Texas singer-songwriter Aaron Watson’s newest album, Vaquero, is a fitting title for the hard-working cowboy. Living caught up with him just prior to the album’s release last month to ask about Vaquero, the follow-up to his indie success story, 2015’s The Underdog.
Living Magazine: Aaron, you’ve cut your own path in the country music industry. While being an independent artist and making your own records, you have also garnered huge success.
Aaron Watson: Yes! For me, music is something that I’m very passionate about, and that’s what I have always wanted to do, how I have wanted to make a living. I believed in myself and I’ve always been surrounded by a wonderful group of family and friends that believed in me. I always drew a lot of strength from that. As far as the music industry went, I had a lot of people tell me no. I had one guy tell me that maybe I could be a regional act, or in a cover band. There were comments made throughout the years that may have hurt my feelings, but I got over that and I kinda used the words, and it fueled my fire.
LM: What would your advice be for a new artist?
AW: I often tell a young artist that they need to be all heart and soul, and sing music that they believe in. The legends are not the guys that conform to the industry. The legends are the guys that stayed true to themselves. When I talk about legends, I’m talking Willie, Waylon, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, George Strait…
LM: I know you’re a family man and a Christian, but why do you say your motto is “faith, family, and fans?”
AW: I’m a musician but I run a business. I try to not focus on others, but focus on myself. My business is simple because I stay focused on my faith, my family, and my fans. In every decision I make, I ask myself—am I staying true to my faith? There’s the truth. If I’m staying truthful to my faith, I’m staying truthful to my family. Everything just falls in line. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the rest of everything that you are trying to achieve falls in place. I’m humble and try to be kind.
LM: I believe everyone has a talent, whether it’s working with children or writing songs.
AW: I agree. I love writing a song and I really love writing a song that uplifts people and brings them joy. At my shows, there are people that work all week and they spend their hard earned dollar on watching me play. I feel I have a duty to them to make them feel good. I write love songs about my wife and the girls think it’s the greatest thing ever. My wife and I are not perfect for each other, we are persistent for each other. We have been married for 13 years. I say all the time that persistence is not perfection but dedication to each other.
LM: If someone sees you out with your family, do you mind if they come up and say hello?
AW: I don’t care. When you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you gain a different perspective. For me, I rode in a van for years and years and years, and for years and years and years I played for nobody. Now we have packed crowds everywhere we go and we are selling records. I’m thankful that someone is excited to see me.
LM: What does it feel like to share your songs? It seems almost like sharing your diary. On The Underdog you wrote about your wife, your daughter, and other personal things. Does it make you feel vulnerable?
AW: It’s like sharing a diary, but I think it’s the honesty that draws people to me. I write love songs to my wife and there’s a new one on Vaquero called “Run Wild Horses,” and it’s a sexy song. I love my wife and there isn’t anything wrong with writing it.
LM: Why do you think your songs are successful?
AW: The songs are real. That’s what people like about country. Real life, real struggles… and I sing about them. I want my albums to be refreshing. With the new album, God has blessed me with 16 new songs.
LM: Did you write all of your songs?
AW: I did. My passion is writing songs. I worked every morning.
LM: What’s your process? Do you have a moment in the middle of the night where you get up and write things down?
AW: Yes, it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing, it’s just very deep. I have to write these songs. I have to. The curse is waking at three in the morning with a song in my head and I have to write it.
LM: In leaving a legacy, what would you want people to say about Aaron Watson?
AW: I would love, when all is said and done, for people to go up to my kids and tell them that your dad was so kind. He talked about how much he loved you kids and your mama and how much he loved Jesus. I want to be a good dad, that’s my legacy.
Aaron Watson’s new album Vaquero is out now on Big Label Records.
By Cryste Deshields