“I’m incredibly average guy, but I do think my work ethic is my best strength. If you work hard and stay after it, I believe you can move some mountains. It’s one of those things…you can move mountains, but it might be one rock at a time,” Aaron Watson said. 

One song at a time and one album at a time, Watson has been trekking the country music landscape and making dents even before the aptly-named The Underdog (2015). Watson proved his tenacity and elbow grease first in 1999 with Singer/Songwriter and has consistently released full length albums of work that have included such standouts as “Walls,” “Raise Your Bottle,” “July in Cheyenne,” and “Outta Style.” 

His upcoming release, Red Bandana (due out June 21) features the catchy “Kiss That Girl Goodbye” and Watson himself took it upon himself to challenge his writing and his entire approach surrounding his remarkably fifteenth record. The path he’s forged, the stretch he’s taken is his own and his fans have gladly followed like a Sherpa to the summit. 

“My soul purpose with this new album is what if I could single-handedly write the best album in country music next year?,” he said, calling from the tour bus. He’s apologizing that the air conditioning unit might be loud, but all focus is on the infectiously energetic voice on the end of the line. “What if I could do that? What if I could push myself and work so hard and make one of the best albums in country music and I’m not talking about sales or winning awards. What if I could make music that really meant something to people. Music with meaning – music that helped people get through the hard times.” 

Groundswell seems to follow Watson. And, the buzz surrounding Red Bandana is no different. Town after town and one fan at a time, he’s fiercely recorded music that gets folks dancing and tugs at their heartstrings. While 2017’s “Outta Style” may have reached the top 10 in airplay, Watson has long been a renegade. 

Red Bandana is being released via Big Label Records, Watson’s own label. 

“The first 10 years I was independent for survival,” Watson said. “Without a doubt, I’m now independent by choice.”

The album has a whopping 20 tracks – writing each track is part of the Texan’s discipline. He’s been able to compartmentalize the work- life balance astonishingly well. When he’s not relentlessly touring, Watson and his wife Kim are parents to three children. 

He said it was important for him to write every word to every song on Red Bandana

“When I’m at home I have a routine, if I can get up an hour before my kids and my wife,” he said. “There’s something about the morning with me – I’m full of energy pretty much 24/7. But in the morning, I wake up and I’m excited to get up. I’m excited to have that cup of coffee. That simple cup of coffee and I just sit at my desk – look out and see the country. The sun is starting to come up….it’s my place. It’s home. And, I get so much done in an hour.

“I’ve got a very productive way of writing. I’ll be working on 10 songs at a time, and if I hit a road block on one song, I go to the next, and I can just really get on a roll. And, I kind of do the same thing at night after the kids go to bed and the house kind of settles back down. I get in the zone….I also thank God and say thank you for blessing me to write songs today.”

Watson continued that in one occasion he wrote one song twice – two different versions and ended up using one in a different direction. In his determination to write each and every song, he had to become his own editor. He said it took him 20 years to get to that point. 

“That old Kris Kristofferson quote where he says, ‘write 1,000 songs the throw them away and now you’re ready to be a songwriter,’” Watson said. “I think it’s taken me 20 years of practice makes perfect and I’m still learning. As a songwriter, you know, I really feel like I’m starting to catch my stride.”

He’s empowered being an independent artist and he jokes that the proceeds all go to him, or uh-hum, his wife. 

“All the proceeds go straight into my wife’s purse,” Watson said. 

Kidding aside, Watson’s vision for Red Bandana is clear and focused. Coming up with the mood and the direction of each of those tracks was varied. Like his other collections, Watson has a keen idea of what the fans want to hear. While he’s a big fan of “artsy fartsy” and deep-meaningful songs—he raddled off Townes Van Zandt as an example—he wanted a pure fun song. Enter “Kiss That Girl Goodbye.”

“When you have an album with 20 songs, you can’t have an album full of the deep stuff,” Watson said. “You have to have those moments, those flavors to compliment the other songs on the record…yeah The Beatles had ‘Blackbird’, but they also had ‘baby you can drive my car, beep, beep, beep, beep yeah…it feels good and it’s one of my favorite songs. It was important to me to have one of those windows down on a summer day kinda feel songs.”

Watson also had a second inspiration behind the song – a fan. 

“I was at a show there was a girl waiting in line to meet me, like I do after each show,” he said. “She had mascara running down her cheek. I could tell she was upset. I could see that she was three or four people deep in the line. When she got to me, I asked her what was wrong, she said, ‘you’re not going to believe this, but my boyfriend just broke up with me here at your show.’ I was like what a jerk and I was just giving her this pep talk like you don’t need that. Seriously, he brings you to a show where you’re supposed to have fun, and he breaks up with you. You know what he could have done this tomorrow and not in front of your friends. He did you a favor…I said something like you can kiss that jerk goodbye. And, I wrote down some notes. When I got on the bus, I was like I’m totally going to write a song for that girl.”

He continued that performed acoustically “Kiss That Girl Goodbye” has blue-grass tones and has strong influences from The Beatles and even Glen Campbell. 

“I wanted every part of the song to be catchy and fun,” Watson said.   

Mission accomplished.