Aaron Watson sticks with indie success

Photo by NPG Public Relations -- Aaron Watson -- Texas country singer and recording artist Aaron Watson performs Friday at the Texas Club.
Photo by NPG Public Relations -- Aaron Watson -- Texas country singer and recording artist Aaron Watson performs Friday at the Texas Club.

Texas country singer-songwriter Aaron Watson likes going his own way. The Abilene-based recording artist’s latest indie album, Real Good Time, debuted at No. 9 on Billboard’s country albums chart last fall.

“That was a huge victory for us,” Watson said earlier this month prior to his show at the Montgomery County Fair & Rodeo in Conroe, Texas.

Real Good Time is Watson’s 11th album in a 12-year career and his most successful yet. He’s sold some 150,000 records in all, scored seven No. 1 songs on the Texas Music Chart and sent four albums into the Billboard charts.

Early in his music career, Nashville courted Watson. He got flown to Music City and was offered the opportunity to work with a record company there.

“It didn’t seem like it was for me,” he said. “I’ve always liked the idea of the independent thing. It lets me enjoy music and still enjoy life. I mean, there are guys who just live on the road. But I don’t think that’s any way to live.”

Watson doesn’t have anything against record companies, he said. If one of them approached him and said, “Hey, I want you make your songs. Do what you wanna do,” he’d take the deal.

“But I don’t think that’s how it works,” he said.

Watson grew up in Amarillo and moved to Abilene to attend Abilene Christian University. He dutifully got his degree in biology with a minor in chemistry and Bible study, but music took him away from a more conventional career.

“I was working on campus and next thing I knew people were asking me to play private parties and sorority functions, coffee shops,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Wow. I’m making more money playing music for an hour than I make working all week on campus. That started something.”

Texas is a major market for Watson but he also plays the Midwest and continues to cultivate new markets. He’s got his eyes on Louisiana.

“It can take me three or four shows to really start pulling a big crowd,” he said. “We played all these different places in Denver. We had 150 people, 80 people, 200 people. Somewhere along the way things started clicking and, at our most recent show in Denver, we had 1,800 people.

“I get a kick out of that. It’s like, ‘Hey, it’s working.’ But every new town is a new challenge. We just get up there and put on the best show we can put on. We play our rears off, and then we let the fans know how much we appreciate them. The fans always come first.”