In an increasingly competitive industry, thanks in large part to social media and furthered technology, it’s more vital than ever to know who you are and what you’d sacrifice for further success. I recently caught up with independent artist, Aaron Watson, while he was in Chicago for a performance at Joe’s Live in Rosemont, IL, and we spoke about all things country music, as well as what has contributed to his blossoming success.
Though he is not currently represented by a record label, Aaron Watson currently has about 20 full-time employees on his team, and his previous album, The Underdog, made history as it was the first album by an independent artist to debut in the No. 1 spot on the country charts.
“I’m just a small-town businessman who writes songs. I’m really not looking to be a star. I’m not wrapped up in having radio hits or winning awards. That stuff is all just kind of silly to me. Nothing against it, but I’m a dad, and making music, touring, etc. is how I take care of my family. Though it has grown a lot in the past year, we have a very simple business model that just works for us.”
For Aaron Watson, changing the core of who he is in exchange for chart hits or a record deal is not an option. I asked if he would ever consider the “trendy radio thing” and without hesitation, he shook his head.
“No. I’m just too hard-headed for that, really. I can’t get up there and be something that I’m not. I’ve been doing this for too long for somebody to tell me what to do. Country music is my life, my passion. To be 17 years, 13 albums, 2,500+ shows into my career, I really don’t think that somebody is going to be able to tell me who they think I am. I already know who I am.”
With all of these achievements, what gives?
“One reason why we’ve done so well, I think, is that I’m an incredibly average guy, and these songs are relatable because of that. I don’t own or sing about any exotic beach houses or things of that nature, and I’m happy to just go fishing, or go to the ranch. That’s really where I get inspiration to make music. I just want to write about my life, and I’m happy to share and know that people relate.”
The fan response also pushes him to keep making more traditional country music rather than submitting to the current evolution of the country genre.
“I guess it’s just like, ‘what are you chasing?’ I think a lot of the guys in the game might be chasing radio hits, but for me, it goes back to the things I can control, and I can’t control that, or the different stages and phases of country music. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve seen about five different trends come and go. I want to always stay true to my brand of music.”
With a steady fan base and large-scale triumphs under his belt as an independent artist, you’d think that record labels would be chomping at the bit to invest in bringing Aaron Watson increased fruition. His thoughts on this are telling.
“I think that all the major labels know that we’re going to do what we’re going to do, so they just don’t even bother calling. If we had ever met a label and they wanted to help us grow our band and we did some type of joint venture – I’m all about good business deals, but nobody’s thrown that at me yet. They may just turn around one day and we’ve just turned this thing into something that’s really unstoppable.”
He smiled before concluding his thoughts on this topic:
“What I can do right now is focus on working hard to make an impact on my little world, because only God knows what the future holds.”
Aaron Watson continues to prove his authenticity, and he confirmed that with his goals for this year:
“To be a better artist, better songwriter, better dad, a better husband, to try my best to be real and to set a good example. There’s a lot of pressure with all of that because I’m a turd sometimes like most men, but I sure try…we give God all the glory, and are thankful for every opportunity to share our music with new crowds. I believe that country music fans still love old school country music, and we are putting the cowboy back in country music. #LongLiveTheVaquero.”