Interview: Dale Watson ‘Lucky in Music’ With New Album, Recent Popularity
In June, Watson put out his 29th album, Call Me Insane, and found himself not only in unfamiliar territory on the reality TV dating show, but somewhere else: on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Only one of his other albums, 2013's El Rancho Azul, has earned a spot on the chart.
"it's weird," Watson tells The Boot with a laugh. "I'm a 20-year overnight success ... Just keep doing what you love, and it all seems to work out."
The singer-songwriter says that he's been seeing both larger crowds and younger faces out on tour lately, and he credits his recent surge in popularity to his hard work and good music, of course, but also to his record label. Throughout his career, Watson has released albums both independently and with a label. Call Me Insane was released on Watson's own Ameripolitan Records, in conjunction with Red House Records, and Watson credits the label with helping him land that Billboard spot.
"I'm more about the music, and I can do that all day long, but when it comes to doing the promotion and the finesse of what all goes into putting out a record, I think record companies are really important to that," Watson explains. "But the artistic side, they should leave to their artists."
Fortunately, Watson has been lucky to have that type of freedom throughout his career.
"In the beginning, when I was with Curb, that was a struggle, but that didn't last long," he says, "and from that point on after that, I kind of did it my way."
That "doing it my way" mentality extends to Watson's choice of hometown. He spent just 10 months in Nashville in the early '90s and says that "it just didn't fit me ... and it still don't fit me."
"I like going to Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry, and I respect the roots that came from there," Watson says, "but I'm a Texas boy."
Call Me Insane is the fulfillment of a years-long goal: to make an album with famed producer Lloyd Maines. Watson has been trying to get Maines to produce one of his projects for years -- "We're old friends," Watson says -- and Maines has played steel guitar on some of Watson's past records, but they could never get their schedules to link up, until now.
However, they only had four days.
"Obviously I'd like more time to do it, but I don't think it affected anything in a derogatory way," Watson explains. "We knew what we were doing going in there ... I think we probably would have all liked a little more time with it, but considering that we didn't, I think it turned out great."
Watson gave Maines somewhere around 30 or 40 songs to pick from for the album -- some old, some newly written -- and Maines narrowed them down.
"Lloyd, I trust him 100 percent," Watson says, "and I think when you get somebody to produce an album, I think throwing it into their hands to pick the songs is pretty important."
But his own music is just part of Watson's work. Thanks to Ameripolitan Records, his two bars and the annual Ameripolitan Music Awards, Watson has become the de facto spokesperson for Ameripolitan music, a genre that encompasses roots, Western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly and outlaw music.
"Everything I've been doing has been to perpetuate the music scene and to get this Ameripolitan music out there," Watson explains. "It's opened up a lot of opportunities in that regard, and it keeps going and surprising me, especially with the ever-changing industry of formats ...
"There's lots of ways to get music out there that didn't exist a few years ago," he adds, referencing everything from YouTube to social media, and that change has been nothing but beneficial to growing the Ameripolitan scene.
Though he's not really signing people to Ameripolitan Records, Watson hopes to use the label to help new artists put out startup projects. He recently produced the debut EP for a Brooklyn duo called CatEyEs.
"I run across a lot of talented people in my line of work, especially since the Ameripolitan Awards show has come around. I'm getting exposed to a lot of great artists out there, or bands," Watson explains, "and if they haven't got anything out -- most of 'em do, they don't need that starter CD, but some of them don't, and if I can help 'em, I'd like to help 'em."
Watson's also looking forward to February, when the 3rd annual Ameripolitan Music Awards will take place in Austin, Texas. The singer-songwriter says that he thinks this will be the year that sets the awards apart as "more than just a little show."
SXSW now has an Ameripolitan genre, and Watson hopes to see an Ameripolitan chart, as well as a package tour and a festival, down the line. Interestingly, there was an Ameripolitan music festival held in Croatia in 2014. ("It's got a lot of fans, yeah," Watson says simply.)
"Life's pretty good in this regard," Watson says. "I've never been lucky in love, but I've been lucky in music."