Country music singer Aaron Watson is probably one of the best known independent artists to come out of Texas even though most people in the South never have heard of him.
But Watson, who has sold an astounding 150,000 copies of his recordings, plans to change that by targeting more show dates in the Southern states.
“I’ve never played in Georgia even though my mother was born in that state,” Watson said in a phone interview last week. “I’ve been playing 150 shows a year for the last 12 years.
“My first goal was to take over the state of Texas,” said Watson, who was born in Amarillo and who now lives in Abilene. “I had a guy at Capitol Records ask me, ‘Do you want your music to spread all over the world, or do you just want to be the King of Texas?’
“I said, ‘Well, that King of Texas title sounds pretty good to me. And since 60 percent of all country music is sold in Texas, I’d be the majority share holder.”
Watson said once he and his band became firmly established on the nightclubs and music festivals circuit in Texas, then he expanded his bookings into the Midwest as far up as Chicago and then started hitting the Western states of Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington.
“I’ve kept my nose to the grindstone,” Watson said of his steady musical output. “At the end of this summer I’m doing my fourth European tour in four years. I’ve got a bluegrass record I’m working on and also a Christmas record, and I plan to have out another country record a year from now.”
His current and 11th independent CD, Real Good Time, has been receiving a lot of positive media coverage. It contains an impressive list of guest artists, including Willie Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, Pat Green, Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott and John Anderson.
Among the album’s 18 extremely catchy songs is his increasingly popular ninth cut Raise Your Bottle.
That’s how I came across him by seeing the video of that song a couple of weekends ago on a country music cable TV network.
It is his personal tribute to his father, Ken Watson, who was injured near Caisson, Vietnam, in July of 1968 when a land mine exploded nearby, killing another soldier; and also to his grandfather, who served with the Navy during World War II.
Proceeds from sales of the song benefit the Boot Campaign, an organization that supports veterans on their return home.
“I was pretty much raised in the VA hospital in Amarillo,” Watson said. “Sometimes I was there for Dad’s appointments, but mostly I was there doing volunteer work. Shame on us for not taking better care of our Vietnam veterans, and shame on the press for portraying them as fighting an unpopular war.”
Watson grew up in the Texas panhandle loving baseball like his father and attended New Mexico Junior College on a baseball scholarship before transferring to Abilene Christian University.
An injury sustained lifting weights derailed plans of becoming a professional player. He ended up picking up a guitar, writing songs and focusing on becoming a popular country music entertainer.
Just go to google.com and type “Aaron Watson, singer” and you’ll pull up his many excellent videos. Start with his songs such as Raise Your Bottle, Angels and Outlaws, Barbed Wire Halo, Hearts Are Breaking Across Texas Tonight, Lonely Lubbock Nights, San Angelo, Reckless, etc., and I bet you’ll become an instant fan like I did.
“I give God all the glory,” said Watson, who frequently expresses his Christian faith through his songs and stage performances. “I learned that the hard way several times, but if you put God first everything else falls into place.
“And that’s what I love about music. It should be uplifting, and it should be positive. I’ve been asked why I don’t do drinking songs, and I say that country music doesn’t need any more drinking songs.”
Even though his current CD is titled Real Good Time, the truth is that Watson and his wife, Kimberly, and his young children Jake, Jack and Jolee Kate, certainly were not going through a real good time when he was writing the songs for it and working on its production.
That was because his fourth child, Julia Grace, died a few hours after her birth from a heart defect that caused her to have two heart chambers instead of four.
“One night just before our bedtime prayers, I told the boys that Julia Grace has a broken heart, and if it doesn’t get better, then she will go to heaven,” Watson wrote for his “Barbed Wire Halo Blog” on his Web site aaronwatson.com. “Jake said, ‘Dad, it’s OK. Jesus will fix her heart in heaven and then send her back to our house in Abilene.’ ”
He related in our phone conversation, “It was tough when we found out that we were going to lose Julia. I never did pray for a miracle to save her. There are no promises in this life. The real promise is with eternity and asking for strength and understanding.
“I kept pushing back the studio date for recording this album and nothing would come to me. I finally threw my hands up and said, ‘I can’t do this.’
“I said, ‘God, if you want me to make music for a living and to glorify you, then I need some help.’ A few weeks passed, and I got on a hot streak. This album basically wrote and recorded itself.”
Watson said Real Good Time was released on Oct. 9, almost a year to the day from when his newborn daughter died on Oct. 10.
“I remember that day on Oct. 10 thinking we should be celebrating our baby girl’s birthday instead of my being out on the road promoting this stupid CD,” Watson said. “As a family, we’re doing OK. We know that we’re going to see her again one day.”
For his Web site blog Watson wrote, “I am a better husband because of my Julia Grace. I am a better daddy because of my Julia Grace. Things have been put into perspective and because of that I am a better man because of my Julia Grace.”
It doesn’t take much to realize that Watson definitely cares more about being a better daddy, better husband and better man than being the king of Texas music. But, as he said, that King of Texas title does sound pretty good.