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Singer-Songwriter Aaron Watson Is No Longer Underdog With New Album, 'Vaquero'

Kevin Winter

When Aaron Watson released his album The Underdog in early 2015, he believed it was good, but wasn't expecting it to make history. When it arrived in stores and online that year, the album debuted at the top of Billboard's country albums chart, becoming the first independent record to do so.

Its success, Watson says, was due to more than a decade of hard work in the country music scene and plenty of preparation.

“The work that I put into The Underdog was unlike anything that I had done with the previous 11 albums,” he says. “It’s not that I didn’t work hard on the other albums, it’s just that I feel like I pushed myself harder to be a more consistent songwriter. By getting up early every day, devoting time to songwriting, really helped me to focus in on the details: the lyrics, the melody, the music.”

Watson had spent much of his career fighting industry trends and hearing that he would never be a mainstream success. The arrival of The Underdog proved his critics wrong.

“For 17 years, I’ve had mainstream country music tell me that I don’t have what it takes, so there’s some beauty in a victory when you’re the underdog, and everybody says that you can’t, but you work hard and you prove yourself,” Watson says. “I found a lot of satisfaction in that.”

Watson says that he remembers the day that The Underdog arrived at the top of the Billboard charts. It was also then, he adds, that another two-year cycle of painstaking work began.

“I was in the kitchen with my wife,” he recalls. “I had just taken the kids to school when we got the phone call that The Underdog had charted number one on Billboard. There was a moment of us jumping up and down and celebrating. But then, shortly after that, there was that moment of almost a little bit of panic for me, personally. It was, like, ‘Wow. Everybody’s looking to me to see what we’re going to do next. I’ve got my work cut out.’ At that point, right then and there, I started working on the new album, Vaquero.”

Watson's new recording, Vaquero, will be released in late February. The album finds the singer-songwriter doubling down on his love of the Lone Star State.

“I’ve had so many people telling me that if I’m ever going to break out nationwide, I’m going to have to get away from my whole Texas music image,” Watson says. “I really wanted to put out a record that defied that. So, on the cover, there’s a big Texas flag and the first song on the record is called ‘Texas Lullaby.’ It’s as country as it gets. It’s a song of faith and patriotism and love and all the things that I believe in.”

In the end, Watson says, he hopes that listeners will find joy in this new record. Though he does find time to reflect on life's harder moments, he says that he prefers expressing happiness in his songs.

“I wanted it to be an album that inspires people, an album that makes people feel better,” he says. “There’s enough heartache in this world. I don’t need to add to it.”

Aaron Watson performs at The Cotillion Ballroom on Friday, Jan. 6.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

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