By Walter Price
Aaron Watson is a traditional country music artist, an artist making his way the only way he knows how. Fighting, whether on purpose or not, the nonsense being force-fed to American country radio stations by the Nashville major label factories. Nothing wrong with hip-hop or highly polished pop but they do seem a bit out of place on our favorite country radio stations.
Amarillo, TX native, Watson has built a steady and strong career over his past 11 albums but hasn’t wavered a bit from his core values: faith, family, honesty, his fans and his need to keep the country sound, well, ‘country’.
“As I listen to Alan Jackson it makes me sad that Nashville has drifted far from its roots. His songs have integrity, class & are timeless!” -Aaron Watson
Watson has seen some of the terrible sides of life over his remarkable career. At one point even questioning if he should go on with his music aspirations. It’s a good thing he found what he needed to move forward. He has been a staple on the Texas Music Chart, charting several 1’s, selling truck loads of albums and building a die-hard fan base that any artist in any genre would be proud of (and he is).
For the most part, Aaron has done all of this, by doing it ‘his way’ and gaining respect from fans as well as his peers. He knows a thing or two about honesty and it shows in his strong family, belief system and his good ole traditional country sound. A sound that is as solid as the artist behind it.
Before Aaron heads back into the studio to start work on his twelve release, “The Underdog”, we had a chance to ask him a handful of questions.
I guess the best place to start is in Amarillo, how was it for you growing up in the Texas Panhandle? At what point did your music ‘aspirations’ start?
Amarillo was a great place to grow up. It’s a great combination of both country life and city life. West Texas is full of friendly folks… its my friends, family and faith in God who molded me into what I am today. Between singing at Church and always listening to Dad’s ol’ record collection, music has always surrounded me.
When you started playing for crowds up to when you recorded your first CD/album, did you realize this was the path/career for you?
I always wanted to be a professional baseball player but that dream never came true…so I directed my passion towards songwriting. I love all genres of music but the songwriting side of country music is what has always been most appealing to me.
You’ve said some of your influences are George Straight, Beach boys, Beatles, Chris Ledoux and the greats of the outlaw country movement. How far do influences go into making your music?
Country music has really changed drastically in the last 10 years. Music always goes thru different stages and phases but… I feel country music has drifted far from its roots. I’ve actually been told by many main stream radio programmers that they love my music but its just too country to fit their format. At the end of the day, I don’t resent or despise the pop-country artists at all. For all I know, they are good ol’ boys just like me just trying to make a living for their families. For me personally, I try not to listen to the current trend. I try to stick to my roots and write from the heart. I may not make mainstream platinum records but I promise my albums are all heart and soul.
You’ve recorded a lot in your career, are you a studio guy or do you prefer the road?
I guess I’m a “studio road guy”. Making new music is exciting and then having huge crowds sing along to every word is an amazing experience. So they kind of go hand in hand and a new record always keeps the show fresh.
Speaking of recording, you’ve collaborated with number of greats, vocally and/or production wise. Point some fingers, who would you say was the best to work with?
Texas is filled full of Country Legends. I’ve learned so much about the business by talking with Gary P Nunn and Ray Benson. I’ve been inspired by getting to work with Dale Watson and Willie Nelson. I love being surrounded by so many incredible musicians. Even though we are now working on our 12threcord, I’m still learning more and more everyday.
‘The Honky Tonk Kid’ is a global act now, playing Europe and beyond. How does it feel seeing different parts of the world catch on to your music?
I love playing in Europe! I am constantly amazed at the amount of appreciation the Europeans have for the traditional side of country music. I love seeing the countryside and meeting new people. After four trips to Europe in the last 2 years, I have fallen in love with the people and the places. I can’t wait to come back!!!!!
We live in Leipzig, which I call the Austin of Germany….When can we expect you over here?
I hope soon! I’m willing to play anywhere they’ll have me (be sure to call my agent and manager)
My wife’s grandparents live in a small village not too far from us and there are John Deere trackers in the fields and the guy down the road has a Harley, would you agree country folk are pretty much the same no matter where you go?
Country is a state of mind and a life style. It’s staying in touch with the things that matter the most. Not getting wrapped up in the modern hustle of today’s world and its technology.
How important is the European market for your brand of country music?
We have a big following in Texas, the Midwest, West Coast… and we are working on the South East portion of the US…. We are always looking to franchise and grow our fan base. Me, personally, I would rather play in Europe any day then play in New York City.
You’re a true family man. How do you and your wife balance home, children and the road?
I love country music but I love my family more. I would quit country music in a second if that’s what I needed to do for my wife and kids. Its important to stay focused on the things that last forever. I have learned that if you stay focused on God and struggle daily with trying to live a life like Jesus… the rest always seems to fall right into place.
How proud are your folks of you and what you’ve been able to do?
My mom and dad have always been supportive in whatever I have done. All they have ever asked from me is that I always give my best.
Not too long ago your family had to work through a tragedy that would have destroyed most. And it’s been said you almost walked away from your music until you asked God to show you His plan….Can you explain what God means to you, your family and your music?
Losing our daughter, Julia Grace was a tough experience but having her for the short amount of time that we did was also a beautiful experience. I am so thankful that despite her terminal condition, God let us keep her for just long enough to love on her. I got to sing to her as she slipped away and that was the sweetest moment of my life. I tear up just typing this and thinking about her. Life is tough, full of pain and death. We are all vulnerable to this world and its cold and cruel ways. We can’t be shocked when tragedy strikes, we need to be prepared. I asked God for strength and understanding and He gave me those things. We stayed faithful to God and he blessed us for it in so many ways. I miss my little girl but I will see her again someday.
Is it considered taboo to mention God in music today? There is an album out called Yeezus…
I’ve been told that its not politically correct to mention Jesus but Jesus and his disciples didn’t shy away when they were discouraged and persecuted for spreading their message so neither will I. I believe that God has gifted me with a great platform to tell people about Jesus and his love. This world needs the love of Jesus Christ. Turn on the television and just watch all the never ending bad news.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
You recently posted this on your Facebook page: “As I listen to Alan Jackson it makes me sad that Nashville has drifted far from its roots. His songs have integrity, class & are timeless!” It started in the late 70s and 80s, Is there still too much razzle dazzle (AKA Pop) in country today?
My opinion is Yes. Country Music has sold out on class and integrity. Seems that every song is just some shallow party anthem about cheap love and getting drunk. There are too many singers and not enough songwriters taking pride in the quality of song. At the end of the day, you can probably blame it on the record executives that probably can’t even play a D chord on a guitar. There are lots of talented folks out there… hopefully things will return back to their roots.
Who is the next rising star in Texas country music?
Cody Johnson is the real deal!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make music a career?
Make music because its what you have to do. Make music because it’s part of your heart and soul. Don’t make music just because you want to be rich and famous
One of our biggest regrets before moving to Germany from Cross Plains, TX is that we didn’t get the chance to see you play live. So we are looking forward to you booking a tour over here very soon. Maybe I’ll get the chance to ask you the other thirty questions I had for this interview.
I look forward to meeting you as well!
Thanks for talking with the Global Texan Chronicles today.
Thank you for the opportunity!