Asher on Aspen: Tour bus talk with Aaron Watson
Asher on Aspen
Concert highs typically last about three to five days for me but if it gets really intense, the high can last up to a week or two.
Obsessively listening to the band on Spotify with certain favorites on repeat, posting videos and pictures galore on social media and shopping the band’s merchandise online are just a few of the symptoms. It’s been nearly two weeks and I am still on a concert high from Aaron Watson’s performance at Belly Up on Jan. 7.
This show might not be for everyone in Aspen, and that’s OK. It’s no secret that different styles of music resonate differently with each of us. Personally, the genre that has always moved me the most is country. Maybe it’s because I grew up with it, or maybe it’s the lyrics that speak to me in a way other genres don’t. Perhaps it’s just because I simply enjoy the sound of a little twang in someone’s voice. I’m not quite sure why I’m drawn to it — I just am.
Aaron Watson has been a singer-songwriter on the country scene for the past 20 years and he’s not hanging up his hat any time soon. After listening to his new album, “Red Bandana,” I knew I had to sit down face-to-face with this creative West Texas native and hear his story.
To start, I was intrigued by the fact that he chose to stay independent through the years and somehow managed to stay away from major record labels. I was also impressed that he was the sole writer of all 20 songs on his new record —something that’s unheard of today.
Finally, he lives with his wife and three children in the same town in Texas where he was raised. This guy could care less about the fame. That, in itself, intrigues me.
The heavy door of the tour bus slammed behind me and I took a deep breath as I turned around. To my surprise, the entire band was standing there. They all stopped mid-conversation to tip their hats and say hello. “Welcome to Aspen!” I awkwardly blurted out as if we were all friends. I walked through the sea of men to meet Watson waiting for me at the back of the bus.
“It’s just about staying true to who you are, pouring your heart into the music and making music that’s meaningful,” he said to me about an hour before he was set to perform.
The banter back and forth felt as though I was catching up with an old friend. The conversation flowed with ease and my nerves instantly diminished when he showed me his vinyl record collection that sported all the classics — The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Marty Stuart, etc. I wanted to bust out the story of how Marty Stuart signed my guitar, but I managed to resist.
“It gives you a straight look into the window of my soul,” Watson said, referring to the song “Trying Like the Devil” on his new album. “I wrote it when I was down in the dumps. It’s very artsy, but when I’m feeling a certain way, I try to capture that moment in a song.”
We sat on his tour bus for nearly 30 minutes, discussing everything from his new album, to life on the road, to his resistance against Nashville and the mainstream approach.
“I just love writing songs. That’s what makes me happy. It’s really cool when your hobby is also how you can make a living,” Watson concluded.
I stepped off the tour bus and into the venue to meet friends for the show. We sauntered across the dance floor and mingled among our fellow country music lovers while opener Chris Roberts & The Professionals performed.
It’s always a real treat for me when Belly Up brings country music to town. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, I am never disappointed.
Watson took the stage and immediately commanded the audience’s attention with “Freight Train,” from his album “The Underdog.” His charming persona and high-strung energy made for a boot-stomping good time. There is something to be said about the intimacy of Belly Up’s 450-person venue. It’s pretty incredible how up close and personal one can get with the artist during any given show.
Before I could even think to say no, Watson caught my eye in the crowd and pulled me up onstage. The fiddle player lent me his bow and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was instructed to hold the bow upright and stationary. The fiddle player continued to make music with the bow that I was holding, and I was completely enthralled with the scene and the music that was now unfolding around me.
As Penny Lane explains in “Almost Famous,” “We support the music. We inspire the music. We’re here because of the music. We are band-aids.” I felt like a total band-aid at that moment in time and I was completely fine with it. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the artists need the fans as much as the fans need the artist.
Countless times have I walked out of Belly Up feeling overcome with an extreme concert high. Aaron Watson’s show was one of many, many live shows at Belly Up that left me feeling awestruck and inspired. An establishment like Belly Up, where I used to work, plays a vital role in making our small corner of the world feel big. Artists may come and go but the inspiration they leave behind is what makes live music such a euphoric experience. So, no matter how long your concert high rides, enjoy it while it lasts. Or, at least until you buy your next ticket.
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April has been decreed, for the first time, as “Sonoma County Wine Month” by the vintners and it is a righteous idea, one that should have legs long into the future.