As an independent artist in the country music industry, Aaron Watson has broken multiple records and defied the odds as a musician. Always true to himself, Watson finds his own way in the industry; an honest, genuine, heartfelt way that fans can relate to in their own lives. Watson has been recording albums since 1999 and has developed a strong and loyal fan base, as well as collecting accolades usually reserved for artists signed under major labels on Music Row. Lula 1892 had a chance to catch up with Watson between shows to discuss his favorite influences, writing inspiration, and how it felt to top the Billboard Top Country Albums chart as an independent artist.
Born and raised in west Texas, Watson stays true to the culture of his great state with his music. “I write about what I know and what inspires me. I’m from West Texas- I grew up in Amarillo- and I lived in a little town outside Abilene now. It’s a wonderful place and I’m very proud of it. There are wonderful people here that I’ve been surrounded and inspired by my whole life,” he commented when asked what about Texas inspired him to write. Watson’s love for his home and roots features prominently on his newest album, Vaquero, released earlier in 2017, with the songs “Texas Lullaby” and “These Old Boots have Roots”, and again on The Underdog, released in 2015, most especially in “Blue Bonnets”.
Texas isn’t the only thing that brings heart to Watson’s music. With a strong discography, much of which is devoted to his wife and children, it is easy for fans to relate to the love and life he croons about. Watson mentions in his official biography that he isn’t interested in adding to the steady stream of hook-up anthems coming out of Music Row. Instead, Watson celebrates monogamy, strong love, faith, and staying together to live out the vows we make to one another and to our children. His two most recent albums include songs penned to all three of his children. “I write about what is in my heart. I’m a dad of three and I love my wife. I think that should be put on a pedestal and celebrated. You have to be authentic and true to yourself- I’ve written many love songs for my wife and I continued to be inspired by her daily. My daughter has me wrapped around her finger, and on my previous record the title track “The Underdog” was written for my boys, so she said I had to write a song for her on my next album. I wrote “Diamonds & Daughters” because I wanted a song that could celebrate all of the fathers and daughter’s love out there- it’s a special kind of love.”
As an independent artist, Watson has the freedom to produce the songs he wants to produce when he wants to produce them. That said, coming up the ranks of country music without a major backing label is no simple task. “It’s certainly not been a quick and easy path, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. I’ve been able to make the music I want to make on a schedule that works well for our business. I feel blessed so many artists have found inspiration in my story, and I tell them to get out there and just do it. Write and tour and work hard and never give up.” In 2015, Watson became the first independent male artist to debut at number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart with his album The Underdog- a self-released and independently distributed and promoted album. When asked about it, Watson recounted the moment with his wife, Kimberly Watson. “It was a really incredible moment with The Underdog. We had worked very hard to get to that point. I made that record with Keith Stegall, who is a legendary producer who’s worked with Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band, just to name a couple. After the release week, which is always a lot of hard work, I woke up to take the kids to school, then was back at home cooking breakfast with my wife when my manager called and said we had officially done it. We were definitely excited, we jumped around and celebrated. My wife is amazing and has been by my side through this entire journey. I couldn’t have done it without her support, so it was very special to have that moment together.”
Though much of Watson’s music is about love and family, there’s a deeply important faith element to much of his writing. Watson has an album of faith songs, released a little over ten years ago, has provided some of the tracks that make it to his set list. “That album definitely has more covers than originals, but the title track “Barbed Wire Halo” was re-recorded on our Real Good Time album and is still a standard song in our set that I feel people need and want to hear every night I perform.” Though Real Good time is not an album of faith songs, the subject still runs deep- especially with the track “July in Cheyenne”. July in Cheyenne, which chronicles the death of rodeo sensation Lane Frost and his relationship with God, is perhaps one of the most touching songs ever written in country music. When asked about the inspiration behind the song, Watson explained “There’s nothing more important to me than my faith and I’m very open and vocal about that. I tell people every night I perform this song that it’s is a special song for me and it came at a moment when I really needed it. My wife and I had lost a little girl, Julie Grace, and it was a very hard time. I was heartbroken and homesick and didn’t want to be on stage while people were having a good time around me- but Daddy’s got to work. Then one night, I was flipping through the TV and 8 Seconds was on. I saw it in a different light, emphasizing with parents who had lost a child. After that, I started doing some reading and came across something Elsie Frost said about her son, Lane Frost. She said “his greatest achievement came a year before he died when he asked Jesus Christ to be his lord and savior” and it all made sense to me. Because of what Jesus has done for me, I’ll get the opportunity to see my baby girl someday again in heaven”.
Watson has put his God-given talent to good work in the last twenty years and has provided country music fans a wide variety of songs to laugh with, cry through, and hold tight as inspiration. We asked Watson what some of his favorite inspirations in the genre were. We certainly enjoyed stumping him with some of these questions! In response to some of his favorite artists, Watson answered, “I’m a huge music fan and it changes all the time, but right now I’m really into the songwriters. Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson.” When it came to the top song he wished he’d written, he couldn’t come up with just one. “I’m a huge fan of lyrics and melody, so there’s a ton of song I have so much respect for. It always challenges me; how did they come up with that idea, how did they put it together, how can this challenge me to grow as an artist?” The question of who his favorite artists to work with was even more impossible for Watson, but we enjoyed challenging him with it all the same. “I’ve gotten to work with so many people in so many capacities that it’s hard to sum it up like that. In the studio, there are great players and musicians- going all the way back to my days of working with Ray Benson all the way through to today. On the road I’ve gotten the opportunity to play with so many amazing people from Alan Jackson to Brooks & Dunn to Dwight Yoakum, just to name a few. And meeting songwriters and talking about the tracks is so special. Recently I’ve spent some time with Bob Dipiero, which was incredible.”
One question that was easy for Watson to answer? His favorite thing to do when he’s got time off from being a country music sensation. “Being a dad and a husband and spending time with my family hands down is my favorite thing to do.”
You can catch Aaron’s new music (including his new single, “Run Wild Horses”), check tour dates, and hit up his online store at www.aaronwatson.com, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to follow his adventures across the world!