Aaron Watson Unfiltered Part 1: Making Statements With ‘Vaquero’
Aaron Watson is closer to 40 than 20 and recognizes that there's a responsibility that comes with each new album he releases. Vaquero (Feb. 24) is his 13th studio album, the follow-up to the historic, chart-topping The Underdog from 2015. There's pressure, but not the kind you might think.
“You have to remember that I put out 11 before The Underdog that did not chart,” Watson says, smiling on a couch at the Taste of Country studio. “So I know what it feels like to not have an album go No. 1, and it’s okay.” Still, he admits he got to work days after learning his last album debuted at No. 1 (the first independent country album to ever do so) and wrote morning, noon and night — literally.
I want these girls — my fans," Watson says. "I want them to hear these songs, and I want them to go, ‘That’s how I want to be loved. I want a man that respects me and loves me rain or shine.'
Vaquero is heavy with old Mexican imagery. There's a sense Watson's pining for the past while not giving up on the present and future. It's dated but not old. As a songwriter, Watson's skill is maintaining relevance as he leans hard into long-forgotten values and ideals. The native Texan crafted this album with great purpose. It's his responsibility, he admits, to give fans more than music. On centerpiece tracks like "Clear Isabel," he provides a point of view that Part 2 of this Unfiltered series will explore. He does the same on love songs like "Take You Home Tonight" and "Be My Girl," both written with his wife of nearly 15 years in mind.
"I have a little girl. She's 7," Watson says quietly. "I know I'm not supposed to have a favorite — I love my boys a lot ... but that little girl, she's got me."
"It's important for me that she hears these songs that I write her mom," he adds. "She already hears them and she kinda gushes, because she knows that I love her mama." His fans know it, to.. Watching @Aaron_Watson and @MrsAaronWatson flirt on Twitter is a wonderful guilty pleasure to pick up.
Watson goes on to contrast his message to his daughter and all his female fans with what he hears in pop, rap and even country music. Making a statement doesn't need to be political.
“I want these girls — my fans," he says. "I want them to hear these songs, and I want them to go, ‘That’s how I want to be loved. I want a man that respects me and loves me rain or shine.'"
During a lengthy interview with Taste of Country, Watson also shared that he pays tribute to his late daughter Julia on this album. On The Underdog, he wrote "Bluebonnets" for her, and it became a standout track on one of the year's best country albums. On Vaquero, "They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To" is a standout track. The song begins with "Bluebonnets down a long stretch of hill-country highway." Julia Grace died of Trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality, hours after being born in 2011.
"That's just me saying it's still there," he says, talking about the pain and his daughter's memory after discussing how he and his wife worked to keep their marriage intact in the years that followed.
Part 2 of Aaron Watson Unfiltered will focus on "Clear Isabel," a song that uses a loving hand to take a hard stance on border control. It's not the only place where the singer pushes one to really consider whom his actions affect. At this point in his life and career, he's not only unafraid to make a statement. Watson knows he needs to.
Watch: Part 2 of Unfiltered With Aaron Watson
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