Aaron Watson Finds Success With His Own Brand of Country Music
August 19 is a date that Aaron Watson won’t forget any time soon. On that day, the singer, a native of Abilene, Texas, was playing before one of the largest crowds of his career, at the home of the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Watson performed a full hour set at Globe Life Park immediately following a Texas victory over the visiting Chicago White Sox. As a native of the Lone Star State, Watson said it was a moment in his career that he will never forget.
“When you can combine music with family, that’s everything to me,” he shared with Sounds Like Nashville. “Much like when we played our debut show at the Grand Ole Opry, Mom and Dad were celebrating their fortieth anniversary, and I had my wife Kimberly there with me. The crowd, the fans, and the music just made for an unforgettable experience.”
The success of his new album, Vaquero, and his Top-30 single, “Outta Style,” have made 2017 one for the books. “We’ve had such a great summer this year, where we played four countries in one week. So, anyone in the music industry that thinks of me as a regional act, then I am covering a large region,” he said with a smile.
Watson said the day was special because he got to combine many of his passions into one afternoon. “First of all, I am a huge baseball fan,” he explained. “My entire family loves getting to see the Rangers play, but what made it so special was that it was my dad’s birthday, and the Rangers took such good care of us. We had two suites, and all-you-can-eat food, and between that, friends and family, that was his definition of heaven right there. He was so happy. It was so much fun being surrounded by those that I love and those that love me. They gave Dad a ‘Happy Birthday’ shout-out on the big screen, and the next thing you know, there’s an entire stadium roaring for him. After the show, they said it was one of the largest post-game concerts that they have ever had. Usually, with August in Texas, it’s miserable hot, but it wasn’t. It was a beautiful night, and the Rangers won. It was a special night, one I will never forget.”
The singer also got to involve one of country music’s most hallowed institutions in the festivities as Watson participated in an “Opry Circle Throwdown” from the stage when he brought out a replica of the famed six-foot Opry Circle of wood symbolizing the oak center stage at the Opry House, making its Texas debut. He said he was humbled and honored to include the WSM Radio show in the evening. “I love country music, and I love Nashville though I am unapologetically Texan. To be able to bring the Opry to Texas was a lot of fun. We love the Opry, and they are just the best folks over there. I love how they keep with the trend, but stay true to tradition. That’s what we’re doing. That’s my brand of country music.”
Watson, whose last three albums all hit the Top-10 on the Country Albums chart, said that he has been very blessed with his success, but tries to keep it all in perspective. “Anything that I have done is far less than important than anything my mother and my dad have done. My dad is one hundred percent disabled from serving our country. The reason why we’re free is people who have made that kind of sacrifice, and my mom is a schoolteacher – underpaid, under-appreciated, yet she still does it anyway. I’m not really impressed with me and what I’m doing. I’m just blessed. My goal every night is to get on stage and share my love for my family, my faith and Jesus, and give the fans a great experience and try my best to have a positive impact on them.”
Watson hopes that his music makes an impact on his fans, and also that his hard-working example has a likewise effect on the team he has assembled at his company, Big Label Records. “I use my story all the time to try to encourage these kids to get out there and work hard. I’ve had influential people in the business who would tell me either that I didn’t have what it takes, or what I was doing was never going to work. Hard work and hustle pays off. Babe Ruth once said, ‘It’s hard to beat a guy who just won’t give up.’ The fact of it is that in this day and age with social media and people downloading albums online, there’s a lot of advantages for an independent artist,” he said, but stressed that doesn’t necessarily describe his situation. “I’m not an independent artist. I’m an artist who owns his own record label. We’ve hired an incredible team at radio. They work so hard, and are passionate about me and my music. I have twenty-seven employees, and each of them have a spouse and children. We’re a big family. The label is growing. It’s not just about me. It’s about the label. Eventually the plan is to sign other artists.”
With his music starting to take off on the airwaves, Watson promises he’s here to stay. “We love country music and country radio. I tell radio all the time, ‘You better get used to my face. It took me eighteen years to get here, and I’m not going away.’ I’m here to play ball.”
What is it like for the singer when Bob Kingsley or Kix Brooks includes him in the weekly countdowns, laying testament to his growing success and fan base? “Honestly, I flip out like a little girl who just got a new puppy. It’s ridiculous. I’m glad that nobody has caught that moment on camera so far. Bob and Kix have both been so good to me. I think because I’m from Texas, a lot of people want to make it into a “me versus them’ thing like Texas versus Nashville, but it’s not that. There’s a lot of great pop country artists, and I like their music,” he said. “But, that’s not me or my music. The Beatles couldn’t be The Rolling Stones, and The Rolling Stones were not The Beatles, but they each did their own thing well. One thing that we’ve lost today in music is that with so many artists, a lot of of people have lost their identity. Every record sounds different. I think it’s because they are chasing the current sound. If you buy a Merle Haggard record, it sounded like a Merle Haggard record. The same for Johnny Cash, Waylon [Jennings] and Willie [Nelson] and the other legends. They stayed true to who they were. You could always depend on those artists to remain true to who they were. We’re just out there having fun and doing what we do.”
Now that he has played at Globe Life Park, what about that other stadium just down the road in Arlington that is home to the Dallas Cowboys? He says he and his band are ready whenever Jerry Jones wants to call. “I’m ready to go,” he exclaimed, adding that chances are pretty good that he will be there at a few games at least in 2017 to cheer on Dak Prescott and company. “I haven’t looked at the Cowboys’ schedule yet, but my dad and my boys and I load up every year, and we go catch some games. It’s gotten crazy. I show up at AT&T Stadium, and it turns into a meet and greet session, so I have to find my seat and stay put for a while. When I am at a game like that, and one of the teams play my music over the speakers, my boys look at me like ‘My dad is a big thing.’ That’s what means the most to me.”