Aaron Watson isn’t interested in what someone else thinks he should do. But instead of getting lonely as he sidesteps expectations, he’s gaining followers—hundreds of thousands of them. Delivered with a warm smile and fueled by a wild spirit, Watson’s rebellion echoes the land that helped make him.
Watson remains strikingly similar to the people that still dot his native West Texas. They’re a rugged people, proud of home but humble and hardworking, the first to help a neighbor but also fiercely independent. And Watson is unquestionably one of them. “I’ve always considered myself an anti-rock star,” Watson says, his drawl cracking slightly as he grins. “People don’t like me because I’m a rock star. People like me because I’m just like them.”
Throughout his 17-year career that spans a dozen albums and more than 2,500 shows throughout the U.S. and Europe, 39-year-old Watson has stubbornly and sincerely identified with the everyman—even as he’s proven to be the exception to the rule.
The latest evidence of Watson’s homespun singularity is Vaquero, an ambitious 16-song set of character-driven storytelling, level-headed cultural commentary, and love songs for grown-ups that promise to further solidify his status as one of today’s finest torch-bearers of real country music.
Vaquero is the follow-up to 2015’s The Underdog, an acclaimed collection that also made history. Watson was sitting at his kitchen table as his wife Kim scrambled eggs when he got the call: The Underdog had debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. It was the first time an independent, male country artist had ever outsold majors to premiere at the top spot. “We started jumping around and squealing like kids,” he says. “It was a beautiful moment because I got to share it with the girl who believed in me when I was broke and playing some pawnshop guitar. It is something I’ll never forget.” That momentous instant also arrived with a built-in challenge. “Once we dried the tears of joy, it hit me,” Watson says. “I had my work cut out for me for my next album.”
Determined, Watson committed to waking up every morning before the sun rose to write songs on that same old pawnshop guitar he scored 20 years ago. “I bet you I couldn’t get $50 for that guitar,” he says. “But it means the world to me.” He penned songs in the back of a bus on the highway, too, as the band spent the last two years playing more than 35 states and six countries.
The result is Vaquero, a bold album that confidently draws from Texas’ storied musical melting pot: dancehall shuffles, dustbowl narratives, Tejano, and more fill the record. In writing the new album, Watson felt especially drawn to the idea of the Vaquero, the original Spanish horseman that set the foundation for the North American cowboy, a solitary figure
with a legendary work ethic. Watson is a modern-day Vaquero—he just gets up at 5 a.m. to wrangle songs instead of cattle. And while he won’t deny the pressure he felt following his last album’s success, outside barometers can’t compel him to change who he is or what he writes. Watson is Watson, chart-topping record or not.
“This is the first album I’ve ever made where if it’s the last album I ever make, I could be content with that,” Watson says of Vaquero.
One listen and it’s easy to understand why. Album opener “Texas Lullaby” pays lilting homage both to home and to the bravery of the young heroes fighting wars. Deep connections to place and family course throughout the record. Sing-along “These Old Boots Have Roots” celebrates new love by offering promises grounded in the honor and grace of past generations. A fiddle accents Watson’s lines playfully then escalates to a hopeful roar.
Romance is a central theme of the album, but Watson isn’t interested in adding to the steady stream of hook-up anthems coming out of Music Row. Watson’s love songs are celebrations of monogamy and the bonds that only time, mutual respect, and persistence can build. The swinging, fiddle-soaked “Take You Home Tonight” anticipates a steamy night in, while “Run Wild Horses” is a passionate ode to lovemaking featuring a standout vocal performance from Watson, whose laid-back croon lets loose and soars. Infectious first single “Outta Style” and shuffling “Be My Girl Tonight” both praise staying power and explore how to protect it.
Watson revels in another kind of love on the album closer, “Diamonds & Daughters.” Two years ago, his then four-year-old daughter asked him to write her a song for his next record. “I thought it sure would be special if I could write her a song right now that we could dance to at her wedding someday,” he says. That’s exactly what he did. A tender look at the past, present, and future, the song will undoubtedly touch every parent and daughter who hears it.
The title track is an accordion-fueled joy, buoyed by Watson’s delivery of life lessons courtesy of an old Vaquero sitting alone at a bar. “Mariano’s Dream” and “Clear Isabel” are companion pieces, placed back-to-back to stunning cinematic effect. Plaintive instrumental “Mariano’s Dream” kicks off the experience, haunting and sad as an acoustic guitar carries listeners through a lush Tex-Mex soundscape. The song then segues into “Clear Isabel,” and listeners soon discover the Mariano named in the previous track is father to Isabel. A story of sacrifice and heartbreak, “Clear Isabel” imbues the souls who choose to cross a river in search of safety with the dignity and beauty they deserve. “It’s one of my favorite moments on the record,” Watson says. “I feel like if I could play Guy Clark that song, he’d smile.”
“They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” begins as warm nostalgia, and other comforts before intensifying into no mere stroll down memory lane, but an increasingly indignant rant, capturing the hurt and anger of a country that’s currently reeling politically and socially. “I think it might be the best song I’ve ever written,” Watson says.
Refusing to worry about charts or current trends, Watson hopes the main thing Vaquero accomplishes is bringing his growing legion of fans joy. And no matter what happens next, he is anchored and ready. “It doesn’t really matter whether I’m playing a dancehall in Texas or a stadium tour around the world, I’m just me,” he says. “I won’t change. I’m just too rooted in what I believe in. When you’ve played for such a long time to nobody, now that there’s somebody, you really don’t take that for granted.”
With two critically esteemed album releases already under his belt, William Clark Green is back and this time it is getting personal. Give Green a pen and paper and he is a lyrical force to be reckoned with. On his critically acclaimed third release, Rose Queen, he is puts it all on the line and makes absolutely no apologies. “Songwriting is reality. People are scared to put reality on paper, but this is 10 times more reality than my past work,” he explains bluntly. The past few years have been consumed with Green touring heavily in the booming Texas scene and persistently writing a plethora of songs that are pulled from true to life experiences. Green has adamantly pushed his boundaries as a writer revealing, “Songwriting is exactly what is in your heart, in my opinion, it is not about writing a hit. It is about revealing your heart and your feelings on the paper.”
The music on Rose Queen ranges from the familiar Cajan flare he is known for on “Let’s Go” to the highly reflective and introspective “Welcome to the Family”. In the candidly honest lead single, “It’s About Time”, Will tackles the harsh reality that a significant relationship must end. He explains, “I think the new record will connect with a certain demographic of people who have been effected by something in their lives and therefore can identify with my stories.”
Not only has Green raised the bar with his seasoned writing and musicianship, he also enlisted a team of powerhouses to mold his full package of artistry. Music industry veteran Rachel Loy was recruited to undertake producing the new record. Green declares, “I was sold on her in just 30 minutes. She installs confidence and challenges me to be better.” Also, in the last year he signed with new management, 415 Entertainment, as well as landed a booking deal with Nashville’s Paradigm Agency. For the first time, Green embraced the nature of co-writing and included 4 tracks of co-writes on the new album.
William Clark Green is definitely no stranger to the music scene; he knew at the ripe age of 13 that he would embrace his passion and work vigorously in order to make a name for himself. As a 7th grader with substantial ambition, he began receiving guitar lessons and spending free time with his cousin writing music and bouncing ideas off of one another. Green draws inspiration from his personal musical hero Willis Allan Ramsey, as well as his father who Green has fond memories of with a guitar in hand.
While attending college at Texas Tech University, Green played for a live audience whenever he could and steadily gained notoriety on the Texas music scene. He credits the Blue Light in Lubbock as his unofficial home, where he spent many nights honing on his craft and gaining a loyal army of followers.
Rose Queen has already marked a number of milestones for the young storyteller. The debut single, “It’s About Time”, was welcomed at radio with open arms and earned William’s first Top Ten song on Texas Radio. The momentum did not stop there as his follow-up single, “She Likes The Beatles”, recently scored the #1 position on both the Texas Music Chart (TMC) and the Texas Regional Radio Report (TRRR) in seemingly the blink of an eye. At this rate, the sky is the limit as everyone waits to see what William Clark Green has up his sleeve next. The full album released on April 30, 2013.
At some point between Lubbock and Midland, the land shifts from endless cotton rows and rich farmland into pump jacks and mesquite tree filled pastures. Lubbock roots-country outfit Flatland Cavalry straddles that line between the Panhandle and the badlands of West Texas with their bright, earthy country ballads and gritty folk ramblers.
Building off the success of Come May, Cordero and company released their full-length follow-up, Humble Folks, in April 2016.
For most independent music artists, a bold statement like this could easily be waved off as a “head in the clouds” sentiment from a young and naive dreamer, but from Houston native Josh Ward, it just so happens to be a bona fide fact. Since the release of both his second studio album “Promises” and his latest studio album “Holding Me Together”, Josh has amassed seven consecutive #1 hits on the Texas Regional Radio Chart over two solid years and counting, distinguishing him as a new generation heavy weight champion of old school country music. Through tenacity and hard work Josh has grown into one of the most respected and appreciated musicians in the state. A well-versed songsmith with a hauntingly traditional voice, his honest and visceral delivery of every song compels audiences to feel his lyrics with him as he takes them on his musical journey. Fellow songwriter Mike Ethan Messick once said of Josh, “Josh Ward sings like Mike Tyson hits hard”.
Josh Ward found his voice singing old gospel hymns in church when he was knee high to a grasshopper. In high school, while riding in the rodeo circuit, he discovered Willie, Waylon, Merle, Jones and Strait, and found himself feeling like a string of chords being perfectly strummed by those legendary sounds. That feeling inspired him to pick up a guitar and start singing in the parking lots of rodeo events. The reactions and encouragements he spurred from peers and onlookers led him to form his first band and hit the local honky tonk circuit in 2003. Needing something to sell to the demands of a swelling fan base, he recorded his first EP “Hard Whiskey”, the title track being to this day one of his most requested at live shows. It was in 2012 when Ward truly found his stride with the release of his first full length album “Promises”, produced by GRAMMY Award-winning producer, Greg Hunt. It seemed clear that radio had discovered their new banner artist in Ward with all five singles hitting the Top 20 on the Texas Music charts, three of those scoring #1’s—almost unheard of for a debut artist. Ward wrapped up 2013 as the Texas Regional Radio’s New Male Vocalist of the Year.
When it came time to get back in the studio for his next album, Ward knew just where he was going… back to Rosewood Studios in Tyler, TX with the return of Greg Hunt behind the sound board. Ward credits the hidden jewel studio as the place where he found his sound, and Hunt as the wizard who pulled it out of him. Their work on Ward’s third full length album “Holding Me Together” (released October 2015) proved yet another triumphant collaboration. All four singles went to #1 on the TRRR Chart starting with “Highway”, the 12-cylinder engine that takes you steadily through the steep grade and back down to TRRR’s Song of the Year, “Whiskey & Whitley”, with its bottomless tear-jerking come-on’s. Through many more miles of winding peaks and valleys on hits like “Somewhere Between Right & Wrong”, “Broken Heart”, and the new single “Change My Mind”, what this album gives you is the white-knuckle roller coaster ride Ward intended you to have. A thrill that translates meticulously to the stage with live performances that not only mirror the studio versions, but as a whole, has only one singular motive… to hold you hostage on the dance floor.