It was two years ago this month when Aaron Watson made musical history. His release The Underdog became the first album by a male artist to debut at the top of the Country Album charts with a self-released and independently distributed and promoted LP. Selling over 26,000 copies in just its first week, the feat made headlines across the country. Watson recalls to Billboard that he can still remember where he was when he got the news.
“I was just taking the kids to school, and was back home. I was sitting at the kitchen table, and my wife was cooking breakfast. My manager calls me and says ‘Are you sitting down?’ He said, 'Congratulations, your album just charted number one in Billboard.' I remember being in shock. I was speechless, and at the same time, I was completely humbled by the amount of support my fans have shown me all these years.”
Now, Watson is back with Vaquero, the album's much-anticipated follow-up -- and once again, he’s doing it all on his own. One might have thought that his phone would have rang off the hook with offers following his historic chart feat. Think again.
“I can tell you that not one label has called me in spite of all the albums and tickets that we’re selling,” he reports. “I don’t know if it’s ignorance or arrogance, or what it is. If I was running a record label, and some kid from Texas had a career that was self-sufficient and profitable, and was doing things that I couldn’t do with other artists on my label, I would call my pilot, and I’d say ‘Fire up the jet. We’re going to Texas.’ But we didn’t get a text message or a tweet.”
Despite the continued lack of interest from Music Row, Watson says he’s happy to be continuing to make his music his way. “I have to stay true to who I am, or I’m not going to do it. It’s ingrained to me. I’m not chasing fame or fortune. Music is my passion. I feel like God has blessed me with this incredible fan base, and I’m not going to let them down.”
But, Watson has seen many positives over the past two years. “I am so grateful that because of the exposure, I have had the opportunity to share my story with a bigger audience, from getting to play Live Nation events to headlining the Houston Rodeo in a month in front of 70,000 people. That’s like winning a green jacket.”
He says that he received plenty of advice from his friends about how to take his music to the next level, but his aim has always been to stay true to himself. “When The Underdog went number one, we had a lot of friends in the mainstream music industry who said that to break out, I had to get away from the Texas thing. I disagree... It’s not like I’m beating people above the head with songs about Texas, but to make my point that we’re going to stand firm and stick to our brand, we painted a Texas flag on an old brick wall, and I held my guitar up in a very rebellious stance, because I believe in what we’re doing, and it’s been working for a long time. This is who I am, and the music that I make. Trends come and go, but the cowboy is timeless.”