10/30/2015

[Dallas Observer] AARON WATSON'S POPULARITY BODES WELL FOR TEXAS COUNTRY'S INTERNATIONAL APPEAL

You’ve got to give it up for Aaron Watson. Throughout his long and storied career as a Texas country chart topper, he’s always managed to stay true to himself. Standing in stark contrast to Texas country’s rowdier, more party-driven elements, Watson has carved himself out a unique niche. In the last few years, though, that niche has started to get bigger and bigger. Without a doubt, Watson is Texas country’s most underrated mainstream success in recent years.

This year, Watson’s The Underdog shot up the Billboard Hot Country chart to debut at No. 1 with no major label support or significant radio airtime. Critics appreciated Watson’s stoic approach to his signature sound, which remains as Texan as ever. Still, for whatever reason, Watson has captivated mainstream country fans who other artists from Texas have really struggled to keep interested. Now he's looking to take his show, and therefore Texas country music, to Europe.

This week, Watson announced he would return (yes, return) to Europe in 2016, with dates in the U.K., France and Italy. Perhaps most notably, Watson will play the inaugural Billy Bob’s Texas Country Fair in Padua, Italy. Your eyes do not deceive you; Watson will headline a festival in Italy that is sponsored by Fort Worth’s most famous honky-tonk. That certainly sounds bizarre, but it speaks to the growing popularity of country music in Europe, partly driven by Watson himself.

Over the past five years, Watson has been touring and shoring up a “loyal and passionate” fan base in Europe. While in England, he’ll be presented a gold record alongside Universal Belgium recording artist (and Belgian The Voice contestant) Robby Longo for the duo’s recording of Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues.” He’ll also play five mid-sized clubs and theaters and make two festival appearances. To say that fans are enjoying his traditional sound is a given, but Texas' part in the growing European interest in country music could mean big things for the genre.

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