Performing in front of an audience fit like a glove, and soonWashburn was assuming lead vocals as well. With the tour completed, Nashville was the budding musician’s next stop. While living there, she continued her banjo studies and began to write songs. In 2004, she met Jingli Jurca, who would help her write her first song in Chinese, as well as K.C. Groves, a founding member of the old-timey string band Uncle Earl.Washburn joined the second incarnation of Uncle Earl and appeared on the band’s 2005 album, She Waits for Night. Keeping her solo options open, Washburn then entered her song “Rockabye Dixie” into the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest. The tune took second place and attracted the attention of Nettwerk Records. After signing with the label, Washburn played a mini-tour of China before returning home to record her debut with such accomplished musicians as Béla Fleck, Jordan McConnell of the Duhks, and Ryan Hoyle ofCollective Soul. The resulting Song of the Traveling Daughter appeared in 2005, and Washburnreturned to the Asian continent to tour as part of the Sparrow Quartet (which also comprised Fleck, fiddle virtuoso Casey Driessen, and cellist Ben Sollee). The U.S. government sponsored the tour, making Washburn the first musical artist to receive such an honor. the Sparrow Quartet joined her on the trip, and the group explored a blend of Eastern and Western folk traditions on their 2008 effort,Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet. In January of 2011, Washburn released her third effort, issued on Rounder; entitled City of Refuge, it was produced by Tucker Martine (who also played drums on the set). It featured a slew of guests including Bill Frisell, Jeremy Kittel, Viktor Krauss, and Kenny Malone.
After a global tour and the birth of her son, she and Fleck (her husband) were finally able to realize a long-held dream: to record a collaborative album. The self-titled set contained originals, traditional songs, and a thorough reimagining of Béla Bartok through a medley comprised of two sections of the composer’s For Children and Children’s Dance. The album was released by Rounder in October of 2014.