‘The Underdog’ (BIG Label/Thirty Tigers) is more than just the title of self-made Texas country star Aaron Watson’s twelfth record; it’s his mission statement. Recorded with celebrated producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, George Jones, Zac Brown Band), the album’s fourteen tracks tell stories of the kind of unsung heroes who defy the odds through hard work and perseverance to reach their dreams.
Watson wrote the lead single “That Look” for his wife, Kimberly, and it earned him his first entrance in the Top 10 of the Country Digital Songs Chart with 19,000 tracks sold and a Top 50 debut on the Hot Country Songs chart behind only Toby Keith.
The disparate sounds and feelings poured out by Watson on the record are all masterfully tied together by Stegall, who in addition to his acclaimed work as a producer has written and co-written dozens of hits, including George Strait’s #1 “I Hate Everything.”
Working with such an acclaimed producer as a completely independent artist was a real coup for Watson, and lends to the story behind why he painted his face up like a rodeo clown for the album cover.
“The rodeo clown is a huge underdog,” explains Watson, who sings from the perspective of one on “Rodeo Queen.” “He’s up against a huge bull trying to protect these riders, putting his life on the line. Talk about an unsung hero.”
Working hard is a serious understatement for Watson, who performs hundreds of shows every year, has collaborated with special guests like Willie Nelson, DaleWatson, Jack Ingram, and Bill Joe Shaver, cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard 200, and sold hundreds of thousands of tickets, all as a totally independent artist with his own label.
Watson tells a tongue-in-cheek version of it all on “Fence Post,” which chronicles a Texas country songwriter who gets the door slammed in his face by big-time Nashville record executives because he lacks “commercial appeal,” only to roll up his sleeves and prove them all wrong through sheer determination and belief in the three F’s: Family, Fans, and Faith.
It’s little surprise, then, that Watson opens ‘The Underdog’ with “The Prayer,” a song inspired by Johnny Cash’s brush with suicide. Rather than dwell on the darkness of that moment, though, Watson finds the light in Cash’s rediscovery of Jesus, which saved his life, and lets it shine through the music. The same goes for “Bluebonnets,” a song written in memory of Watson’s late daughter Julia Grace, who was born with a condition called Trisomy 18 and passed away shortly after her birth. “She was laid to rest in a field where the Texas state flower blossoms for a brief, gorgeous window every year, and reminds us of the preciousness and fragility of life.”
Like the great country songwriters who inspired him–Hank, Waylon, Willie–Watson has a lighter side, too. “Blame It On Those Baby Blues” is a sweet love song, “Freight Train” is a rollicking road anthem, and “One Of Your Nights” is what Watson describes as one of his “lovemaking songs.” Meanwhile, “That’s Why God Loves Cowboys” and “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark” are pure country through and through.
“‘The Underdog’ has taught me a lot of lessons,” says Watson. “I’m excited about this record. To be 15 years, 12 albums, and 3000 shows into my career and to feel like I’m just getting started, man that’s a good feeling.”
‘The Underdog’ Track Listing:
1. The Prayer
3. Freight Train
4. That Look
5. Getaway Truck
6. Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song)
7. That’s Why God Loves Cowboys
8. That’s Gonna Leave A Mark
9. The Underdog
10. Blame It On Those Baby Blues
11. One Of Your Nights
12. Family Tree
13. Rodeo Queen
14. Fence Post