Interview with Dale Waltson By L. Kent Wolgamott

For years, Texas honky tonker Dale Watson watched as his brand of
country music was pushed to the margins in Nashville as the Music City
labels pumped out contemporary country that’s influenced as much by
hip-hop and ‘70s mainstream rock as it is by Merle Haggard, Buck
Owens and Faron Young.

“We were cast out,” Watson said in an interview from Austin. “It was
occupied country music.. They took over the name, they took over the
house. We were left out in the field. We were too country for country
and not rock enough for rock ‘n’ roll. We didn’t have a home.”

So rather than fight, Watson switched, creating a place for honky
tonk, western swing, rockabilly and outlaw country.

“If anybody wants to know where what used to be called country music
is, it’s in a home called Ameripolitan, right on the corner of
original street and roots boulevard,” he said.

Three years ago, Watson established the Ameripolitan Music Awards,
recognizing the best performers, male and female and group, in each of
those categories, honoring “founders of the sound” like Billy Joe
Shaver and guitarist James Burton and selecting a club for the year’s
“Ameripolitan Venue.”

He and his band The Lone Stars are now hitting many of those nominated
clubs, touring behind his new Red House/Ameripolitan Records release,
“Call Me Insane.” It’s a fine collection of real country songs, two of
which pay homage to Luckenbach, Texas, the little town immortalized by
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (“Everybody’s Somebody in
Luckenbach, Texas”) and country legend George Jones. (“Jonesin’ For

“If you’ve ever been to Luckenbach, got the t-shirt, it’s just a blink
of a town that’s so much fun,” Watson said. “You’ve got a common
ground there. George Jones was a common ground. That’s what country
music used to be. It was a common ground for blue collars. It was blue
collar music. Now it’s teenyboppers.”

The mainstream country audience isn’t entirely teenagers. But Watson
said the music found on country radio is, at its core, little
different than pop.

“The majority of stuff coming out of Nashville is a product,” Watson
said. “It’s not something that is natural. It’s product to make money
for a corporation. They’re looking at a demographic they think will
buy records. That’s what it sounds like. It’s manufactured music.”

In contrast, the music on “Call Me Insane,” is entirely natural and
deeply rooted in country tradition.

“I’m real comfortable with myself, the music, the direction I’m going
in,” he said. “I really don’t have to think about the song I’m writing
or worry about where it fits or where it comes from. I’ve felt more
comfortable with the last three releases.”

Those three releases are “The Truckin’ Trilogy” (2013), “The Truckin’
Sessions, Vol. 3” (2014) and “Call Me Insane,” but fans of traditional
country have been praising Watson’s music and his authenticity since
he released his debut album, “Cheatin’ Heart Attack,” in 1995 (an
album that, interestingly enough, included a song, “Nashville Rash,”
which took a stab at the crossover ambitions mainstream country back
in that period).

He has continued to release a studio album most every year since then,
even after the death of his girlfriend, Teresa Herbert, in a 2000 auto
accident – he paid tribute to her on the 2001 album, “Every Song I
Write is for You” – earning consistently positive reviews and
solidifying his reputation as one of the true believers of traditional
country even though he has only charted twice on “Billboard” magazine
country album chart.

“Call Me Insane,” is one of those two charting albums, having landed
at number 10. It rates as one of the best of the prolific Watson’s 29
releases, a 14-song disc filled with sawdust floor shuffles, two
steppers, rave ups and steel guitar weepers.

The words fit the sound, be it the mournful “Burden of the Cross” and
“Crocodile Tears,” love songs like “I Owe It All to You” and “Forever
Valentine” or the rewrite of the Willie/Waylon hit, “Mama’s Don’t Let
Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies.”

That combination, like the rest of Watson’s music and much of what
falls under the Ameripolitan label, appeals to those who grew up on
the authentic sound. But he says it also connects with those who came
of musical age in the last decade when country wasn’t the same old
country any longer.

“Yesterday, I was doing a record signing here and I had a young man,
19 years old, come up and say ‘thanks for doing what you’re doing,’”
Watson said. “It surprised the heck out of me. As long as you’re doing
something that’s true to yourself and comes from a real place, I think
it’s for any age.”

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