By Lisa Morgan

Austin Music Hall of Famer, Dale Watson may not be the most popular person among the Top 40 movers, makers and shakers in Nashville, but he is selling out shows left and right across the country.  The Alabama born Texas transplant has hardly known anything else but music since he started writing songs at age 12 and recording at 14.  Rockabilly, singer-guitarist Rosie Flores talked him into moving out to LA in 1988 where he played in the house band at the legendary Palomino Club in Hollywood.  “I got my first record deal from playing at the Palomino in a house band there Tuesday nights,” Watson shared. “It was a good scene there at the Palomino in LA back in the mid 80s.  Rosie Flores talked me into moving out there. She was up for a Horizon Artist award at the ACMs, or something like that.  She had just signed with Warner Brothers, Dwight had just popped out, Lucinda Williams was there, along with Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale and so many who have moved on to win Ameripolitan  awards.”

Watson later left for Nashville to write songs for a publishing company run by Gary Morris (writer of such country/pop hits as “The Wind Beneath My Wings”). That’s about the time Watson became a thorn in the side of the commercial country scene in Nashville.  Dale relocated to Austin, secured a record deal and proceeded to write several songs poking fun at the industry side of Nashville, including “Nashville Rash” from his Hightone Records debut Cheatin’ Heart Attack and “A Real Country Song” from his 1996 follow-up, Blessed or Damned. Watson is currently working on his 30th studio album to follow up his trilogy of Trucking Sessions and his most recent album receiving critical acclaim, Call Me Insane.

CVW:  “How did you come to write the stories of truckers so articulately into your music?”


Watson:  “My dad was a trucker. He just had that way about him as I was growing up.  I had always had a CB radio.  Our first tour was a truck stop tour that we did in a Suburban.  We played all these truck stops on Trucker Appreciation Day, following this Western Star big rig around.  All the money we raised went to an organization that helped abused and missing children.  It was a fun tour, but it was a tough tour. I got to talk to a lot of truckers.  Pretty much when you’re a musician at that level, you’re eating at the same restaurants, staying in the same motels – the only difference is the cargo.  Talking to the truckers on that first tour is what inspired my first album. I’d like to do another tour like that now that we have The Trilogy: Sessions one, two and three.  The lingo has changed. There are things that truckers deal with now that they didn’t used to have to; things like ambient sensors that turn your truck off when you’re sitting still.  If a trucker is sitting still and he’s got his engine on trying to stay warm in a blizzard or something, his/her truck will turn off.”

CVW:  “So you’ve made it clear in interviews and shows that you are not country.”

Watson:  “I used to be proud to say I’m country. I was proud to say that I come from the same school of music as Haggard and Jones and Cash, but it’s changed.  Now when you say ‘Country,’ people automatically think of the arena stuff like Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flats. The industry behind music like that has pretty successfully taken over the term Country Music. Even if you say, ‘I’m traditional country,’ you’re pretty much saying, ‘I do music that doesn’t count,’ at least not by their standards.  To them, it’s considered old and retro, like you’re a novelty act.  I had to go with something else…it’s not the perfect word, but I wanted to pick one that didn’t have any connotation whatsoever.  So I call my music, ‘Ameripolitan.’”

CVW:  “Ameripolitan categories are strictly Rockabilly, Honky Tonk, Outlaw and Western Swing, correct?”

Watson:  “Right. It represents something way more important than receiving an award.   Wanda Jackson and Red Simpson were this year’s winners. Last year, it was James Burton and Billy Joe Shaver.  The year before, W.S. Holland, the only drummer Johnny Cash ever had, was honored along with Carl Perkins and Johnny Bush.  They used to give bands awards… the backup bands… and acknowledge everybody that made the music and made the sounds. That’s missing now.  You can’t think of Buck Owen’s music without hearing Don Rich, whether people know it or not.  You can’t think of Conway Twitty without thinking of John Hughey his steel player. ”

“The Ameripolitan Music Awards are always the second week in February since 2014. Ray Price helped me spear head this because of something that Blake Shelton said: “If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.” (2013 quote:  from an interview with GAC as part of their Backstory series)

“Ray Price told me about it and said, ‘There ain’t a hat big enough to fit his head.’ I made a promise that in one year from that day, I would put on an award show.  I didn’t care if five people showed up, and it ended up being just a onetime thing, I’m going to do an award show to acknowledge the music of ‘old farts and jackasses’ and the people who like it.   We did it, and it was a sold out crowd. We had to move it to a bigger venue, and that sold out.”

CVW:  “Those aren’t the only shows that are selling out. You have a show in Huntington Beach, CA that is already sold out!”

Watson:  “I’ve been lucky.  I can’t help but think that Ameripolitan has helped that.  It’s becoming world renowned – we have a Croatian festival now and there’s an Ameripolitan radio show in Spain.”

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