncovered and revealed in a way that I’ll keep with me.”
The album explores a variety of personal situations, including the state of relationships.
From “Invisible”: “When we were young and truth was absolute / We stood side by side defending what we knew / Today we walk together, but one’s ahead and one’s behind / And if there’s an answer here, then I am blind / Neither you nor I can see a right side this time.”
Watkins will be in town Friday for a show at Knuckleheads. She’ll perform as part of a trio that also includes David Garza and Michael Libramento. Fans will hear a Nickel Creek song or two, she said, plus solo material, much of it from her new album.
Watkins understands the warm feelings for songs from her Nickel Creek days, but is also committed to refreshing her perspectives and staying out of ruts.
“The world changes so quickly that it requires me to stay engaged and not coast on old opinions and information,” she said. “It requires me to keep re-analyzing things. Be a grown-up.”
Sara Watkins performs Friday night with David Garza and Michael Libramento at Knuckleheads, 2715 Rochester Ave. River Whyless opens. 8:30 p.m. Advance tickets, $20. www.knuckleheadskc.com