Amy: Welcome back to the UK!
Aaron: Thank you very much it’s good to see you.
Amy: You have the new album ‘Vaquero’ being released next month!
Aaron: I’m excited, really excited.
Amy: I have heard the two songs, ‘These Old Boots Have Roots’ and ‘Texas Lullaby’, that you released as a little sneak peak for us all.
Aaron: Yes, the little sneak preview! It has 16 new songs; I wrote them all. There is one instrumental track which was so much fun! And like I said I wrote all the songs so if the album is terrible it’s all my fault! I take full responsibility!
Amy: Oh, I am sure it’s not!
Aaron: I worked very hard. I wrote these songs and then I rewrote them again… and then I rewrote them again! I just really took a lot of time in instrumentation, melody and I just really… It’s the hardest I’ve worked on an album so far.
Amy: Now with the Underdog having achieved such a huge level of success for you with the #1 on the Country Charts, did you feel a big sense of pressure with this album and having to really step it up again from that record?
Aaron: You know, the record before charted number 9 on the Country Billboard so we knew we were building some momentum but… to think that it would go number 1 was crazy.
Amy: One thing I love is that the 2 songs I have heard so far from the new record are really staying true to you as an artists and I imagine having that amount of success it would have been easy for you, at that point, to start making music that leans towards the more commercial side of Country, the Nashville sound. I am so glad that has not happened!
Aaron: Well thank you. I just think there is a way you can still be trendy but yet stay true to your traditional roots. I mean, obviously, as much as I love Johnny Cash, I can’t make a Johnny Cash record. I have to make my record. Johnny Cash today would make a record that sounded like… I mean he came up during an incredible rockabilly phase in music and when you hear how he changed throughout the years, and he did change, but he was still Johnny Cash. He still had those flavours, that tick-tack [imitates Johnny Cash bass line]. He still stayed true to who he was but his music grew, it evolved, it changed; but yet it’s still Johnny Cash. If you don’t keep that you’re a sellout. That’s just the facts. The legends weren’t sellouts! I listened to Willie and Waylon and Merle and Johnny Cash and I take notes. I watch them I take notes. It’s like, I’ve said it a million times.
Do you want to be a puppet or do you want to be a pioneer?
Amy: What do you think about the handful of artists coming out of Nashville, like Jon Pardi for example, who do have much more of a ‘down-home Texas country’ sound; at least that is how it sounds to a Brit like me!
Aaron: No, I think so too. The first time I heard his song ‘Head Over Boots’ I thought it was a Texas artist. He has that raw production and I liked it! I love it, I love Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan and there are a couple of other new guys. I hope they stay that way! I really loved Easton Corbin’s first record but then the other ones went very commercial. I like Easton a lot but I haven’t cared for those records. You know what I’m saying? But I LOVED his first album, it was amazing. Maybe it was different outside of the state of Texas but that first record had a lot of momentum, I couldn’t listen to it enough. I thought that he made an album and a sound that he could build off of but I think that is probably the struggles when you work for a record label. He probably has to do a lot of what they say… [Police sirens go off outside] I think they know I’m here… We’re surrounded!
Amy: Ha! Well that actually leads on nicely to the next question which is, you are an independent artist and there aren’t a huge amount of people out there, especially when they reach a certain peak in there that will continue on that path it seems. It’s almost just what you do, you work until a record label will sign you. In terms of your releases and you promotion, how has being independent benefited you over having that deal?
Aaron: I guess I would have to say, I am independent but at the same time the business is very well structured. WE have management in place, we have a wonderful booking agency, we have distribution. I’ve hired folks to work radio… So a lot of times people ask me ‘have you signed to a major label yet?’. Now I answer their question with; I am the major label! That is my mindset. We are growing a business and it’s more that just the music, unfortunately it has to be more than the music because you can be artsy fartsy all day long but if you can’t pay your bills then you can’t make more music. So I think, I’m sure my manager can agree with this. If we were willing to go to Nashville and say ‘OK! We have sold this many CD’s, we’ve done this much in touring, we really really really want to sign a record deal’. We could sign a record deal but I think they would take all my money! And my wife does not like the idea of that! She takes all the money so it’s like… it’s really her. She does not want to share! My wife does not want to share the money with anybody!
Amy: Well of course, ha! When it comes down to it though you are clearly doing all the right things where you are now or I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you!
Aaron: And I am happy! The big thing is being content with what God’s blessed you with. I mean if you are always going ‘well I did this but this artist did this, this and this’. There is always going to be somebody doing something bigger and better. You just have to focus on yourself and go ‘gosh, you know, I get to make music for a living, i sell enough records and enough tickets that I get to travel the world! I have a nice home for my children to live in. I take them to Disney world every year’. When is enough, enough? When does it become greed? So for me, I am just thankful for the opportunity and I love making music. As long as I can take care of my family and continue to keep making more records… I will be really happy! I don’t really care about awards, I don’t really care about charts. I would love for ‘Vaquero’ to go number 1, I’ve worked so hard on it. But if it doesn’t go number 1 I’m literally gonna go ‘aw, shucks!’ and just keep going. People keep asking me ‘what are you going to do if Vaquero doesn’t go number 1′. I’ll keep doing what I did when the first 11 records didn’t go number 1! Doin’ my thing, singin’ my songs! It’s all you can do. Just be the best you can be.
Amy: You touched upon the family side of things there for you too. I know, from speaking to you last year, family is incredibly important to you. I know you always have tracks on the album which have been influence by them. What songs on this new record have been written about or for your family?
Aaron: I wrote Jolie-Kate (his daughter) a song that she wanted me to write! How can I say no to that? She’s my baby girl! So I wrote her a song. It is the last song on the record and its called ‘Diamonds and Daughters’. I told her that someday when she gets married her and her daddy can dance to this song. I wrote it from that perspective. Letting her know how beautiful she is on the inside. It is a song that i was girls, regardless of their age, to just listen to that song and know that they are beautiful because of their heart. Then there are a lot of other love songs on there. There’s several love songs on there that I am really excited about! Some of them are really trendy sounding; but not radio trendy. We really created something special. Just making cool music.
Amy: A great song is a great song whether radio wants to play it or not!
Aaron: That’s the thing! I just want to make cool music. I really feel like this is the coolest record we have made. This is just a cool record. I’d put this up against anybodies! The first song on the album is called ‘Texas Lullaby’. It is a love song about a soldier and his girl. Then there is a song called take you home tonight. It is just a good dance hall… like a song that a husband and his wife will really relate too. I also think that girls will hear this song and go ‘ooo I want something like that someday’. The whole song write is we aren’t gonna leave this house but I’m gonna take you home tonight It’s cute, it’s danceable. My favourite song on the record is called ‘They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To’. When I look back at my grandparents I think of good things and it makes me miss them. I see how they loved everyone, how they loved me and it makes me go – they don’t make ’em like they used to. The concept of that song is that in this day and age where we are all so mean to each other, we need to live our lives and set good examples for our children and their children so that someday they will look back on us and say ‘They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To’. It is my best songwriting to date, I worked really hard. I drove myself crazy! I just wrote and wrote and wrote! I am so excited to have everyone get the record. It is so exciting to work on something for 2 years and finally be almost there. 1 month to go!
Amy: I was looking through your your dates and you have a lot of dates now outside of Texas, is that something that has been made more accessible to you through ‘The Underdog’ going #1?
Aaron: We started touring outside of Texas, pretty hard, pretty regularly, probably about 9 or 10 years ago but it became a lot more intense after ‘The Underdog’. I think it has been 38 states and 2 countries in 2 years. So we played a lot of shows!
Amy: One of the shows on that tour list is the Grand Ole Opry next month. Is this the first time you have played? If not, when was the first time, what what is like and do you remember the moment you got the call to be asked to perform?
Aaron: This will be my second time. I do remember, I was pretty overwhelmed by it, it was a pretty nerve-wracking experience. Afterwards I had so much fun but before the Opry show I was very nervous but it was incredible. There is such hospitality there at the Grand Ole Opry so it was incredible and we are excited to go again. We are playing all over the place coming up, from the Houston Rodeo to New York City. I don’t even look at it because its like ‘woooah! where are we right now!?’. It is exciting and it is just part of the cycle of putting out a record, it gets pretty intense and it is going to be pretty intense for a while. So I try to just take it one day at a time. I am tired now and we haven’t even gotten started!
Amy: You get to come over to the UK as well which I know last time was your first time playing here. You played Glasgow first then Manchester last night. How, at this point, has it compared to the tour last year? Do you feel more relaxed into it?
Aaron: The crowds are bigger! I think as a touring artist, who has been doing this a long time, what you do is you play somewhere and you give them the best show you can give them and you plant those seeds. You give them music and then you go away, make them want more. Let their friends listen to it, word of mouth you know and then you come back the next time and there are 40 or 50 more people.. maybe 100! You grow it and you grow it and you grow it. You have to keep coming back because you have to water the plants if you want them to grow so it’s been fun! But we have fun regardless… I mean we are playing music!
Amy: So you have Honey Ryder supporting you tonight and they were with you last night in Manchester. We have a growing Country scene here in the UK, have you had a chance to hear any of our artists and if so what do you think of what you are hearing?
Aaron: Well, Honey Ryder sound great. I just haven’t had a chance to hear anybody. I don’t even get much of a chance to hear what is going on back in the States. It’s crazy but I’m so engulfed with my own music, I am touring so much that when I get home that the last thing I want to do is hear music! But chill out and end up picking up a guitar! I wish I did have the opportunity to hear more bands here in the UK but I am hearing wonderful things about the growing Country music scene in the UK and big thanks to you for spreading the word!
Amy: So you are touring for this album but are there already things in the pipeline for the next record?
Aaron: I’ve already started. I am in the very beginning phases right now. I am starting to look at songs that I didn’t finish for this record that I wish I had finished. I get this little game plan where I have these songs and if i had to record the album right now then I would use these songs. Then as I write new songs I look at it and think, well that one deserves to be here much more than this song. It becomes survival of the fittest! The canvas starts like that, the more I paint the more ideas I get.
Amy: Do you write a lot whilst you are on tour or are you kept too busy with everything else?
Aaron: No, I do. But I am usually pretty brain dead for 3 or 4 months after finishing a record, a bit spaced out. So I focus on the business side of things. Then when the record comes out I start getting hungry again. Once i get hungry then I will just have to write all the time! It’s exciting, writing is my favourite part. It is what makes me happy.
Amy: I know more artists are starting to have a hand in writing every track on their record but when it comes to a real home grown artist who will sit, alone, and write a whole album of your own songs it must be extremely rewarding when that all comes together.
Aaron: I think i wrote 13 of the 16 by myself, then I had a couple of co writes on the other ones. I just like writing! I like writing about myself too. We are selling enough records now that we are starting to have publishing companies send us some pretty good songs but they are not mine. I just take a lot of pride in writing, this is my baby. They are my songs. I mean, I love children in general but I love my babies a little more because they are mine! It is human nature and these songs are my babies!
Amy: Well, I for one am really looking forward to hearing it! Finally, what can we expect from you between now and the release of the next album?
Aaron: I am not really sure what is going on at the moment! I am just going to work hard and keep doing what we do. Touring, touring, touring. Writing, writing, writing. See what God has planned for us. I really haven’t thought about any of this stuff, I haven’t planned anything really!
Amy: Except for another trip back here next year!
Aaron: Yes mam! But you know we are just working hard. That is all we can do and I will give it my best efforts. Then at the end of the day, if you give your very best efforts you are going to sleep good at night because you did all that you could do. Give 110% and treat your fans like family. We are excited to just stay passionate about the music!