A Musical Outlet is Born

Photo Credit: L. Mueller

Photo Credit: L. Mueller
Musician Dale Watson has traveled far and wide. Watson was born in Alabama, but moved to Houston, Texas, as a teenager. During this time, he began to create music and make a name for himself as a Texas artist. He moved to Hollywood and then to Nashville to perform and record his music before returning to Texas and laying down roots in Austin.

Watson identifies his music as “Ameripolitan,” which includes Western swing, rockabilly, honky-tonk and outlaw country. His unique style earned him a place in the Austin Music Hall of Fame, and helped him produce many albums throughout his career. Watson has 29 records to his house. His most recent album, Call Me Insane, was recently released and shows off his trademark “Ameripolitan” style.

Caroline LaMotta: You began to play music when you were ten, but was it the music or a certain artist that drew you to it?
Dale Watson: The music was an outlet just like it is now. My dad played music and so did my brothers -- so it was somewhat natural that I'd fall into it. It helped I liked my dads records too.

There are many artists that play a part in a musicians career. Which country/swing artists made an impression on you creatively as you began playing in music? Was it the songwriting that impressed you?
I think Elvis was the first voice that consistently influenced, mostly though his movie[s] at that time. As I started professionally Merle and George were the biggest influences, but mostly because they were a staple in my collection and they were still being played and having hits back then.

Photo Credit: Sarah Wilson
Photo Credit: Sarah Wilson
Do you still remember the first song you ever wrote? Can you describe it?
I can't remember the first song but I'm sure it was about the girl I liked that lived across the street in 1975. But the first song I wrote and recorded in 1978 was “What's Your Name” about a homeless guy that sees his little daughter for the first time and she asks him his name and offers him food. Pretty deep for a 16-year-old.

In addition to being an accomplished singer, you have crafted many songs. What do you enjoy most about the songwriting process?
Again, that's an outlet. My inspiration comes mostly from my life experience. I write when inspired, whether on stage or driving so the process is always different.

If Americana music is music in America or things that are American, what is different about Ameripolitan music?
Ameripolitan I think goes hand in hand with Americana. The only difference is Ameripolitan focuses solely on four categories: Honky Tonk, Western Swing, Rockabilly and Outlaw.

What factors pull you towards Ameripolitan style, rather than other styles of country music, or any kind of music?
The only factor that makes me Ameripolitan and not country is that I do not fit in sonically My music obviously doesn't "sound" like modern country. If I want in that genre they would call me retro or old fashioned, but in the new genre, Ameripolitan, my music is considered new and viable and has an audience that appreciates it.

You say that you are picking up where Waylon Jennings left off. How so?
I don't know if I put it that way, as I can't compare with Waylon. Never. If I said that I was likely referring to the fact Waylon created a brand of music that he kept alive and is a natural progression of what country music should be and I'd like to think I'm trying to do that.

Would you consider him to be a great inspiration to you? From which other artists do you draw on?
Waylon is a huge inspiration. I love the ‘60s Waylon, as much as I do the ‘80's. His writing and singing are as much of a lesson to me as Haggard and Johnny have been.

What was the first record/CD you bought and what made the melodies and lyrics special for you?
Bought? Conway Twitty Elvis and Ray Prices Night Life album. I was young and it was mostly the sound of their voices that drew me in. I appreciated the songs as I got older.

How is the “Ameripolitan” style reflected in your new album, Call Me Insane?
I think it's more Honky Tonk represented on Call Me Insane , no rockabilly or Western Swing. But Mamas Don't Let Yiur Cowboys Grow Up To Be Babies represents the Outlaw category.

Would you like to add anything else about your music?
Yes. It's not retro. If you use traditional tools to make something new it's still new. If I use a hammer to build a house it's a new house. It's not oldies. It's Ameripolitan.

by Caroline LaMotta