Amarillo native Aaron Watson heading home ahead of upcoming album release
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Now that he's no one's idea of an Underdog, what's next for Amarillo native Aaron Watson?
More of the same: "Staying true to my faith, my family and my fans."
Watson stunned Nashville in 2015 when his 10th studio album, The Underdog, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, the first time an album by an independent male country singer had done so.
Though Watson has repeatedly been rejected by Nashville labels — and vice versa — over the course of his nearly 20-year career, crashing through the Music City system has drawn him more attention.
"With the success of The Underdog, we've had a lot of labels talk to us. People in the mainstream realm say if we're going to break out and hit it, quote-unquote, 'big time,' we're going to have to get rid of this Texas thing," Watson said. "That has really rubbed me the wrong way. I'm loyal. I have that 'be-true-to-your-school,' 'dance-with-the-one-that-brung-you' attitude, and honestly, this (next) album is unapologetically Texan."
Watson will preview his upcoming new album, Vaquero (to be released Feb. 24), and lead-off singles "Outta Here" and "Big Love in a Small Town" when he comes home for a 9 p.m. Saturday show at Midnight Rodeo, 4400 S. Georgia St. Cover is $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
"Outta Style," Aaron Watson
"Underdog has just really been a huge blessing for me, my family, my business, and The Underdog taught me a lot," Watson said. "It taught me that I really needed to focus on pouring my heart and my soul into my albums — and I always have, to an extent, but there has always been that little something in the back of my head that I paid attention to the current trends, and with this one, I didn't.
"I literally have gone two years without listening to the radio," he continued. "I absolute refused to listen to mainstream country music while writing this album because I didn't want to be influenced in any form or fashion.
"I wanted this one to be pure heart and soul."
For the cover, Watson had the idea to have a graffiti artist tag a wall with the album logo as he stands in front, arm raised and holding aloft a guitar. It's a striking image, one that embodies Watson's determination to go it his own way.
"I wanted it to say that this is what I stand for," Watson said. "Man, I live my life how I want to read it in a book. ... If I am talking about my story, talking about me mowing yards all summer back home in Amarillo and going down to that little music store that was there on Sixth — I don't think it's there anymore — and buying a cheap little guitar ... and while my buddies are out playing, I'm practicing and practicing and practicing, and here we are, years later, fixing to put out my 11th (studio) album, and we're really paving our own path here, doing something people say has never been done before — well, I like the direction the story's going.
"If I just turned around and signed a record deal with some mainstream pop-country label, man, that's just not how I see the story going," he continued. "We're doing something special here, and I owe it to our fans to stay true to them because they're the ones who have gotten us this far."
Watson said he's not gunning for another chart-topper with Vaquero.
"It never has been about that, and it's not going to start now," he said. "There were a lot of really, really incredible things that happened to Underdog that made it go to No. 1, and I know without a doubt that was a gift from God, so I'm not going to sit here and worry if Vaquero doesn't go to No. 1.
"I know that the album will do what God has planned for it, and there's nothing I can do about that. I'm going to get out there and focus on the things I can control — simple hard work, and staying true to my faith, my family and my fans. I think I've said that to you a billion times."