In February 2015, Texas artist, Aaron Watson became the first male artist to release his album independently and debut at #1 on the country Billboard charts. ‘The Underdog’ sold over 26,000 copies in its first week surpassing some of Nashville’s biggest artists. After multiple trips to tour in Europe he finally took the leap of faith to set foot in the UK for a few shows. I got the chance to catch up with him before the shows began and have a little chat about his career so far and what you, the fans, can expect to see.
Amy: Good morning! How was your trip over?
Aaron: It was good!
Amy: Have you flown in from Texas?
Aaron: I flew in from the Boston so we left right before the big storm hit, so yes we kind of got lucky! I have never played in the UK… Well we’ve flown into the UK.
Amy: I see, so have you done press here before or has it just been a stop?
Aaron: I have done press here before but that’s been over the phone and we’ve flown into London heading to other places. We actually flew in 3 days ago and played a festival in Toulon, France and then we flew back. We played that and it was a great turnout and now we’re here!
Amy: And the weather is actually nice for you too!
Aaron: It’s nice that it’s very warm I’ve enjoyed that. Better than Boston; Boston was cold!
Amy: I can imagine right now! So, your latest album ‘The Underdog’ was released beginning of last year? It debuted at #1 and you released that independently, how did that feel?
Aaron: It was an awesome experience. You know, at the time that the record went #1 I didn’t realise that I was the first independent male artist to achieve a number one record but it was just, it was, it was just a neat experience because this is what I have been doing for a long time. Throughout my career I’ve had opportunities where I could have signed a record deal and played that game but we’ve always stayed independent because that allows us to stay true to the music, you know, I always tell people that my number one priority is staying true to my faith, my family and my fans and I always felt that signing a record deal would compromise that. So to be able to have that kind of success on your own is just that feeling someone can give you something that you didn’t earn and maybe you’d be appreciative but that feeling doesn’t feel anything like when you’ve worked hard and it’s finally all starting to payoff. So I was excited for my fans because they supported me for a long time. So I was excited for the fans and as a father it felt good because music is the family business so job security is helping me take care of my family.
Amy: So I wanted to ask you about your song ‘Fencepost’ there is a lot of different versions of country music happening in Nashville at the moment but then CMA awards last year Chris Stapleton cleaned up on awards and you’ve got Texas artists like Kacey Musgraves doing incredibly well. Do you feel like maybe things are changing in Nashville?
Aaron: I don’t, I think it’s still the same. I think what Kacey’s done and what Chris has done has been really awesome but I don’t hear Kacey that much on the radio back home, not like we should, and her records are fabulous, I don’t know why they don’t play her on the radio. To me it makes sense, I mean she’s a pretty girl, she sings wonderfully, she writes incredible songs, I mean, I think all of the tools are there I just don’t understand why it doesn’t happen. Stapleton, I’ve been a fan of his song writing for a long time. He is just an incredible talent. I think it’s great that he one of these awards but again he won all those awards, he is out selling everyone but I’m not hearing him on the radio. I don’t understand why radio and Nashville aren’t getting on the same page. You always have to look at things outside the box; maybe radio, maybe playing this pop bro-country stuff is making them more money. At the end of the day everyone is in it to make money. For me you know I’m very good spot where I can make a good living for my family but still stay true to myself and I can’t think of anything more miserable than if I were to have to get up on stage and sing songs that I don’t believe in. I just wouldn’t do.
Amy: I understand that I am a musician as well and I wouldn’t want to do that either!
Aaron: So you know the feeling. There is always going to be those more pop artists that basically will sing anything to get on the radio. There’s always gonna be those people and you know, to each his own. I try to always think that, you know, those guys are trying to make a living for their family just like me and its better that they sing those songs than myself!
Amy: So you said you haven’t been here before so what is it that prompted this trip?
Aaron: We have been talking about it for a long time. We started coming over to Europe six years ago. I think this is our fifth trip to Europe and I just felt that Europe needs to be on schedule a regular basis. I mean there’s a lot of people in Europe love country music, maybe have a greater amount of love and appreciation for country music and even some of the people over the states. It’s very intense and that’s why I was that we need to be here. These are our kind of people and am in really mean to be honest with you it’s not that far we will act like it’s so far.
Amy: Right, you flew from Boston, that’s what? 7 hours?
Aaron: I think it was about 6 and a half! I mean I ride on a bus from Texas to California. That’s far! I can fly from Texas to London quicker than we can drive from the bottom of Texas to the top of Texas. We just love it over here, we like the culture, I like meeting people. It’s just a neat experience. A lot of people dream their whole life at getting to travel world and I have a wonderful opportunity to just share my music and to be a positive influence on our crowds and I just want to spread that anywhere we can go. Playing the guitar is fun!
Amy: And although country music is getting more popular over here, we have the C2C Festival now, it is still lacking which means whenever anyone is over here everyone rallies together. Even if someone had never heard your name, they would see it’s a country gig and they would buy tickets anyway.
Aaron: I love the attitude to country music over here and after shows, when we play in Europe, there’s those fans that come to me and they want to discuss the actual song, like what makes that song… I have a guy tell me, oh I love this song how the fiddle takes the first part of the solo in the steel guitar takes the back half of the solo then right at the end they join up together and play a twin part. A fan told me that! I was like, awesome! I think a lot of these fans, they dig a little deeper into the music and I like that. We have a lot of those in the states to but it’s just really refreshing to come over here and to really a different world mean everything is so different but its fun. Good people are good people wherever you go.
Amy: Your tour kicks off tomorrow night in Manchester at the Ruby Lounge and then you have the Borderline in London too – probably one of my favourites!
Aaron: Oh cool. It was important that we had rooms where I would rather have 300 people packed in where they can really experience our music than play some giant room and have 1000 scattered out. We really want to have that because we weren’t able to bring over… We have a wonderful stage, all kinds of guitars, all kinds of lights but we could bring here so you know so was one of those things we kind of just brought the bare essentials. One thing we did bring is the music! The most refreshing part of this year’s play 15+ years, well 16 years, I’ve played for 16 years, put out 12 albums, played probably 2500 shows and I feel like I’m just getting started. I’m really coming into my own as a songwriter and singer, my voice is maturing, I’m becoming a better performer and that’s exciting to be this far in my career and feel like I am just getting started! I’ve already started working on another record and its nerve wracking and its exciting all at the same time. I can’t stop thinking about my new songs. A lot of things motivate me. I’m motivated to make a better record than The Underdog. I’m also motivated to make a living for my family. To provide for my two little boys and my little girl. I also tell people that my wife’s credit card bill motivates me every month! I’m just a motivated give the fans a better product, to make the best record that can make, and just to be the best that I can be. That’s exciting and am so excited about the future.
Amy: That is so refreshing to hear, I think, that’s the attitude all musicians should take.
Aaron: Yeh, I’m not here to win awards. Actually I don’t want to win awards. I just want to do what I love. My reward is taking care of family. My reward is having fans come up to me after a show and tell me that my music brings them joy. That’s my award. I tell people that I don’t even have room on my walls at home for, you know, plaques and trophies, the walls of my house are already covered up photographs of my children. I don’t have time or room for that sort of stuff. I don’t want to be famous. Back home in I can’t go anywhere without taking pictures.
Amy: It seems like the bulk of your shows are back in Texas?
Aaron: Well not the last two years. We played 37 states last year so we play… I mean I took my children to Disney World and I get stopped several times in Florida to take pictures at Disney World but I don’t consider that fame. To me that’s not fame. That’s just me taking pictures with my loyal customers so for me it’s not fame; that’s just part of my job. If people are buying tickets to shows and are buying my records, supporting my family, I can stop for a minute to take a picture. That’s the least I can do for them. So those things don’t bother me at all, I do it because I love music. I do it because music isn’t an industry to me it’s the family business.
Amy: So were your parent’s musical too?
Aaron: Well my dad is a veteran and my mom’s a schoolteacher but music has always been part of our family. My dad raised me on Willie, Waylon, Merle Haggard, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.
Amy: All the good stuff!
Aaron: All the good stuff! Mom was always encouraging me to sing at church and those two things together kind of moulded me into who I am today.
Amy: You also have a show coming up in Italy? A festival?
Aaron: Yes mam.
Amy: You said you have travelled to Europe, have you played this before or will this be a new one for you?
Aaron: Actually I think this is a fifth time in Italy. We’ve been playing there for a little while now so we have a really strong fan base over in Italy and France. That’s why I am so excited now that we have the UK on board because now we can really come over here and really get a lot of good work done. It’s just so fun!
Amy: Well actually I play in a Johnny Cash cover band and our new guitarist is from Milan, Italy. Until then I wasn’t aware that Italy had such a big music scene for this sort of genre.
Aaron: That’s fantastic! Actually the first song on my record is called ‘The Prayer’ and it’s about Johnny. Johnny Cash has a book he wrote, called The Man In White and I read it, I love it. I love Johnny Cash, who doesn’t? You HAVE to love Johnny Cash!
Amy: How can you not!? Everyone is born into loving Johnny Cash! If they say otherwise… they are lying!
Aaron: Right! Liars!
Amy: In terms of the show you are playing in the UK, what can the fans expect from them?
Aaron: Lots of energy, lots of fun! My music is who I am, I mean these are songs I write, on my back porch, back home in Texas, I mean, it’s the real deal it’s authentic… This is Cowboy music. This isn’t city boys writing songs up in some office in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a country boy writing songs at his ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas and writing how I feel. The band is incredible; I tell people they’re untouchable. We’ve been together for forever so they think the same and they are not just great musicians but they are great guys. It’s so important, you can’t just be a great musician; you also have to be a great person. I have been around great musicians that treated me poorly and then I didn’t like them anymore. It’s a team effort. If you want to win you have to have a team. We are gonna have a ton of fun and I’m so excited. We’re gonna give it 110% and then after the show I hang out until the last person is through with me and I have done that for 16 years. That’s part of my job, that’s part of the show. The show is just half of it, hanging out, hugs, handshakes, pictures, selfies[!], that is all package deal. I want to give everyone who bothered to buy ticket to drive home and think – that was money well spent.
Amy: Lastly for anyone reading this interview is there anything you would like to say to them?
Aaron: Well we’re pretty active on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram so you can follow me on all that stuff but really we just were very thankful and appreciative of the support that we get. This is what we do, this is what I’ll do as long as God lets me. It’s one of those things that, you know, God has blessed us with so many wonderful fans and to have the support of a fan is such an honour and we really respect that and we don’t take them for granted. When you have played for a long, long time to nobody you really appreciate it when there is somebody. We’re just excited to be in the UK!